There are a million ways for an author to get their main characters together, but some favorite ways are so popular among readers that they've become tropes. One of the most tried-and-true methods of stirring up some chemistry is forced proximity, i.e., making would-be lovebirds share a space with no way out.
This could mean trapping your characters together in a snowstorm, putting them in a long car ride together, or, of course, creating a sleeping situation where there's only one bed.
What is the only one bed trope?
The trope most widely known as “only one bed” is one of my personal favorite romance tropes, and pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Two characters (usually the main and their love interest) are placed together in a scenario wherein there’s only one place for both of them to sleep.
Why is the only one bed trope so much fun?
This trope is so much fun because it's just plausible enough to happen in real life. Plus, "only one bed" is more of a test than a problem. Will our potential couple draw a line in the sheets, so to speak, and have one person sleep on the floor? Or will they take advantage of the single bed situation to finally act on their simmering attraction?
Plus, the only one bed trope is incredibly versatile. It can pop up in historical romance novels, paranormal romance, romantic thrillers—there are no limits!
It’s something that delights me every time it pops up in a romance novel, and here are some of my recent favorite examples.
This romantic thriller is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s a pulse-pounding story that gives new meaning to the term “forced proximity.”
Angel Smith works as a cook at a research station in Antarctica, but she’s ready to finally leave it behind and start over somewhere new. On the day she’s set to fly away, the station is attacked by men in search of something important — something dangerous — and Angel’s forced to rely on a man who wants nothing to do with her: grunty glaciologist Ford Cooper.
As Ford and Angel trek across the frozen tundra in search of shelter, pursued all the while, they’ll have to depend on each other for survival. But the lead-up to the moment when they finally find a warm place to hunker down — and a single bed to share — is as deeply satisfying as it is scorchingly hot.
White Whiskey Bargain
Modern-day marriage of convenience isn’t something that happens all that often in romance, but sometimes the right story comes along and completely upends all expectations.
When Hannah Hawkins suddenly loses her mother, she’s thrown into a world she was never prepared to inhabit: her family’s long-time trade brewing and selling moonshine. But there’s a new group in town threatening to infringe on her territory, and in order to keep the wolves at bay, Hannah realizes she’ll need to depend on her family’s rivals for support.
Javier Meza is the heir to his family’s moonshine business, and willing to do whatever he can to protect his own—but marrying Hannah to maintain appearances that their alliance is strong ? That might be more than he’s prepared for.
Living under the same roof might only convince some people of the lie, but Javier isn’t interested in a surface-level marriage, and he’ll do whatever he can to convince Hannah that his new feelings for her are real.
Fans of Red, White and Royal Blue will savor this crackling, witty romance with pitch-perfect banter and a romance to root for.
Luc O’Donnell is used to people having a preconceived opinion of him; as the son of rock star parents, he’s been thrust into the public eye, and with his dad attempting to stage a comeback in his career, one slip-up in front of the paparazzi could be costly. So why not improve his image a little by faking a relationship?
Barrister Oliver Blackwood is as nice and proper as you can get — but aside from the obvious similarities (gay, single, in need of a date), he and Luc have nothing whatsoever in common. Of course, we all know what happens when two people plan a fake relationship… it never stays fake for that long, does it?
Megan and Scarlett used to be friends, but circumstances sent them drifting apart years ago. Now, they’ve both been invited to a wedding all the way up in Quebec…in February.
When Scarlett suggests they make a road trip out of it, Megan reluctantly agrees to a week in the car with someone she’s been estranged from for a long time. As they travel to Canada, they make various stops (and spend various nights at motels) along their route. This gives them plenty of time to figure out where their friendship went wrong—and maybe be honest about the real feelings they're having for each other before they finally get to their end destination.
The Bride Test
As someone with autism, Khai Diep has always struggled with being able to process his emotions—but it also means that he’s largely stayed away from getting into a romantic relationship. So his mother returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride, and returns with Esme Tran.
Esme has never really felt like she belongs anywhere, but when she’s offered the chance to come to America and get married, she leaps at the opportunity—not only for herself, but as a way to support her family. Trying to win Khai over, however, is harder than she thinks it’ll be, and the closer she gets to her potential husband, the more Esme discovers she’s actually falling in love with him first
The Ex Talk
Producer Shay Goldstein has been clashing with her co-worker Dominic Yun since the very first day he joined the team at one of Seattle’s best-known public radio stations. He’s confident, references his master’s degree every chance he gets, and thinks he knows just about everything already.
But when they get the news that the radio station is struggling, Shay proposes the idea of a talk show between two exes. Only problem is: her boss wants her and Dominic to host it. Never mind that they’ve never even dated, or that they’d be lying to their listeners. They’ll pretend they used to be a couple even while they’re forced to spend as much time together as possible in order to make their fabrication more convincing to the show’s listeners.
The kicker? All this close proximity is making them realize they might want to try a relationship for real.
Attorney Liz Lewis needs a safe place to go when a former client starts disrespecting her boundaries, and a friend’s family farm seems like the perfect place to rest and recover. What she doesn’t count on is having to occupy the same space as her friend’s gorgeous brother, Silas McInroy.
Meanwhile, Silas would rather exist on his idyllic farm in peace, but when Liz shows up on his doorstep, he knows he needs to let her stay for her own safety.
Pretending they met online is the easiest means of explaining her presence to others, but faking a relationship with a woman he’s never met before comes surprisingly easy when both of them want to carve out a slice of happiness for themselves in what was only supposed to be a temporary solution.
The Sweetest Fix
Wisconsin-based dancer Reese has always longed to be on Broadway — so when she wins an unexpected audition to dance for Bernard Bexley, she leaps at the chance.
Unfortunately, a series of mishaps causes her to miss her shot; stranded in New York City, Reese finds herself desperate enough to reach out to Bernard’s son Leo, who owns a bakery uptown. But the first time she lays eyes on the gentle giant of a man, she knows she can’t use him to follow her dreams.
Lying to Leo is the last thing she wants to do, but she also knows he might not forgive her if he thinks she’s just a dancer with ruthless ambition. This book promises sweet treats, sweeter romance, and the adorable concept of “nap dates” — which are exactly what they sound like.
Featured photo: Becca Tapert / Unsplash