I thought I would ask ChatGPT what it thought forbidden romance themes were. It came up with quite a good list, many of which I’ve covered in my books.
1. Age difference: Relationships between people who are significantly different in age can be considered taboo, especially if one partner is a minor.
2. Taboo relationships: Relationships between family members (such as siblings or cousins), or between people who are already in committed relationships, are often considered forbidden.
This isn’t a theme I write nor one I choose to read. Though Jemima jokingly suggests calling her guardian “Uncle” in Teaching His Ward.
3. Social class differences: Relationships between people from different social classes can be considered taboo, particularly if one partner is from a wealthy or powerful family.
My Regency Romances have something of this theme, where the heroes tend to be nobles and the heroines are lower down the social scale, such as The Substitute Bride. But it’s not really a taboo unless it’s the other way round: a prince could marry a showgirl and bring her into high society, but a princess would be outcast for marrying “beneath her station”.
4. Cultural or religious differences: Relationships between people from different cultural or religious backgrounds can be considered forbidden, especially if their families strongly disapprove.
I’ve had religion as a theme in some of my novels, such as Falling From Grace where Gabriel is a (supposedly celibate) Catholic priest.
5. Gender or sexual orientation differences: Relationships between people of different genders or sexual orientations can be considered taboo, particularly in societies that are not accepting of LGBTQ+ relationships.
I haven’t had any main characters in same sex relationships, but I have had protagonists feeling forced to conceal their sexuality, such as Milo in Paradise Calling.
6. Workplace romances: Relationships between co-workers, especially if one partner is in a position of authority over the other, can be considered forbidden.
This isn’t something I find particularly taboo. After all, my grandmother married her boss and they had a very happy marriage for many decades! The closest is probably my short story Guarding Her Body, between a bodyguard and his client.
7. Forbidden love across enemy lines: Relationships between people from opposing sides of a conflict or war can be considered taboo, such as in Romeo and Juliet.
I haven’t ever written this theme. War always seems too dark and tragic as a background. But maybe one day.
8. Teacher-student relationships: Relationships between teachers and students are often considered taboo, particularly if the student is underage.
An obvious favourite theme of mine, both to write and to read! Tempting Her Teacher is probably the most popular of my books with this theme, though my favourite hero is probably Stewart in Summer’s Edge.