Let's Talk Tropes

Let’s Talk Tropes: Best Friend’s Sibling

This week we’re doing a bit of housekeeping by focusing only on the Best Friend’s Sibling trope. What that means is, Erin read a bunch of books and wrote a bunch of reviews, but we all keep reading new books and writing reviews, so a little binge is in order. Why not use a little theme week for a trope Erin finds it hard to resist?

To begin, all of the Smut Reporters share their thoughts on Best Friend’s Sibling…

Bottom line: Do you like the Best Friend’s Sibling Trope?

Erin: I am a total sucker for this trope, even though it’s usually ridiculously predictably tropey. More so for the men being besties than for the women being besties. Much more drama that way.

Holly: I can take it or leave it. It’s not a trope I actively seek out, but I’ll happily read a book that features it.

Ingrid: I have a serious soft spot for it…selectively.

What do you think is fun about the trope?

Erin: It’s an excellent melting pot for a scoop of angst (I shouldn’t! But I want to!), a splash of seduction (Let’s succumb to this burning desire!), a pinch of sneaking around (Sibling can’t find out!), and a healthy dose of she’s-worth-fighting-for (not gonna lie, I need it sometimes).

Holly: I do really like it when protagonists already know each other when the book begins. What’s fun about the Best Friend’s Sibling is that they know each other already – but they get to know each other in a completely different way.

Ingrid: I love that there’s a “forbidden” element without necessarily being too…angsty. The ones I like are often rom com, and I love the whole “seeing a whole new person in someone you’ve known your whole life” thing.

What do you find problematic about the trope?

Erin: Some authors are able to create a less problematic dynamic of “Let’s not mess up important relationships with someone we both care about,” but most of the time, this trope involves mad caveman behavior on the part of the sibling, especially if it’s a man/man friend pairing. Independence, good judgement, control – they all get in the mix with caveman sibling behavior.

Holly: There are two popular iterations of this trope: the best friend’s yummy older brother who I’ve been crushing on forever, and the best friend’s pesky younger sister who is suddenly hot. The second one is more problematic for me, mainly because the best friend / older brother also gets involved and is weirdly overprotective of his sister. Bro, if your friend is too lame to date your sister, maybe he’s too lame to be your friend. Just sayin’.

Ingrid: Obviously you walk a fine problematic line of possessiveness. Ideally, the sibling should end up being really happy their two favorite people are hooking up, and those are often just…yummy. However, I absolutely detest when the older brother is a clunky, irrational caveman about the whole thing or when the hero acts like the heroine is someone who needs to be protected from her own urges. That’s gross.

Does the trope work better in a specific sub-genre or time period?

Erin: Given that the primary conflict in this trope tends to be that the sibling (brother) won’t approve, it’s a bit easier to stomach without having wayward thoughts of “wrong!” in historical romance, given that women’s rights and social understandings of equality have evolved in Western civilization over the past couple centuries. On the other hand, having a contemporary sister lay into her brother about his caveman behavior can be pretty entertaining.

Holly: Thinking about this in terms of the problematic side of things, the overprotective brother works better for me in historical romance – it feels less gross caveman and more about acknowledging the economic insecurities of unmarried women. 

Ingrid: Historical certainly takes the edge off the caveman approach, but I have enjoyed it in a historical and a contemporary context.

What’s one book you loved that features this trope? What’s so great about this book and the way it handles the trope?

Erin: I don’t know! 

Holly: Being Hospitable by Meka James. This is a sexy f/f novella where a young woman moves in with / seduces her older brother’s best friend. There’s definitely the dynamic of “Oh, yeah, you’re still the pesky young’un” that allows the characters to banter and play with the boundaries between them, but the brother is not an impediment. In fact, the heroines worry about it for a hot minute, and then Charley calls up her brother (alone – she wants to stand on her own two feet in her relationship with her family), tells him she’s dating his best friend, and…that’s the end of it. 

Ingrid: Charming as Puck, by Pippa Grant. This is the first Pippa I ever read, and I absolutely adored the way she executed the whole thing. Humorous perfection.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Tropes: Best Friend’s Sibling”

  1. Oooh, I LOVE this trope! I routinely even seek out lists of books with this trope when I’m in the mood. I’d say my favorite part of this trope is when they see each other in a whole new light, though I don’t usually like the iteration where the heroine has never really outgrown her crush on him. My last read of this trope was Bailey’s Fix Her Up, I think, and while I loved how she writes smut, I wasn’t really a fan of the way the dynamic was handled there—a lot of caveman behavior and pining on the heroine’s part. Great post; I enjoyed reading your different takes on it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gil! Erin’s been reviewing nothing but books with this trope all week, so hopefully she can point you towards some good ones to add to your list.

      I agree that the childhood crush dynamic can be less than awesome – I feel like it can set up a weird dynamic where there’s extra paternalism / hero worship to go with the caveman nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

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