The romance-literature trope of Forced Proximity was such a popular one with Escape authors that we had to start ‘forced proximity week’ a bit early to fit in all their different takes on the topic! We hope you enjoy.
by Viveka Portman
Imagine being forced to marry a man twice your age, against your will, knowing you are destined for a life that in no way matches the one you’d envisioned or hoped for.
That’s forced proximity, and it sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?
But does it have to be?
It’s that question that attracted me to the Forced Proximity trope.
I am an unashamedly curious person by nature, and I love a challenge, so creating a situation in which horrible forced proximity could be made pleasurable was a story I simply had to write.
One of my favourite examples of this trope is in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I read this series in my late teens and early twenties, and was entranced by the development of Jamie and Claire’s romance after they were forced to marry. Naturally the romance didn’t run smoothly, but I am sure anyone who has read the books or watched the series would agree it was an exciting and decidedly erotic adventure.
There are challenges in writing forced proximity though—like how to make it desirable and how to make it real.
When I wrote The Secret Diary of Lady Catherine Bexley, I spent a lot of time playing with the trope, and considering just how I would make the story attractive to the reader. After all, it’s about a young woman marrying an older man who, although handsome, is stuffy and a bore. How was I possibly going to make that romance work? In my opinion, it’s all to do with character development. I made my Lady Catherine a curious woman, who was learning about herself just as much as she was learning about sex at the beginning of her marriage. Her husband too was embarking on a learning journey of his own; he naturally desires his attractive young wife, but is mindful of her sensibilities—much to Catherine’s chagrin. I subverted the trope by making the naive wife the champion in the couple’s quest for happiness and sexual fulfilment. She doesn’t overly lament her situation, but proactively seeks a solution to her own sexual frustration and her husband’s repressed nature.
It was a fun twist on a well-worn trope.
There is something magic in the familiarity of reading romance. Discovering when a well-known trope has been written and twisted in a new way that thrills and titillates is one of the special things that the romance genre offers that others cannot.