I’m Harper Fox, and today I’ll be talking about the strangers-to-lovers theme in my latest release from Samhain Publishing, Cold Fusion.
I come to the strangers-to-lovers trope from a specialised point of view. I need to convince my readers that it can happen like a thunderbolt, but I don’t need to start by convincing myself. I first saw the love of my life across a crowded university hallway, and before I’d even found out her name, I knew she was the one. We just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary, so that was a pretty good call.
I know I’ve been ridiculously fortunate, but that’s why I can approach a book like Cold Fusion with the belief that two people who are made for each other can overcome the obstacles between them and find their own ever-after. In a relatively short space of time, too – thirteen days, in Mallory and Vivian’s case. In fact the trope is almost enemies-to-lovers – Mal is brusque, impatient, tactless, and bursts in upon Viv’s controlled scientific world like a hurricane. He’s exactly the wrong type of guy for Viv, whose life is shaped by Asperger Syndrome, and who copes by setting rigid controls on his environment.
In fact it was the contrast and conflict between these two that gave me the key to their relationship. Mal has never come across a person with Asperger’s before, and like many people, thinks of Viv’s condition as something that’s “wrong” with him, a disease that perhaps can be cured. Although Viv is desperately inhibited, his father has taught him never to feel ashamed of who he is, and during his early clashes with Mal, Viv gives him a sharp education on the subject of relating to an autistic genius. And Mal is so bruised from his recent encounters with “normal” people in his own world that he’s more than willing to learn. It doesn’t take him long to understand Viv’s value and gifts, and once he does, he turns all his considerable energies to protecting him.
Extreme circumstances always give a writer scope for accelerating/intensifying the progress of new relationships, and I wanted to show these two very different souls in the hothouse of isolation. “Hothouse” is precisely the wrong word, though – they take refuge in a remote Scottish croft that once belonged to Mal’s aunt, and are promptly snowed in. No mobile access, no internet: just the two of them, struggling past each other’s boundaries to find the dawning attraction beneath. Viv’s oddities have brought him into his mid-twenties a virgin, gorgeous as he is, and to Mallory falls the task of tenderly deflowering him, all the while accepting more and more that this brilliant man, for all his inhibitions, requires no alteration or “cure”.
I loved writing this book. It was as if Mal and Viv had been alive for years in my head, quietly gestating, and although I had to plot and plan to create the scaffold of their story, their character development was almost effortless, as was their romance. I don’t want to give too much away, but another significant factor in their strangers-to-lovers journey is Viv’s illness – the real thing that’s wrong with him, not the Asperger’s. It often takes the shock of loss to make us realise what we have, and Mallory is only just beginning to realise his treasure in Viv when the shadow falls. So all of these influences – the conflicting/conjoining nature of the guys themselves, their shared flight from danger, the hothouse in the snowdrifts, and the fear of sudden loss – came together to unite my leading men in a romance whose development felt natural and easy to me (though perhaps not to them) as I spun out the tale. I hope everyone who reads Cold Fusion will enjoy that tale as much as I did, and believe as I do that a zero-to-forever love can exist, when the right people meet in the right place.
I’d like to say thanks to Trent at EverAfter Romance for hosting me here today, and to take this opportunity of wishing all of you the very best for a wonderful 2016.
Harper Fox is the author of many critically acclaimed M/M Romance novels, including Stonewall Book Award-nominated Scrap Metal and Brothers Of The Wild North Sea, Publishers Weekly Best Book 2013. Her novels and novellas are powerfully sensual, with a dynamic of strongly developed characters finding love and a forever future – after an appropriate degree of turmoil. She loves to show the romance implicit in everyday life, and she writes a sharp action scene too.