So, my newest novella Sound Proof is about two LA voice actors who've been close friends for many years who over the course of working through a break-up discover that maybe the line between loving someone and being in love with someone is a bit more gray than it seems, at least for them. Sarcasm, snark, friendly banter, Chipotle in bed, couples yoga, and cats are the recipe for their crossing from one side of that thin line to the other.
Sound Proof is published as part of the My Dearest Friend collection from Less Than Three Press; an entire collection exploring what is probably my favorite romance trope of all time: Friends to Lovers. Or, as I like to call it, bromance to romance. I've been a fan of this trope for as long as I can remember, but particularly the last decade or so it's become my favorite for comfort reading. After thinking on it for a while I narrowed my love down to a single concept: familiarity.
As much as I love a good meet-cute or accidental romances and hookups, there's really something to be said for the comfort of familiarity. In a story where the main character and their love interest already know each other well there's no awkward getting-to-know-you phase, it skips the misunderstandings and little lies happen when the character is trying to impress someone they're attracted to. In fact, that whole "making an impression" stage has already been done, they begin already time-tested so there's little focus on how they come to enjoy spending time together and you can come into the story with the early awkward bits already done with. Not that there's no awkwardness, mind you, now there's the awkwardness of confessing attraction and the uncertainty that comes with possibly harming a friendship by "going there". It's very real, it's just a different sort of awkward.
I find when your characters are already in an established friendship the affection can feel more genuine, there is less of a chance that the intimacy will feel like it's going too fast and often that's the sort of thing I crave; a slow-burn without the pages of pining and longing because that's already in play.
The banter in FTL romance is more comfortable with all the in-jokes and little things that are hard to find in other stories as there's been no page time to establish those things in a new relationship. When the main pairing curls up together in bed in other romances you can feel the "will they or won't they" tension of sexual attraction and the paradigm is different when it becomes a matter of "is this friendly intimacy or potentially sexual?". It's a small shift, but noticeable.
I think it's very much that head-spaces where Sound Proof comes from and part of what makes it special.