I’m a romance author so it should come as no surprise that the three books in the Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Trilogy are romance stories. However, they all carry another very strong theme: friendship. In fact, all my books carry a friendship theme but the trilogy particularly focuses on how friendships can change over time and with circumstance.
Friendships fascinate me, particularly what makes some last the test of time when others – including ones that seem very strong – simply drift apart. I can pinpoint the exact moment when this fascination started. In the late 1990s, I worked in the training centre of a large high street bank. Through the sports and social club, I attended various adventure sports weekends and twice took part in an annual competition called The Challengers Trophy. I made some amazing friends through this. Obviously we were all connected by having the same employer but we seemed to have loads in common too and had such a laugh together, despite roughly a 15-year age gap from oldest to youngest.
For a few years, my social life was amazing. Even though we were geographically spread, we often got together outside of the bank’s organised weekends and I thought these guys would be friends for life. I shared this with one of the female group members who I thought I was incredibly close to. She just laughed and said something like, “I guarantee we won’t. Friends come and go. You have to accept that and not try to force something that doesn’t work anymore.” I thought this was a really strange attitude but she was right; when people started moving on from the bank, me included, these friendships drifted apart because, despite having other things in common, that thread of being part of the same company had been broken. Social media wasn’t around back then; maybe it would have been different if it had been. It saddened me to lose touch with them at the time but it made me realise that my close friend was right; friendships do change over time and with circumstance and some people will simply pass through your life rather than staying in your life.
In Searching for Steven, the protagonist, Sarah, becomes obsessed with a clairvoyant prediction that she’s going to meet the man of her dreams called Steven. I felt that it was important for her to have two best friends who held opposing views as to whether there was truth in such a prediction, pulling Sarah in different directions. Elise was introduced as Sarah’s childhood best friend and a believer, and Clare was introduced as a friend from university full of cynicism.
As I started to develop the plot and the characters of the three women, it seemed logical that conflict over the clairvoyant reading shouldn’t be the only conflict: what if Elise and Clare actually hated each other, their only connection being that they were friends with Sarah; a scenario which would often leave Sarah stuck in the middle? I liked the depth this would add to a romance story.
I find a trio to be a particularly interesting dynamic because there’s always potential for somebody to be left out. I know there will be many successful trios of friends out there but my personal experience has been quite negative. I was part of a trio at college and always felt like the unwanted outsider. Years later, I went on holiday with a couple of work colleagues who only knew each other through me. They bonded quickly and, you’ve guessed it, I was left out again. It actually got quite nasty at times with them both frequently ganging up against me so I shut up, buried my head in a book, and counted down the days till the flight home.
Although my experiences of trios weren’t directly the inspiration for the relationship between Sarah, Elise and Clare, how I felt being part of a three was at the back of my mind when I developed the story.
The Whitsborough Bay trio evolves in a different way to either of my scenarios, though. In Searching for Steven, there is no friendship between Elise and Clare; only contempt. They’re both really close to Sarah but can’t bear it when spending time in Sarah’s company means time together. I wanted this to start to change in Getting Over Gary and completely evolve by Dreaming About Daran, as a direct result of what each of the women were facing in their lives at the time, going back to the idea of friendships changing according to time and circumstance.
Other than friendship, what is the story behind the story of Getting Over Gary? The second book in the trilogy is Elise’s story. The title is a pretty big clue that she splits up with her husband, Gary, so I’m not giving any spoilers away at this point. She didn’t see it coming and is completely devastated so she needs her best friend by her side to help her pick up the pieces. The problem is, Sarah has found her happy ever after and is planning her wedding. I love the emotional turmoil this presents for Elise, being delighted for her best friend on the one hand, whilst grieving for the loss of her own happy future.
Whereas Searching for Steven was developed from a very clear plot point drawn from my own experience, Getting Over Gary’s plot came more from a series of questions I asked myself about romance and friendship:
What if your marriage is over and you didn’t see it coming?
What if your best friend is about to get married and you’re bridesmaid?
What if the other bridesmaid is your nemesis and you’re really not in the mood to “play nicely”?
What if you have a secret and the first person to discover it is that same nemesis; the last person you’d ever want to share this with?
What if that person unexpectedly turns out to be supportive and you start seeing her in a different light?
All these questions – and many others – get answered in Getting Over Gary but, if you want to know how it pans out, you’ll have to read it! You can buy it here.
Thanks for joining me. Next up is the final part of the trilogy, Dreaming About Daran which is Clare’s story and my favourite of them all.
Getting Over Gary by Jessica Redland
How do you move on when life keeps throwing surprises at you?
Elise married her childhood sweetheart, Gary, straight out of college, and they've been happy together for over twelve years. Elise is now desperate to start a family, but Gary doesn't seem to share her enthusiasm anymore. Arriving home early from a party, she discovers why: Gary's been keeping a secret from her. A very big secret.
While her own marriage appears to be falling apart, being a supportive bridesmaid for her best friend, Sarah, isn't easy. Especially not when Clare, her nemesis from day one, is one of the other bridesmaids. If she's going to get through it, she needs to put her own feelings aside, find herself again, and get over Gary, fast.
Could recently-divorced Daniel be the tonic Elise needs, or is he full of secrets and lies too? Is his hostile, but strangely attractive brother, Michael, the genuine article instead? And why do the good guys like Stevie turn her down?
But then Elise discovers she has a secret of her own and getting over Gary suddenly becomes the least of her worries…