Saturday, May 09, 2009

Wildcard Weekend : : Kids in Books

Anne McAllister is helping out with a new grandson and his 20 month old big sister -- and remembering how she multi-tasked raising four kids and writing books

It's Mother's Day this weekend on this side of the pond -- and perhaps other places, too. I'm not sure.

But as many of us are celebrating mother's day this week -- either as mothers and grandmothers ourselves or with our own mothers, I thought it was time to talk about all the kids and babies in romance books.

At first glance there doesn't seem to be very much romantic about kids and babies. They're an outcome, often, of where 'romance' takes couples, certainly. But once they're here, from what I remember the further outcome is usually sleeplessness that has nothing to do with romance at all.

Judging from the dark circles under the eyes and bleary hollow looks I've been getting this past week from my son and daughter-in-law this week, nothing much has changed.

My son actually left the house at 5 this morning to go into the office -- where, he said, he intended to sleep on the couch! But only because he'd been up since before 3 a.m. with the 20 month old so his wife could get some much needed sleep.

So babies, though cute, are not exactly conducive to romantic love scenes. So why are there so many kids and babies in books?

Because they are the promise of an enduring union.

Kids and babies have a habit of making the hero and heroine confront the issues that really matter. They ask our heroes and heroines for maturity, for commitment to family, for responsibility, for selfless love, for devotion to a legacy that will outlast their lives.

With the right answers, we know that our hero and heroine are up to the challenge of making a relationship that will work.

I knew this instinctively 25 years ago though I probably couldn't have articulated it then. But the second book I wrote, Starstruck, had a heroine who was divorced and raising five kids.

Kids were not thick on the pages of books in those days. My editor took a risk on a new writer and a storyline that wasn't common then. She was proved prescient, I think, because the book did very well. A lot of women identified with Liv James and her need to keep things together and put her kids' welfare first.

Liv definitely had trust issues. And my slick and glitzy hero (He was a heart-throb Hollywood actor for heaven's sake!) had his work cut out for him trying to prove himself as potential husband and father material.

She couldn't believe he'd bother. Couldn't imagine why he'd want to. But he did. And in doing so he discovered that deep down where it counted, he wasn't nearly as shallow as he -- and everyone else -- thought he was.

Kids provide the ultimate test.

There are plenty of fabulous books around these days that show the same thing in their own way. In April Liz Fielding's wonderful Secret Baby, Surprise Parents hit the stands. It demonstrates clearly the challenges that sudden parenthood thrust upon Josh and Grace. It asks much more of them than their earlier relationship did.

Lucy Gordon's upcoming Italian Tycoon, Secret Son makes Renzo Ruffini confront responsibilities he didn't count on. The child he didn't know he had makes him take another look at his life, to open up again to possibilities he never expected. It's not only the making of his marriage. In a real way it's the making of him.

I have an entire Waldenbook's triple revolving book display at home. I bought it when a local bookstore consolidated with another one. It's fabulous because it's so compact and currently it has over 700 books in it, most of them romances, all of them 'keepers.' Many of them are romances with babies and kids in them.

They speak to me because, I suppose, I have kids of my own. I remember the sleepless nights. I remember the inane dinner table conversations and the extra-inning baseball games and the countless socks that never ever match. I remember sticky mother's day cards and homemade Christmas ornaments and the visits to the emergency room.

And I always remember the man who stood by me all the way. We both know first hand that babies and kids promise not just sleepless nights, but hope for the future.

In romance fiction they do the same.

They are the promise that a marriage will endure, that the hero and heroine will love each other through thick and thin -- and lack of sleep -- and that the family they create together will make loving honorable strong people of those very children.

Do you have 'keepers' on your shelves that feature babies or kids? What makes them special to you?

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms who are celebrating this weekend.

Anne is trying to remember how to type one-handed while she cuddles the new grandson in the other arm. It's coming back -- slowly.

Her most recent release, Savas' Defiant Mistress, is out in the UK now, and will be released in June in Australia and New Zealand. It was an April Harlequin Presents.

If you missed it on the stands, it's still available online. You can read
an excerpt on her website.


  1. Hi Anne. Great blog! I'm looking at the cover of Starstruck and I'm trying to wrack my brains out as to who he looks like! He's looks like someone famous today. So (everybody) help me out! Who does he remind you of? Take care. Caroline. ps. All you good people out there who haven't bought Anne's Savas's Defiant Mistress - go out and buy it today! It's wonderful!

  2. Oh, most definitely, Anne.

    My favourite category romance of all time is Liz Fielding's "Gentlemen Prefer... Brunettes" - which has just LOVELY kids in it. My second favourite (Dr Blake's Angel by Marion Lennox) also involves kids (I love her families - they're great fun). And then there's Liz Fielding's "The Sheikh's Guarded Heart". Just brilliant.

    I'm also a sucker for books with dogs in them. Yours are definite keepers *g*

  3. Caroline, I can't help. All I know is that he's a vast improvement on the original cover. And thank you for the plug for Savas' Defiant Mistress!

    Kate, I will go look for both of Liz's books and Marion's. They are terrific writers, and I often manage to find their books when I'm not under deadline pressure. But I think I've missed all three of those, so I'll see about tracking them down. Thanks!

    And, yes, I like dogs in books, too. And cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, fish, etc!

  4. Hi Anne

    Happy Mother's Day to you and everyone.

    Terrific post. Children do add an extra dimension to life as well as romantic fiction -- putting everything on the line in a way that you have to confront -- performing the role of "crucible". They don't have to be young children, either. I just loved how responsible and caring Savas was with his own siblings in Savas' Defiant Mistress even when they were driving him nuts.

    Gorgeous, gorgeous book.

  5. Anne - looking forward to reading Savas' book. Glad to be typing this with two hands!

  6. Thanks, Liz. Happy Mother's Day to you, too. Even though you celebrated the UK's in March, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one as well. And yes, the kids don't have to be young, but they do have to make the hero and heroine demonstrate that they are in it for the long haul. They have to go above and beyond the call of duty.

    Sandra, hope you enjoy the Savas book. I'm typing with two hands right now, too, as Henry and Ellie are both taking naps! Ah, the joy of it.