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.
Today I want to talk about one of my favorite subgenres: bodyguard romances, where one main character is assigned to protect the other main character. A good protective hero (especially if he’s brooding and driven) will get my heart thumping, and a protector heroine will make me stand up and cheer every time.
On the surface, a bodyguard has obvious appeal. Romance tends to be mostly read by those who have experience with discrimination and microaggressions: women, visible minorities, and LGBTQ+. People who have personal experience with feeling threatened in everyday life will feel alone and vulnerable. Therefore, the idea of another person who would stand between the reader and the threats is incredibly attractive. On an interesting side note, products which are marketed to women will often emphasize their protective aspects, for example: a “shielding” foundation with sunscreen or focusing on the safety aspects of a car. This is done to capitalize on women’s feelings of vulnerability in the world.
In a romance, a bodyguard will do anything for their romantic interest. They have the skills or abilities to take down multiple attackers, often in a brutal display of violence. And yet, the main character doesn’t have to fear that aggression will ever be turned against them. It’s not possible, since romance guarantees the bodyguard has a good heart. When people feel vulnerable, then it can be a satisfying fantasy to imagine someone powerful tearing apart anonymous, generic “bad guys” to protect them.
It’s probably the main reason why I love comic book movies and action movies. It’s an opportunity to vicariously enjoy feeling powerful. Like a romance, the audience knows that the main character will always succeed. That makes it comfortable to emotionally invest in. And it doesn’t hurt that the main characters in action movies tend to be hot guys like Keanu Reeves (John Wick) or Chris Evans (Captain America).
But I think there’s more to bodyguard romance than making readers feel less vulnerable. It also allows authors to do something which isn’t often possible in romance: minimize inner conflict to the relationship. A bodyguard doesn’t have to be immature or otherwise internally unwilling to commit to another person (though I do enjoy a good redemption character arc where the bodyguard believes they’re not worthy of the main character’s love because of their past actions).
The external conflict of having someone chasing them is more than enough to build tension in bodyguard romances and give the characters pause about giving in to their romantic (or just lustful) feelings.
In fact, that leads to some of my favorite scenes in bodyguard romances: the watching over someone while they sleep to make sure they’re safe and the holding one another after a dangerous encounter. Having a character say something to the effect of “don’t worry, I’ve got you” is catnip to me. If it’s the romantic interest saying it to the bodyguard, that can be even better!
In my opinion, bodyguard romances work best when there’s plenty of action and a character arc where both characters are learning to trust another person. That’s a combination that will keep me coming back again and again as a satisfied reader.
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 check out my first SMP Favorite Things blogpost on the forced proximity trope.