Long before I started writing romance, I was (and still am) an avid romance reader. I’d like to share some of my favorite elements from romance novels and the reasons why I think they work so well.
For this post, I thought I’d start with my two absolute favorite versions of the forced proximity trope: the closet scene and there’s only one bed.
I like forced proximity in general because while I do believe in love (or at least a sense of intimacy and lustful-attraction) at first sight, I much prefer a couple who have strong feelings for each other and find those feelings keep growing stronger as they get to know one another.
Maybe it’s because my own relationships have always been of the slower developing type. A dear friend of mine once told me that I was “the type of girl that a guy falls in love with over coffee, without even realizing it at first.” I’ve often thought of that statement. In real life, love occurs with a combination of appearance and personality. There can be explosive chemistry and overwhelming attraction, but it can’t become a happily ever after without compatibility. And sometimes it takes awhile to figure out that there really is a deeper compatibility with another person.
This is why I love closet scenes so much. Telling me there’s a scene where the couple will be trapped in an elevator, a car, a balcony or any equivalent is the fastest way to get me to one-click a book. Especially if the characters are already resisting their feelings for one another.
The closet gives the characters time together where there’s no out (or at least, not an easy out). They invariably end up talking and sharing parts of themselves that the other character didn’t expect. It’s a way to short cut the path to intimacy and transformation that is often necessary for the relationship to develop. Studies have shown that it is easier to share difficult truths or memories when we don’t have to directly face the person we’re talking to. That’s why it’s easier to get your kids to talk while you’re all in the car and why the therapist’s office often has an option for clients to sit or lie down where they don’t have to look at the therapist.
The closet (or car, or elevator, etc) serves as an equivalent in a romance story. There’s an illusion of privacy, because we can’t see or hear other people around us. There’s the effect of prolonged time, which increases a sense of intimacy (even if one spends most of the time trying to ignore the other person). And finally, there is the emotional reaction, which can override a person’s intellectual protective barriers, leading them to say things they might not have otherwise been prepared to share.
Add in the fun of a private make-out session or the thrill of an almost-kiss and it’s easy to see why closet scenes are my favorite kind of forced proximity. But “there’s only one bed” is a close second.
There’s a vulnerability in sleeping with another person (by which I mean actual slumber as opposed to sex). It’s a sign of trust.
It’s also an opportunity to let unconscious desires have a chance to make themselves known. I’m not a fan of foreplay during sleep (consent is too important!) but I am a sucker for the hand on the shoulder or stomach as two people who are falling in love cuddle close to each other while sleeping. I especially love those scenes when it is obvious that the just-waking up character is struggling to control their feelings and actions. Give me a clenched fist or a bitten lip and I am a happy, happy audience. I will smugly smile and crow “told you that you like” the other character. It’s a satisfying preview of what will ultimately happen.
In a romance novel, the reader doesn’t have to worry about the main characters being revealed as unworthy or as villains. There’s no risk of a threat in forced proximity, which makes it a satisfying fantasy.
Love plus a closet plus feelings can equal a perfect HEA.
I write paranormal romance full of suspense, action, and adventure. My first book with Soul Mate is Deadly Potential (Federal agent Ben will do anything to protect songwriter Katie from a supernatural stalker who can hide in plain sight), available on Kindle Unlimited. Or there’s my original series about a secret society of superheroes living among us. Begin with Revelations for 99 cents!
Or you can join me on my own journey through divorce and back into hope and happiness through my Reclaiming My HEA posts on my own blog.