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Romance Novels - Forced Proximity Trope

Updated: Mar 29

Romance novels are often known for following several tried and true "tropes" (underlying themes) within their pages. They do this because readers often flock to specific storylines and authors know that they will be fairly successful. The familiar themes captivate readers hearts and draw them in.

While you may not have realized it when reading, tropes are tools that authors use to create stories that resonate with their audience. Some examples of popular tropes include familiar themes like "enemies to lovers", "friends to lovers", "second chance at love", "grumpy/sunshine", or even an "age gap" trope. These tropes provide a framework that authors can build upon while also offering readers a sense of familiarity and comfort within the genre. It is not uncommon for a book to fall into multiple trope categories.

Books with roses and hearts
Forced Proximity Trope

Close and Forced Proximity Trope

In this post, we'll focus on two compelling tropes that weave the threads of love and connection: close proximity and forced proximity. While both play pivotal roles in fostering intense relationships between characters, they bring distinct flavors to the narrative.

Close proximity refers to the delightful circumstances where characters find themselves in close geographical or social settings, creating opportunities for sparks to fly naturally.

On the other hand, forced proximity introduces a captivating twist, throwing characters into situations where they must share space against their will, setting the stage for unexpected bonds and irresistible chemistry. Examples of these forced proximity situations include scenarios such as a work assignment or situations where they must physically share an Uber, elevator ride, or a room.

Below are six examples of proximity tropes within romance novels.

Man and woman facing away from each other, flowers in foreground.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Hannah is a bodyguard and she's used to protecting very wealthy people. She's supposed to observe and eliminate any issues, simply blending in with the background. Her new assignment is different, though. She has been selected to cover Jack Stapleton - THE famous actor in The Destroyer movie. And the kicker, she will need to "fake date" him, not just blend into the background!

Lots of laughs with this one! I really liked the innocence of their time on the ranch.

And then 💥BAM💥 out of nowhere there is a massive plot twist. I was LITERALLY FUMING so much that I started texting my book club as I raced through the chapter! BUT, it's the plot twist that brought it from a good book (4 stars) to a DANG-what-did-I-just-read book!

4.5⭐ rounded up

Man and woman holding hands

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez.

Alexis is a big city ER doctor driving through a very small town two hours from home after a funeral. In an effort to avoid a racoon, she swerves off the road into a ditch. While waiting for a tow truck, the mysterious Daniel pulls over with his truck and offers to help.

Fast forward to later that evening and she sees Daniel in the local bar with his friends. After a short conversation, she walks out of the bar with him to help him win a bet. Their chemistry is heavy and they end up back at his place.

This book hits a lot of themes - Older woman / younger man, City girl / country boy, complete opposites in so many ways. But they were inseparable when they were together. And she kept coming back for him weekend after weekend. But neither would truly ever fit in the other's world so it was never meant to be more than a short term fling.

Triggers: Three of the couples in the book experience some sort of abuse. One was domestic abuse (the book is not graphic, just mentions the after effects of bruising) and the other two were mental abuse. Having been in an abusive relationship myself for many years, I appreciate the way that she showed how both situations appear to others and how it feels when it's happening to you. She also helped by showing what signs to be on the watch for, how hard it is to leave, and suggestions for what loved ones/friends that want to help can do.

Man and woman

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

I picked up this audio book at the recommendation of a friend and I'm glad I did! It's an interesting concept around sharing the same room for people with opposite hours, and with a night shift person in my own house, I can completely see how you could share a space and never come across the other person for days or weeks.

Tiff is in need of a new place to call home and pretty quickly when Justin returns with a new fiancée. She finds an advertisement for a flatshare with a person that is a night nurse, so Leon would only be home during the days. That seems like it would work out perfectly as the hours are exactly when Tiff would be at her job.

Tiff moves in with Leon and they communicate through notes left for each other - starting as mundane as a question about the trash, and growing into something more.

I am pleased that this book wasn't about perfection in relationships. I also enjoyed that it showcased MANY different types of relationships (with ex's, with friends, with roommates).

Man in suit in one door frame, woman in another

Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter

This is an easy, light reading rom com!

There are two storylines going on here and we know the truth as the audience, but one of the characters is kept in the dark for most of the book.

Olivia gets a text message from a wrong number and it ends up becoming a full blown texting relationship - but they've decided never to meet or disclose personal information.

She already has a lot on her mind as she recently lost her apartment (a fire), boyfriend (a jerk), her job (writing) and now is moving in with her older brother and his perfect roommate. Life is chaos for her.

Colin is the brother's roommate. He's handsome and works in finance. Olivia has known Colin for years and they've always taunted one another. While that teasing does continue, it's hard to ignore the feelings that grow.

One of the best "forced proximity" and "brothers best friend trope" rom coms I've read lately!

Man looking at woman with hearts all around them

Exes and O's by Amy Lea

In the delightful second book by Amy Lea, the author tells a tale of a social media influencer looking for love. This story is an independent tale, completely separate from the first. What ties this narrative to its predecessor and the third book? The main character in each book is a social media influencer – and in this particular one, she's the romance book influencer, turning her channel into a cozy corner for all things love and heartbreak.

With a history of 10 heartbreaks behind her, Tara decides to give her own twist to the Second Chance Romance trope by revisiting her exes. And who better to accompany her on this romantic rollercoaster than her new hunky firefighter roommate? Despite their hectic schedules that were supposed to keep them apart, fate (or awkward encounters) brings them together.

As Tara navigates the intricacies of rekindling old flames, her firefighter roommate becomes an unexpected ally. Initially, their schedules were meant to keep them distant, but the first time she laid eyes on him, things took an unexpected turn. Awkward encounters aside, they forge an unlikely friendship. As he helps her decipher the art of subtle texting, Tara, in turn, encourages him to seek meaningful connections, steering him away from his habitual flings. Love, laughter, and a few cringe-worthy moments ensue in this charming romance tale.

(Note: Social media Influencers are all the rage in real life and we are seeing that character role more and more in books. Influencers take center stage in more book recommendations here: Social Media Stars in Books).

Three different couples

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood is the first novella of the STEMinist collection Loathe to Love You. If you've not come across them before, a novella is a shorter book.

Three very smart female friends - Mara, Sadie, and Hannah - have supported each other ever since college days. While in different fields, they are all scientists. You'll see each of these three characters take center stage in one of the books. This first novella focuses on Mara.

Mara's aunt Helena has recently passed and Mara learns that Helena gave her a house, or to be more specific, "half" a house. She's an environmental engineer and could really use the savings, so she packs up to head to the house and discovers Liam, a lawyer, resides there already as he technically owns the other half.

Liam tries to buy her share of the house, but she insists on living there.

They start as opposites, virtual enemies, avoiding each other whenever possible. Eventually, they defrost a bit and you could feel the sexual tension rise as she starts to develop feelings for him. This book is perfect for readers who enjoy enemies to lovers trope.


In the pages of romance novels, tropes act as the invisible threads bringing to life tales of passion and connection. The tension created by use of close and forced proximity adds an irresistible allure. The close connection of a shared space creates drama and intrigue, amplifying the potential for romance. I hope you are fortunate to read some of these books and watch the romance unfold one page at a time! Happy reading!

More Romance Novel Recommendations:

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