From the star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the modern tales of impossible romances, the forbidden love trope has been a staple in literature and entertainment for centuries. The idea of love that defies society’s norms, challenges boundaries, and often risks everything is not just tantalising; it’s downright addictive. But what is it about this particular romance trope that has such an enduring appeal? 

Human Nature’s Rebellion Against Constraints

At the very essence of our being, humans possess an inherent urge to push against the boundaries set before us. Whether it’s a child being told they can’t touch a certain object or an adult being told they can’t pursue a particular passion, this inherent tendency awakens even more ferociously when faced with restrictions. The phrase “you can’t have it” often acts more as an invitation than a deterrent, igniting a deeper longing within us.

In the realm of forbidden love stories, this intrinsic human trait finds its most passionate expression. Such tales capture the quintessence of our defiance against restrictions, painting love not just as an emotion, but as a treasure – elusive, invaluable, and worth every conceivable risk. It becomes a symbol of ultimate desire, something we’d brave societal judgments, personal dilemmas, and even fate itself to attain. Thus, forbidden love doesn’t just tell a love story; it reflects the very core of our rebellious nature, reminding us of the lengths we can go to when our heart’s deepest desires are on the line.

The Emotional Intensity

When diving into a story of forbidden love, one is immediately struck by the profound emotional depth that underscores every moment. It’s not just a simple tale of two hearts coming together; it’s a whirlwind of emotions heightened by challenges that go beyond personal feelings. These lovers, embroiled in their clandestine affairs, are not merely navigating their own turbulent feelings – they’re facing the colossal weight of societal judgments, familial expectations, and myriad other external impediments.

This external resistance acts as a magnifier, intensifying every stolen glance, every whispered confession, and every touch charged with longing. The constant push and pull, the balancing act between personal desires and external pressures, escalates the narrative’s tension. The fervour, the desperation, and the myriad of emotions that entangle the lovers make their journey an incredibly immersive experience for both readers and viewers. Every twist and turn becomes a visceral experience, as the audience is taken on an exhilarating emotional ride, hanging on to every word, every sigh, and every tear. This is the unparalleled emotional intensity that forbidden romances bring to the table, captivating hearts and minds alike.

The Mirror of Society

In the tapestry of literature and art, forbidden romances don’t just spin tales of clandestine affairs and passionate rendezvous. Instead, they often become poignant mirrors reflecting the complex facets of the societies they’re set in. These narratives, imbued with undertones of societal challenges, cast a spotlight on prevailing prejudices, unspoken taboos, and deep-seated biases. Whether it’s the tragic love of two individuals separated by rigid class barriers, the fervent romance thwarted by racial divides, or a love story ensnared in the web of conflicting religious beliefs, each story offers a profound commentary on societal constructs and expectations.

These tales, in their heart-wrenching beauty and drama, give authors and creators a potent medium to dissect, scrutinise, and often confront societal norms. The audience is not merely served a love story; they’re invited to introspect, to question ingrained beliefs, and to challenge the status quo. The layered narratives compel readers and viewers to reflect on their own perspectives, biases, and roles within their communities. By masterfully blending entertainment with deep societal introspection, forbidden romances not only captivate hearts but also stimulate minds, making them timeless pieces that resonate across ages and cultures.


While not everyone has experienced a forbidden romance in the literal sense, most can relate to the idea of yearning for something they can’t or shouldn’t have. This universal feeling of longing and the dilemmas it creates can resonate with a wide range of audiences.

The Promise of Hope

No matter how dire the circumstances, forbidden love stories often carry a glimmer of hope. Even in tragedies like “Romeo and Juliet”, there’s a belief that love, in its purest form, can transcend even death. This unyielding hope can be deeply comforting.

Evolution of the Trope

While the essence remains, the trope has seen many adaptations over the years. Modern forbidden romances might involve characters from different planets or beings from different species. This evolution ensures that the trope remains fresh and relevant to contemporary audiences.

Notable Examples Of Forbidden Love

If you’re looking for a dive deep into worlds where love challenges conventions, magic intertwines with reality, and destinies await the brave, look no further. Each of these novels offers readers a unique journey, from forbidden romances in bustling markets to royal intrigues in faerie lands. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping action or heart-wrenching romance, the following books promise stories that captivate, challenge, and inspire.

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

The ultimate tale of young lovers from feuding families, their tragic story showcases the devastating consequences of unchecked hatred and prejudice. (If you don’t have a copy of Romeo and Juliet and you’re after a gorgeous one, I’m obsessed with my Shakespeare in Autumn collection from the Thomas Nelson Seasons Editions.)

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

A love story unfolding against the backdrop of World War II, this novel delves deep into the intricacies of loyalty, nationality, and unbridled passion.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

A groundbreaking modern narrative about the challenges of same-sex relationships in conservative environments, highlighting the personal sacrifices made to conform to societal expectations.

The Shape Of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

A distinctive story about a mute woman who forms an intimate bond with an aquatic creature, it challenges and reshapes our notions of love.

A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass

As Princess Annika faces a loveless political marriage, and Lennox is devoted to reclaiming a stolen throne, fate brings these unlikely lovers together, defying all odds.

This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi

A narrative of empires in conflict and a forbidden romance, Alizeh, the hidden heir to a Jinn kingdom, and Kamran, the crown prince, find their destinies intertwined.


Set against the glamorous world of K-pop, Jenny’s life takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself in love with Jaewoo, a top K-pop idol with whom relationships are strictly off-limits.

Beyond The End Of The World by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

As worlds fall apart, Nimh and North defy their destinies to find each other amidst chaos, questioning whether their love can save or destroy their worlds.

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

As the galaxy stands on the brink of revolution, Joy and Felix, bound by the Kindred pairing, must navigate their complex feelings for each other while confronting dangerous political conspiracies.

Self-Made Boys by Anna-Marie McLemore

This modern reinterpretation of The Great Gatsby places the tender relationship between Nicolás and Jay at its centre, revealing unspoken desires and challenging societal norms.

An Arrow To The Moon by Emily X.R. Pan

Mingling Romeo and Juliet with Chinese folklore, Hunter and Luna confront family secrets and external threats as their love for each other becomes their guiding light.

Teach The Torches To Burn by Caleb Roehrig

In this Romeo & Juliet redux, Verona’s age-old feud takes on a new hue as Romeo and Valentine grapple with societal expectations and their growing affection for one another.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Set in 1920s Shanghai, Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov find their love caught in the crossfire of a turf war, all while a sinister force threatens the very fabric of their city.

A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

Two Vietnamese-American teens, Bao and Linh, fall for each other amid a family rivalry over competing pho restaurants. Can love prevail against a backdrop of old feuds and culinary competition?

Circle Of Shadows by Evelyn Skye

Apprentice warriors Sora and Daemon infiltrate a mysterious camp, leading them into deception that could change Kichona’s future. Will the kingdom’s peace be preserved or torn apart?

Girls Of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan

Lei, a girl of the Paper caste, is taken to the palace where she navigates intrigue and falls in forbidden love, setting her on a quest for justice and revenge in a world that suppresses her.

Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

Cyra and Akos, from enemy nations, find themselves entangled in politics, rebellion, and unexpected affection. When loyalties clash, will they choose family or love?

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Juliette has a deadly touch. While the regime sees her as a weapon, a reunion with a past ally helps her discover her strength and potential.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude, a mortal, is thrust into the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Amidst royal intrigue, she fights for her place and gets embroiled in a civil war.

The Fire Of Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Betrothed Princess Dennaleia hides a forbidden magical affinity for fire. In a kingdom where magic is taboo, her growing bond with Princess Amaranthine complicates matters further.

The Wrath And The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

In a land of dawn executions, Shahrzad marries the Caliph Khalid to avenge her friend’s death. However, she finds herself falling for him while uncovering dark secrets.

A Web of Forbidden Love: Where Tropes Intertwine

Forbidden love often merges with other romance themes, creating complex and engaging narratives. This blending enriches the storytelling landscape, showcasing the multifaceted nature of love against diverse challenges.

Enemies to Lovers

There’s an undeniable allure when two individuals, supposed to be adversaries, find themselves inexplicably attracted to each other. The danger and tension inherent in both their enmity and their forbidden romance amplify the emotional depth of the story. Examples that deftly blend forbidden love with the enemies to lovers trope are A Pho Love Story and The Cruel Prince.

Love Across Class or Cultural Lines

Sometimes, love is forbidden because of societal hierarchies or cultural differences. These narratives explore not just romance but also broader societal challenges and prejudices. Girls of Paper and Fire illustrates this, where status and class play pivotal roles.

Magical Abilities or Curses

In some stories, it’s supernatural elements that make love forbidden. Perhaps one of the lovers possesses a power that endangers the other, or there’s a curse that makes their love lethal or impossible. Both Shatter Me and Carve the Mark meld the forbidden with the supernatural, heightening the stakes of the love affair.

Secret Identity or Hidden Agenda

When one lover hides their true identity or motives, it brings a layer of intrigue. Discovering the truth can either tear the couple apart or bring them closer, but the journey to that revelation, fraught with secrecy and betrayals, keeps readers on their toes. The Wrath & the Dawn beautifully explores this dynamic, where ulterior motives clash with genuine affection.

Sacrifice for Love

Central to many forbidden love stories is the idea of sacrifice. Lovers might have to give up their status, family, power, or even life itself to be together. The decision to choose love over other pressing obligations creates a poignant and often heart-wrenching narrative.

Friends to Lovers

One of the most endearing and relatable tropes in romance literature is the evolution of friendship into romantic love. When the boundary between platonic and romantic affection blurs, it can lead to powerful emotions of confusion, fear of rejection, and the potential loss of the foundational friendship. Making the move from friends to lovers can sometimes feel just as forbidden, especially when the stakes are a deep and longstanding bond. Stories like Of Fire and Stars tap into this delicate transition, exploring how the depth of friendship can organically evolve into something even more profound, and at times, forbidden.

By intertwining forbidden love with these and other tropes, authors craft multi-dimensional stories that resonate deeply with readers, making the pursuit of love not just an act of passion, but one of bravery, defiance, and profound transformation.

Why We All Route For Forbidden Love

Forbidden love, as a trope, captures the essence of human emotion, desire, and rebellion. Its enduring appeal lies in its ability to reflect our deepest fears, hopes, and desires. As society changes, so do the contours of this trope, ensuring that it will remain a beloved fixture in storytelling for generations to come. Whether it’s the thrill of the chase, the intensity of hidden passions, or the reflection of our own desires, forbidden love stories will always find a place in our hearts.

Are you a fan of this trope? Have I missed any great books that feature this trope off my list? Drop a comment below and let me know, I’ll add them in!