[Note from Frolic: Today, we welcome author Alanna Martin to the site. She’s talking all things forbidden love. Take it away, Alanna!]
Forbidden love—why are the people we’re not supposed to want often the most enticing? Well, probably for the same reason that the easiest way to discover you want something is for someone to tell you that you can’t have it. Every parent knows that the moment you tell a child “no” is the moment the forbidden object becomes the most tempting. Or how about those occasions when you can’t decide between two options, so you flip a coin? Suddenly the losing decision sounds like the better choice.
In social psychology, this can often be explained via reactance theory, which essentially states that the moment we feel we’ve lost a freedom to do or have something, the more determined we become to fight back against that feeling of loss. But whatever the cause, there’s no question that the very idea that we “can’t” or “shouldn’t” makes us “want” all the more. And when that “want” is a person, the allure is all the sweeter—and the more fun to read about.
In my own family feud forbidden love story, Heart on a Leash, the main characters are both family rebels. They aren’t interested in their families’ drama, and they certainly don’t expect love to grow from from what’s supposed to be secret, short-term fling. But if everything went as planned, where would the fun be? Not surprisingly, their families are willing to do whatever it takes to break them apart, and the more pressure their families place on my would-be happy couple, the more determined they become to defy them.
While Heart on a Leash is a pretty straightforward forbidden love romance, one of the best parts of the forbidden love trope is that it can take so many forms. After all, there are as many reasons why two people can’t be allowed to be together as there are romantic set-ups. Sometimes, too, that feeling of forbidden love is hiding in plain sight, tucked away beneath other tropes, making us not realize how much of a story’s tension is hanging on the “shouldn’t.”
Here are five of my favorite examples of forbidden love which tackle the trope in very different ways.
Different Sides of the Law, and Class Differences—The Devil of Downtown by Joanna Shupe
Falling in love is always fraught with risk, but usually only emotionally. Toss in actual physical risk or the risk of losing the only world you’ve ever known, and the tension can shoot through the roof. Every book in Joanna Shupe’s Uptown Girls series features characters putting everything on the line to be with someone they shouldn’t. But The Devil of Downtown adds the additional tension of a criminal mastermind versus a rich do-gooder, making the question of how do two people—with totally different backgrounds and totally different aims—find a way to make their love work extra delicious.
This Could Ruin Our Dreams—Simmer Down by Sarah Smith
What starts off as an enemies to lovers scenario in Sarah Smith’s Simmer Down soon boils over into a forbidden romance when feelings collide with ambition. I mean, love is nice, but careers are also important, and so is family and dreams. So, what do you do when your career ambitions are directly in conflict with someone else’s? And worse—what happens when your willingness to overlook that pesky conflict leads to a greater one, like the fact that your secret relationship being discovered could ruin you both? That makes falling in love a terrible idea, but so much fun to read about.
Talk About a Political Nightmare—Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Oh, so your relationship could bring scandal to not just one, but potentially two nations? That’s possibly the ultimate form of forbidden love. Casey McQuiston’s romance between a prince and the son of the U.S. president is as fun as it is occasionally over-the-top. But what can you expect when dealing with public and political figures who have several centuries’ worth of reasons why they need to stay apart, yet only one—the most compelling reason (aka love)—why they can’t? With stakes this high and so much humor, the page-turning potential can’t be beat.
Duty, Honor, And Secrets Forbid It—A Rogue to Remember by Emily Sullivan
There are so many reasons the hero of Emily Sullivan’s A Rogue to Remember is supposed to stay away from the heroine—their social classes, that he works for her uncle, that he’s a spy who’s been lying to her for years… And so many reasons why the heroine is rightfully wary of him. It can be easy to justify one reason to abandon the head for the heart, but when you stack reason upon reason about why a relationship should be forbidden, the ways to torture two characters can be endless. Of course, that’s nothing a beautiful road trip through Italy can’t cure, which is what makes forbidden love so satisfying—knowing the characters will find some way to make love win in the end.
Our Families Despise Each Other—Hate To Want You by Alisha Rai
Look, with my own family feud series coming out, I can’t pretend I’m not partial to this particular sub-trope. Like it or not, our families often define us. They raised us and shaped us, and so have a powerful hold over how we see ourselves and the world. For me, that’s what makes two people risking familial wrath to be together such a powerful story. It’s the tension and determination required to tell those closest to us that someone else means as much to us (or maybe more, depending on that family relationship) than our own blood. It’s the love you choose taking precedence over the love you’re supposed to have by default. The family feud in Hate to Want You is old and ugly, and although we know love will prevail, watching the characters try to navigate it and their own hearts makes for a fraught, emotional ride.
When the real life can so often bring us down, there’s power in stories reminding us that love can truly triumph over hate. That it can surmount any obstacles in its path. Maybe it’s reactance driving us to want what we can’t have, but reading a story that reminds me of how powerful love can be is the most psychologically satisfying ending of all.
About the Author:
After nine years of studying psychology, Alanna Martin somehow became a writer instead of a psychologist. This turned out to be a wise career choice because she can work in her pajamas while drinking wine. Her contemporary romance debut, Heart on a Leash, releases from Berkley Romance April, 2021.
Heart on a Leash by Alanna Martin, out now!
Young pups teach frozen hearts new tricks when a pack of rescue huskies inspire love and romance in a coastal Alaskan town fractured by feuding families.
Taylor Lipin has made it her life’s mission to leave her hometown and its ridiculous, century-old feud with the Porters behind. But when her sister needs help running the family inn, Taylor agrees to return to Helen, Alaska on a temporary, definitely not longer than two weeks, basis. Or so she thinks, until she’s quite literally swept off her feet and into enemy territory by three happy huskies and their drool-worthy owner, Dr. Josh Krane.
Though Josh didn’t grow up in Helen with the rest of his Porter cousins, he’s heard the stories: Porters rescue huskies. The Lipins are cat people. Keep to your pack. But Taylor is too tempting to give up–plus, his dogs love her.
As Taylor and Josh grow closer, tensions in the town escalate and the need for secrecy starts taking a toll. Soon they’ll need to decide whether their newfound love is just a summer fling or if they’ve found their forever home.