Mr. and Ms. Wrong, by Linda Hope Lee
Back in the '80s, the Other Woman, and sometimes the Other Man, became a popular plot device to help keep the hero and heroine apart until the HEA. The other woman, especially, was a jealous type who wanted to get her claws into the hero and keep him away from the heroine. She had a certain hard look, a sharp tongue, and was not above using underhanded means to reach her goal. She was more a cliche than a three-dimensional character.
The Other Woman and Man became so overused that eventually publishers did not welcome these characters. And, I agree. It was time to give them the boot.
However, I do feel that properly developed, Mr. and Ms. Wrong, as I prefer to call them, can be good additions to a romance novel. They can help the hero and heroine learn about themselves, so that they can make not only the right choice in a partner but also in other aspects of their lives. Career choices, for example.
One of the best ways to learn how to use these characters in a romance novel is to study how they are used in movies. One such film I watched recently is Hallmark's The Wish List. In this story, Sarah is a highly organized, by-the-book executive who knows exactly what she wants in a man. She finds him in pediatrician Erik. At the same time, she meets Fred, an off-the-wall barista, who possesses none of the qualities she wants in her future husband.
But life with too-perfect Erik soon makes her realize that isn't what she wants after all. She wants to express herself with more spontaneity and freedom than she can in their relationship. Of course, Fred has something to do with this; but, without Erik, would she have come to realize that what she thought she wanted wasn't what she wanted after all? I don't think so.
Of course, when using this angle in a romance novel, you need to be careful to not have Mr. or Ms. Wrong overshadow Mr. or Ms. Right. The relationship between the true hero and heroine must be given center stage.
What do you think? Do you like to read novels with a Mr. or Ms. Wrong? Or do you prefer to keep the focus entirely on the true hero and heroine?