The Forbidden Romance with Sarah Addison-Fox

She loves him, he loves her, but the stars just aren't in their favor.

I'm not the hugest fan of the forbidden romance, but I admit that it's a great way to move the conflict from internal to external. Here today to talk about it is Sarah Addison-Fox, whose Allegiance series is a fascinating adventure featuring a lot of frustrating boundaries, and a sweet, yet frustrating romance.

Sarah Addison-Fox
Christian/Kingdom Fiction/Romance
Author of Disowned

I want you to imagine a romantic scenario. You meet a boy. He’s sweet, funny, has a three-legged dog, loves to read, volunteers at the hospital and is kind to his little brother. And because we’re talking romance here, he also has a smouldering thing going on.

In short, he’s the closest thing to perfect you could have ever imagined.

Now, I also want you to imagine how much that interest would grow if you were forbidden to speak to him again.

How much more alluring did he just get? How much more enticing is that stolen look or snatched moment when you next see him?

You’ve seen it a million times before, in movies, books and TV shows. The girl wants the boy. The boy wants the girl. But they can never be. The question is why is it done so much?

Why is it that these are the stories that make our hearts beat a little faster as we hurry through our ill-fated pair’s journey to be in each other’s arms?

Technically, it’s tension and conflict driving this kind of story.

Conflict is what keeps the reader turning the page. And there is nothing more conflicted than two people who are falling for each other but shouldn’t be, can’t be. But definitely are.

How boring would a story be if girl meets boy, they like each other, they share all the same beliefs, their parents give their blessing, and there are no obstacles in their path?

Snoozefest right?

Without conflict, your story would be over in two paragraphs! If you are planning to get your couple happy early in a forbidden romance story, you better get them unhappy just as quickly!

Romance writers know that in order to hold a reader’s attention, there needs to be hurdles for the duo to overcome. Sometimes those hurdles come in the way of internal battles, e.g. he thinks he isn’t good enough, but he just can’t stay away, or she is afraid to love again etc. With forbidden romance, the hurdles are usually external, e.g. differing faith of parents, warring countries, arranged marriages etc.

When writing forbidden romance, every moment you delay them getting together must be filled with tension arising from the reason they can’t be united.

They need to be conflicted about destroying the barrier keeping them apart, maybe they’re torn by duty and honour, family or perhaps they are struggling to stay on the path they feel chosen for them.

The most sublime forbidden romances are ones which the couple try to do the right thing and hold out for as long as possible. They do as their parents expect, they follow the rules of society but somewhere along the line, the internal or external conflict draws them closer to their one true pairing.

Then they decide whether to rebel. This is a pivotal moment in writing forbidden romance. Once they start down that road of disobedience, they’ll both have to meet up somewhere down the line.

How you choose to do this is up to you as the writer. How I’ve chosen to do it over multiple series, is simply a matter of conflict appropriate to the character.

When two people are forced apart, there is a level of tension that will send the reader tearing through the pages in the hopes of finding resolution.

If there is nothing to resolve, why on earth would a reader want to keep reading?

Hook them in. Give them a couple they can relate to, a couple to root for, a couple who are right for each other, then make the reader wait for the perfect moment when the stars line up, they look deep into each other’s eyes and admit their true feelings.

I freely admit I love romance. All of my writing contains at least one prominent romantic arc, and with all, I made a point of drawing out the moment to make it as sweet and satisfying as possible.

This gives the reader time to engage with characters. It gives them time to invest in the story before everything is wrapped up in a nice tidy bow.

Give the reader the ‘will they or won’t they’ hook. Keep them guessing and chewing their fingernails that your story won’t end up another Romeo and Juliette tragedy.

If you aren’t sure how to write forbidden romance into your stories check out the romance section of your library. Most romance books are conflict-driven, and a great deal are forbidden romances. (The exception is sweet romance as there is little to no conflict) Read widely and look for patterns amongst the conflicted desires of the main characters.

I guarantee you’ll find tension and conflict right until that wonderful moment when after 300 pages of heartfelt yearning, the reason they were apart is resolved and they can finally be together.

Whether they run off into the sunset, the families see reason, or that arranged marriage is called off, it’s the satisfaction the reader gains from the resolution of the tension and conflict.

The harder the struggle, the sweeter the reward. For your characters and more importantly for your reader.


  1. Great post! Forbidden romance is a hit or miss trope for me, but you have a lot of good points here.

  2. Great tips, Sarah! I love what you said about the characters trying to do the right thing and resist as long as possible - I definitely support those couples a lot more than the ones who embrace the forbidden nature of their relationship as a way to spite their family or society.

  3. Such a great post, Sarah! I'm not a fan of tragic forbidden romances or angsty teen ones...but I love it when there are huge obstacles in between characters that keep them apart. Seeing them overcome the pressures to keep them apart is always a win-win for me!

    1. Oh gracious, I agree about angsty teen ones - unless it's done REALLY well (read: realistically), then I will normally stop reading the book, haha ;D

      ~ Savannah
      Inspiring Writes

  4. "He’s sweet, funny, has a three-legged dog, loves to read, volunteers at the hospital and is kind to his little brother. And because we’re talking romance here, he also has a smouldering thing going on." THIS BETTER BE A REAL CHARACTER, I WILL READ THE LIFE OUT OF THAT BOOK xD. But anyways - this was a really fun post, Sarah! Thanks for touching on this topic, I had fun reading it! :D

    ~ Savannah
    Inspiring Writes

  5. Thanks for reading everyone! @Savannah Grace he'd make a great character...*winks*

    1. YOU SHOULD WRITE HIM ;D (and - coincidence of coincidences! - I saw a boy walking a three-legged dog yesterday! You can bet I thought of this post when I saw him xD)

      ~ Savannah
      Inspiring Writes

  6. Good post. I never intended to write a forbidden romance, but I had two characters in a fantasy book (Espionage and its in-progress sequel) show up and tell me to get them out of their arranged marriages so they can marry each other. It’s been interesting to work with.


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