Sister Act: Chanel Cleeton on Sisters in Romance

What makes a great romance truly great isn’t just an epic love story, but the relationships between other characters as well. Author Chanel Cleeton knows what we’re talking about, because today she’s here to share some of her favorite romances in which sisterly bonds are just as crucial as the HEA. Take it away, Chanel!

Growing up as an only child, I frequently wished for a sister. I was fascinated by the idea of having someone to play with (playing board games against yourself becomes boring really quickly), and having a built-in friend that was always there seemed like a dream come true. I was probably a little naïve about the sibling relationship, but it sounded fun and exciting. Especially after I discovered Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley series.

The Sweet Valley saga was a hallmark of growing up in the 80s and 90s. The stories centered on the lives of twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield; they had a wide circle of friends, an interesting family, and plenty of drama. There were several different series, a TV show, a game, the list goes on, and as a reader you could follow the twins from elementary school into adulthood. And I did. I devoured every single book, fascinated by the dynamic between the twins. Readers were firmly divided in Team Jessica or Team Elizabeth camps (Team Jessica all the way!), and their personalities couldn’t have been more different. Jessica was the adventurous one who could never quite seem to stay out of trouble; Elizabeth was the studious sister who always seemed to be bailing Jessica out of scrapes. But the thing that fascinated me most was that in nearly every book, whether the twins butted heads over something as small as a borrowed outfit or something bigger like a stolen boyfriend, they always forgave each other and supported each other. Even when they didn’t like each other, they always loved each other, and to me, that was the magic of sisterhood.

As I grew older, I found my love of “sister books” only continued. Books like Nora Roberts’s Montana Sky and her Born In trilogy, were favorites of mine. They focused on the bonds between sisters — some bonds formed through childhood, others forged later on in life even when family drama threatened to keep them apart. These romances told a story of great love—not just romantic love between the hero and heroine, but the love and support that developed between the sisters, women who frequently had little in common, but found common ground in family.

When I began writing my Capital Confessions series, I knew I wanted the books to focus not just on the romantic relationships, but also on the relationship between three sisters trying to make their way in the world while attempting to navigate a new and unexpected bond. In the first book, Flirting with Scandal, we meet Jackie, the illegitimate daughter of a powerful U.S. senator. Her half-sisters, Blair and Kate, don’t know of her existence, but throughout the course of book, they’re thrown together and gradually begin building a relationship. I loved exploring the nuances between each relationship, bringing together three very different and independent women, watching them begin to trust and support each other.

Blair and Kate grew up together and have a loving, but at times, tense relationship thanks to their personality and age differences. While Blair and Kate have lived in the limelight, exposed to wealth and privilege, Jackie had a much more difficult upbringing where she was forced to fight for everything she has. As a result, there are definitely bumps in the road, and plenty of heads butting, but at the end of the day, there’s always that sense of family that means they’ll stand by each other no matter what.

If you’re like me and love stories about sisters, I highly recommend reading Loretta Chase’s Dressmakers trilogy (for the historical fans), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (for the classical lovers), Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (for the YA readers), and Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series (for all of the contemporary aficionados). These are some of my favorite depictions of the bond between sisters, and I love how each book shows a different facet of the relationship.

How about you? What are some of your favorite sister relationships in fiction?

Firting with Scandal is available digitally today. For more love stories visit our Everything Romance page.

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