The Lure of Forbidden Love
When done properly, the forbidden romance trope is one of my favorites, so it came as a bit of a surprise to find when I recently looked back at all the books I’d written (both published and unpublished) that I’d never tried writing one myself.
The first forbidden romance I ever got all fangirl over and started shipping was Buffy and Angel on Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer (though there was no such thing as “shipping” back in the late 90s unless you were an X-files fan… you know what I’m talking about, Smulder people!). Both Joss Whedon and the Buffy series had a huge impact on what would later become my writing career, but that’s a story for another day.
So she was the slayer and he was a vampire. Impossible, right? Even though Angel had been cursed with getting his soul back and feeling remorse for every terrible thing he’d done since becoming a vampire, technically he was the enemy and Buffy should have been slaying him, not thinking about making him her boyfriend. The evolving relationship was angst-ridden, intense, and even when things seemed good, it didn’t last, with all kinds of memorable moments like when Angel lost his soul and went ten kinds of evil, or when he got his soul back just in time for Buffy to stab him and send him to hell. Or when he came back from hell and Buffy secretly nursed him back to health, or when Angel got poisoned and the only thing that could save him was slayer blood, so Buffy offered herself. Yeah, they were some crazy-amazing times (and now I’m sitting here considering a re-watch) but I loved every second of it.
In the years since, I went looking for books with the forbidden love trope; historical where one of the characters ends up marrying someone considered “beneath” them and overcoming personal and social expectations to follow their heart (and yes, I’ve watched Pride and Prejudice too many times to count) romantic suspense where the bodyguard falls for the client, even though they shouldn’t be mixing work with pleasure, and paranormal where things like inter-species romances were the issue (there was one between a vampire and werewolf that was great, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it on my crazy, unorganized, overflowing bookshelves) and pretty much any other kind of forbidden relationship I could get my hands on.
And TV has been generous; I shipped Meredith and Derek on Grey’s Anatomy (its hard for me to talk about, and I haven’t watch an ep of GA since Derek died) and more recently, two shows that ended up being cancelled; Star Crossed, where the human girl, Emery, and the alien guy, Roman, fell in love, despite the extreme tension between the two races, after the aliens crash landed on Earth. And then there was The Tomorrow People, which I really loved and was very unhappy about being cancelled. The main character, Stephen, went undercover in an organization who hunted down the people with extra-abilities, and ended up falling for his agent partner, Hillary. He was literally sleeping with the enemy. And last but not least, my favorite recent forbidden romance would have to be Callie and Brandon on The Fosters. Their relationship is forbidden to the extreme. First they were foster brother and sister, so it was frowned on, but the lines could kind of be fudged. Except Brandon’s moms have now adopted Callie, so she’s technically his sister, which came within days of Callie and Brandon sleeping together. They seriously have the Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers thing going on. No matter that they know they shouldn’t and can’t, whatever they do, they always keep coming back to one another. And I can’t wait to see where the writers take things now.
So as you can see, I had a lot of good background material simmering in my mind when I sat down to write Damage Control, with Leigh and Mia’s forbidden relationship at the center off all the other mysteries and danger going on. I wanted to have them resist as much as they could, but at the same time, be stuck together in close quarters, and have an ever-present danger ramping up the tension, so the temptation would be that much harder to resist.
I suppose the reason I love the forbidden relationship trope so much, is because I’m a bit of an ideologist, and like the (sometimes unrealistic) notion that love conquers all. Really, love doesn’t always conquer all, but in cases of fiction, we can make it conquer all, its just a matter of our characters finding a way around the obstacles in their path to keep what they’ve found. For Leigh and Mia, I decided to double-whammy them with not only the commanding officer/subordinate issue, but also added the age gap issue as well. I had a lot of fun writing Leigh and Mia’s relationship, and they’ve definitely become one of my favorite couples.