No One Else Can Know:The Forbidden Romance Trope

No One Else Can Know:The Forbidden Romance Trope


To celebrate the upcoming audiobook release of If She Says Yes, courtesy of the Audio in Color Grant, I'm gonna delve into some of the tropes that made this duet one of my favs to write.

But before we dive into the heart of these stories, let's shine a spotlight on the incredible initiative that's making waves in the indie romance audiobook world.

Lyric Audio and the Audio in Color Grant

In 2014, the romance audiobook landscape was enriched by the founding of Lyric Audiobooks, thanks to the visionary efforts of award-winning romance narrator Andi Arndt. Offering comprehensive audiobook production services, Lyric Audiobooks has become a beacon for select indie romance authors, enabling their stories to be heard in the most captivating ways.

Emerging from a partnership with Nana Malone’s #brownnipplechallenge, Lyric Audiobooks has embarked on a groundbreaking journey with the creation of the Audio in Color Grant. This initiative is a powerful expression of support for BIPOC romance authors, aiming to bridge the gap for those who have yet to venture into indie audiobook publishing.

By funding authors' first self-published audiobook projects, the Audio in Color Grant seeks to do more than just launch a single title. It envisions creating a domino effect, where the success of these grant-funded releases can pave the way for future indie audio adventures. Open to authors across all romance subgenres, this program is a testament to the community's dedication to diversity, inclusion, and the amplification of voices that have long deserved a wider audience.

In anticipation of this audio release, I’ve created new covers for both books! If I’m being honest, the original cover was an experiment, but it never really aligned with my brand. My books celebrate Black women and the covers I create reflect that. So… an update was in order!

Without further ado, allow me to introduce, Darcy Macfarland — a woman who loves her monsteras, her bourbon, and a long Blanche Devereaux-esqe silk robe. She’s 55, a widow to an awful man she should have divorced long ago, and deep in her empty nest era. Like a lot of women, Darcy is struggling to find joy after realizing that most of her “firsts” were behind her. Then Tommy comes to Charleston for her son’s wedding and reminds her that there’s a first time for everything!

The powers that be are still doing whatever quality control things they do behind the scenes, but the moment the preorder links are available, you, dear readers, will be the first to know!

Let's talk about the Forbidden Romance trope!

If you’re asking which trope gets my imagination like no other, it’s the older woman/younger man relationship. By the way, we don't call them "reverse age gap" around here because, frankly, it's high time older women received the same level of affection and adoration that has been afforded to older men in romance narratives for far too long. Also, we don't center men around these parts so the only thing reversed around here will be a cowgirl (IYKYK)

Anyway, the Say Yes Duet actually has two forbidden tropes! And each brings its own set of genre expectations and key elements. They both pivot around the axis of forbidden or unexpected love, but they unpack these themes in different ways.

Older Woman/Younger Man

This trope is one of my favorites and I’ve talked about it ad nauseam. But here’s a quick refresher. This trope flips the traditional script of age dynamics in romantic relationships and romance novels by challenging societal norms and expectations. It gave me license to explore themes of empowerment, societal judgment, and the complexity of desire. The older woman I depict in my stories isn’t always portrayed as confident, self-assured, and in possession of a life well-lived. Darcy has those things, but she’s also not perfect and has a lifetime of experiences, both positive and negative that shape her character. This multidimensional approach is what makes her attractive to Tomás, who is seeking patience, understanding, stability, and a break from the expectations of his peers. This dynamic lead to deep, introspective character development in the duet, as they navigated the challenges their age difference presented. But to be honest, I didn’t want to write a lot of drama around it. Tommy provided her with the proper motivation to get over that all on his own and they eventually find common ground beyond the years that separate them.

My Best Friend's Mom

Of the two forbidden romance tropes in the Say Yes Duet, my best friend’s mom is probably the one that gets the most side-eye. This trope introduces an added layer of taboo, not just because of the age difference but also due to the violation of social codes within close-knit relationships. And let me tell ya, it’s front loaded with potential for tension, conflict, and deep emotional turmoil. Tomás is not just her son Jared’s friend — he’s his best friend. Tomás isn’t just crossing societal boundaries but also risking a significant personal relationship with his best friend. It demanded a nuanced approach, as it was essential to navigate the complexities of loyalty, desire, and the repercussions of their actions. I think I pulled off well, if I do say so myself. *buffs nails*

Subverting Tropes

I know there’s a lot of chatter about tropes out there and with good reason. I see lots of folks making the trope the plot when it’s meant to be a plot device in the larger narrative. In my own writing, I find it more interesting to subvert tropes. Subverting tropes involves taking familiar or established patterns within storytelling—those predictable elements that audiences come to expect—and twisting them in unexpected ways. In my opinion, this approach  refreshes the narrative and offers a deeper exploration of themes and character dynamics by challenging preconceived notions and pushing boundaries. It's effective because it can surprise and engage readers in new ways, making the story more memorable and impactful. It also allows for a more nuanced and multi-dimensional development of characters and their relationships, moving beyond the constraints of traditional roles and dynamics to explore richer, more complex interactions and growth.

My best friend’s mom, is just a playful twist on the best friend's sister/brother/dad, that dares to dance along the edges of the familiar, and challenging the idea that a women are attractive, sexual, and sought after at every age. While all of these tropes tread a fine line between the forbidden and the comfort of the known, subverting it shifts the focus a bit. The romance is not just about navigating the thrill of forbidden love or the complexities of loyalty and secrecy within the fabric of family and friendship. Instead, it's about challenging the characters and the reader to reconsider their perceptions of boundaries, relationships, and the consequences of pursuing one's desires.

Here’s a little compare and contrast:

Age Dynamics vs. Relationship Dynamics: The older woman/younger man trope, especially in the context of "my best friend's mom," emphasizes age as a central theme and source of conflict, while the best friend’s sibling/parent trope focuses more on the complexities of existing relationships and the risks to those relationships.

Societal Taboos: Both sets of tropes play with societal taboos, but "my best friend's mom" carries a heavier taboo due to the significant age difference and the direct impact on a close personal relationship, pushing characters into more intense self-exploration and growth.

Conflict and Tension: While both tropes explore conflict and tension arising from the forbidden nature of the relationship, "my best friend's mom" often delves deeper into the emotional and psychological stakes, offering a richer ground for character development and narrative complexity.

Ultimately, each trope offers its own unique opportunities and challenges. They invite readers and writers alike to question societal norms, explore the depths of desire, and navigate the complexities of human relationships. Through these narratives, we're reminded of the power of love to challenge, change, and transcend the boundaries we often take for granted!

Defining the Forbidden Romance Trope

This trope is like the chocolate of romance tropes for me — it's irresistible, a bit naughty, and once you get a taste, you want more — I feel similarly about femdom which is the third trope in this Duet. So, what exactly makes a romance forbidden? Well, it's all about those relationships that society, culture, or even personal codes say are a big no-no. These are the  stories that have us whispering, "They shouldn't... but I really hope they do."

There are several types of forbidden romances, and they're spicy for different reasons:

Age gap relationships: While I’m not keen on the type of age gap where one lover was probably been binge-watching '90s sitcoms while the other was still in diapers— whether it's an older woman with a younger man (which, by the way, deserves all the love) or the other way around, the age difference can raise eyebrows.

Star-crossed lovers from rival families or factions: Think Romeo and Juliet, but with less tragedy and more happily ever after. These lovers are from groups that are at odds with each other, making every stolen moment extra sweet and risky.

Relationships forbidden by social class differences: Here, the divide between the haves and the have-nots becomes the battleground for love. It's the classic tale of a wealthy heir falling for someone from the "wrong side of the tracks," proving that love doesn't check your bank balance.

Romantic entanglements between people with a significant power imbalance: Picture the boss and their employee, or a teacher and student. The dynamics here are tricky and fraught with complications, making every glance and whispered word feel like a high-stakes game.

Love affairs that challenge cultural or religious norms: These romances push against the boundaries set by traditions and beliefs, asking tough questions about identity, love, and sacrifice. They're often the most poignant, asking, "How much are you willing to risk for love?"

Each of these forbidden romances has its own unique allure, but they all share that sense of edge of tension and the intoxicating promise of love conquering all.

Why Readers Love Forbidden Romance

So, why do we all seem to have a soft spot for forbidden romances? I don’t know about you, but there's just something about the allure of the forbidden that hooks me every single time. Maybe it's that little rebel inside all of us, the part that hears "don't do that" and immediately wants to do just that. Forbidden romances tap into this universal desire to push against the boundaries, to challenge the "shoulds" and "must nots" that are so often laid out before us.

When you're following a couple that's navigating the minefield of a forbidden romance, every moment is charged with this intense emotional stakes and tension. You're on the edge of your seat, heart in your throat, hoping they'll make it across safely but knowing any misstep could be disastrous. This isn't just any old love story; it's love on hard mode. And let's be honest, we're all here for the drama, the angst, the will-they-won't-they that keeps us flipping pages way past our bedtime.

But there's more to it than just the thrill of rebellion and the emotional rollercoaster. Forbidden romances offer us a form of escapism that's hard to beat. Through these stories, we get to experience the thrill and danger of prohibited love vicariously. It's a chance to explore what it feels like to love someone you're not supposed to, all from the safety of our favorite reading nook. There's no real-world risk, but all the emotional payoff. We get to immerse ourselves in the intensity of these relationships, feeling every heartache, every stolen moment of joy, and every triumphant (or tragic) end.

In a way, these stories allow us to confront our own fears and desires about love and relationships, challenging us to think about what we would do for love, how far we would go, and what rules we'd be willing to break. And maybe, just maybe, they make us believe in the power of love to overcome even the most daunting obstacles. So, yeah, that's why we can't get enough of forbidden romances. They're a wild ride, and honestly, who doesn't love a good thrill?

4 Key Elements to Writing a Good Forbidden Romance

1. Intense Emotional Conflict: The heart of any forbidden romance is the intense emotional conflict. The journey to love is paved with more than just obstacles; it's an emotional battleground where the stakes are sky-high. This isn't about minor disagreements; it's about profound dilemmas that challenge the very essence of our characters' love and desires. The deeper the conflict, the more rewarding the journey towards happiness becomes.

2. Believable Barriers: Real, substantial barriers are non-negotiable. We're talking about significant societal norms, deep-seated family expectations, or stringent personal ethics. These barriers should be formidable, making every stolen kiss and secret glance feel dangerously sweet. The more credible and daunting the obstacles, the more invested we become in the lovers' quest to overcome them.

3. Deep Character Development: Y’all knew I was gonna say it, but it’s a fact that the characters in a forbidden romance need to be more than just names on a page. Like any other romance, they must be living, breathing entities with complex motivations and the capacity for growth. It's essential for readers to understand why these characters are willing to risk everything for their forbidden love. Watching them evolve and push past their boundaries makes their love story all the more compelling.

4. Pacing and Tension: The delicate dance of pacing and tension is what keeps readers glued to the story. It's all about the push and pull, the moments of despair mingled with sparks of hope. This balance keeps the narrative exciting and unpredictable, making us yearn for more while fearing the potential fallout. It's this suspense and anticipation that makes the story's tender moments truly resonate. In other words, give me the pining! Show me the angst!

With the upcoming audiobook release of If She Says Yes, I invite you not just to anticipate another format to enjoy y’all’s favorite couple, but to see it as a call to action. This is an opportunity to support initiatives like the Audio in Color Grant, which plays a crucial role in promoting diversity and inclusivity within the indie romance audiobook community, and to celebrate the diverse forms of love stories being told. It's a chance to stand behind narratives that push the envelope, sharing and uplifting stories that defy traditional frameworks and showcase the rich diversity of human connection.

Let's champion a world where every love story, regardless of the characters' ages, backgrounds, or societal roles, is heard, valued, and celebrated. By supporting indie authors and initiatives that bring these varied narratives to the forefront, we engage with and advocate for works that break the mold, enriching our understanding and appreciation of love's boundless nature.

Also… y’all these narrators…just you wait.


xo, Tasha


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