Monday, May 9, 2011

Three's a Crowd? Children in Romance Novels

Hope all you moms out there had a great Mother's day! (I did) Mine started with sleeping in, lovely homemade gifts from the kiddo, then a brunch with my mom and family, then I read all afternoon, then the hubby cooked me dinner.

It doesn't get better than that!

Anyhew, last week I was at a writer's forum and they were discussing children in romance novels. (Maybe Mother's Day prompted this. I'm not sure.)


But considering, um, I write romance novels, I couldn't help but join in on the discussion. And I learned something that surprised me.

Not a lot of readers (at the forum, anyway) enjoy seeing children in romance novels. In fact, I think I was the only one who said they liked seeing children in them.

*Gasp*

What is it? Too close to reality?
Actually, yes. Most felt children or a child or a baby took away from the actual romance, the "fantasy", and was too real world for them.

Considering two of my soon-to-be three published romances have a child or children in them, I don't find that the case. :-) And apparently Harlequin's family style and/or secret baby romances do quite well too. Unless I'm the only one reading them, and I know that can't be.



But here's why I think a child or children can be a nice addition to a romance novel:

1) a child is a great vehicle to show character growth in one or two of your main characters. Your character may have started out a selfish playboy but now that he learns he has a family, he can change and be a responsible father by the end.


2) a child is a great vehicle for comic relief. I know my kiddo says the funniest things--and some of the things she's said or even the situations she's gotten herself into, I've used in my books.

3)a child can provide "likeability" for your character. Maybe your main character isn't the nicest person on the planet, but she/he can show a different side and have a different heart around a child. Very likeable.

4) a child can add great internal or external conflict for a character. Your main character doesn't have just he/she to worry about now, they have the child to consider in their quest for their goal. Conflict!



I happen to be a real sucker for children in books--maybe more so now that I'm a mom myself. But as long as there is balance and the child doesn't control the story, a child can really add some nice depth to a story.




What about you? Do you read romance? Do you like children in romance novels or books in general?

48 comments:

Anne Gallagher said...

Funny, I've never thought about it.
I mean, I have read romance books with children, but never really gave them any credence. I always assume, where children are, love follows anyway.

Two of my historicals, and one category romance have children. One is used as a way for the parents to meet. One is used as a pawn (external conflict), and the last is used as comic relief.

Interesting post, Jenn, thanks.

Maria Zannini said...

I like children in romance novels for exactly the reasons you stated. It makes the hero/heroine more vulnerable and more swoon worthy when they 'do the right thing'.

vinobaby said...

Oh no--I didn't realize so many readers DON'T want kids in romances. I may be in trouble since a kid factors heavily in my work in progress...

I don't read many "pure" romances (Harlequins) and I am not as familiar with their structure. I think kids can roll into the womens fiction/chick lit category just fine. There are so many single moms out there now. I think it's only fair to show them a little love as well.

Your reasons for liking kids are so true. They can add many additional layers to characters, motivations, and plots. And in a romance, who doesn't just swoon over the handsome leading man who not only falls for the heroine but her child as well...

Jessica R. Patch said...

It depends on the story and like you said, if the child dominates the story--if not I don't mind. I have a child in one of my manuscripts and it adds a touch of tenderness and comic relief.

Laura Pauling said...

I do like romance but I've never read a true romance with children in it. But I can see how children could possibly add a lot if done right.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I don't read a ton of romance, but I get you with how kids can add a sure sense of comedy into a scene. They do that in our lives all the time.

Such a great Mother's Day here, too. Like you, I read most of the day and I got to go to B&N and pick out a book & drink a Java Chip frap from Starbucks. What a day!

~ Wendy

Joanne said...

I don't read too much romance, but more of women's and general fiction genres. I prefer stories with no or very little of children in them. I guess this is because I sometimes find the author will use the child too much, and it sometimes gives the book a YA feel, and so doesn't really work for me.

Mary Aalgaard said...

All your reasons are great for having kids in books. Also, they help you meet people - another necessary tool in creating stories and drama and conflict.

Suze said...

Very good reasoning for why a child should be in a romance novel, all four points are well-taken. I think it's just a matter of what kind of book the reader is in the mood for, at the moment.

Bossy Betty said...

I never thought of these points! I think having a child in the novel grounds it a bit more.

Tana Adams said...

I don't mind kids at all! I say bring 'em by the dozen. ;) Just keep them far away from my love scenes.

Linda G. said...

When my kiddos were little, I always enjoyed a romance with children involved somehow. Made it easy for me to identify with the heroine.

Terri Tiffany said...

My critique partner has children in most of hers and I really like that touch at least at my age. I agree!

K.M. Weiland said...

Totally agree with all your points. I'm not a romance author (or reader, really), but I love stories in which children are catalysts for adult growth. My current WIP features a five-year-old boy, and I've had a complete blast writing him. He brings a whole new depth to all of his scenes.

Katie Ganshert said...

I've written six romance novels. Half of them have children in them.

AJBarnett said...

The reasoning sounds very logical to me... Nice post

Rula Sinara said...

I agree with all the points you've made. Obviously, it depends on the type of romance (ie. Harl. line) as well as the reader (everyone has different taste), but I think children have a place in romances. That doesn't mean they're a requirement, but they definitely add a dose of reality to the relationship, and I think they give single people with children a sense that romance can happen to them too. Children don't preclude it, they can add to it.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Very interesting. I've never given much thought to children in romances. But I can see both sides.

As a mom, reading is an escape, often from the very darlings that make me a mom. Yet children are a huge part of life, and as a writer, they add depth and growth.

alexia said...

I don't read romance, but there are some really cool kid characters in books. I guess it depends on the story.

Janet Johnson said...

Interesting! I didn't know there was such a debate. I like children in books for all the reasons you mentioned.

And congrats on your upcoming releases!

blueviolet said...

I actually like your reasoning. It doesn't matter to me whether or not there's a child in a romance. If the story itself is good, that's all I care about.

Kelly said...

I can see why there are two sides to this. Some want a complete escape from reality; others like the familiar.
But if it's a good story, either will work!

Kim Kasch said...

My life would be boring without my kids - so I enjoy reading about kids in stories too :D

Holly Ruggiero said...

I never really thought about this before. I agree it could definitely spawn a deeper character(s).

Now, I'm going think all day about novels with a strong romance and try to remember if they had kids. Hum...

Colene Murphy said...

I think, done well (as I'm sure, based on your list of criteria for children) they can be perfect. First thought was to agree that it was sort of an ick factor as far as romance goes, but you make awesome, valid points!

Conda V. Douglas said...

I think kids make the novel more accessible, somehow more real.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Sounds like you had a perfect Mother's Day.
I think children are okay in romance novels though I see the other side also. I like the single father romances better than the single mother.

Susan Fields said...

I've never thought about this before. I haven't read many straight romance novels, but I don't associate them with children. I think I'd be surprised if I picked up a romance novel and found a child character in there.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I agree. If a child doesn't take over the story, I'm good with it. My current wip has a child in it who plays a major role in the hero's arc, so I'm curious to see how it all plays out. :)

Carol Kilgore said...

I tried to think of a romance I've read with kids in it. I'm sure I've read them, but I'm drawing a blank. Done well, I would like it just fine.

Elaine AM Smith said...

I have read romance with children in them. Different content choice matches my mood at the time of buying. Anything that conveys the central relationship has got to be good.:)

Savannah Chase said...

I have a story out that has a child in it but it is not somethign I write on a regular basis. That was one of the hardest stories for me because you are always aware there is a child and there are some things you can't write. I think it all depends on what people like. HQN books with kids do very well so there is a big readership for that subject...

Carolyn V said...

I don't read romance, but I have children in my books. I love the comic relief they can add! =)

Stephanie Faris said...

That's interesting. I don't like children in romance, either, but when I wrote category romance, it seemed I was the only person in the world who felt that way. I wanted to write about young career women, city girls, but was told the baby/bride books were all the publishers wanted to see. Marriages of conveniences and pregnant women or women with babies falling in love. That was it. I don't mind writing under constraints, but apparently it didn't work because try though I might, I couldn't get any of those books to work. Nor could I get the cowboy/country life theme to work, even though that was all those publishers wanted to see. I loved writing romance, but I'm more romantic comedy -- like the romantic comedies at the movies. There are a few good romantic comedies about pregnant women and/or moms, and I like those, too, but I personally have found they aren't very realistic. The role of the kid is minimalized until really all the kid is is just a plot device that the author puts away when it's not convenient to the characters that are falling in love.

Nancy said...

Most of the books I read have children in them. They don't bother me in a romance either. They just add to the fun.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I'm really enjoying all the responses!!
It's so interesting to get everyone's take. :-)

Lynda R Young said...

I'd not thought about it. I don't mind either way. I like your points about how children can enhance a story. I'll have to consider that for my own WIPs. Thanks.

Sarah Allen said...

I'm with you on this one. A child can make the story very real life, but to me that makes it sweeter and more genuine. Great post, I hadn't thought about this before.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Shelley Munro said...

The reasons you state to have children in romances are all good ones. I think it depends on the type of romance you're writing. If it's an erotic one you wouldn't expect to find children, while in a romantic suspense a child can ramp up the tension even more.

Great topic. :)

Jessica Nelson said...

I don't mind kids, when they're well-written. Sometimes I think they make the romance more believable. :-)

Stephanie Faris said...

I linked you in my blog today!

Josh Hoyt said...

I have never thought about adding children to my books these are some great ideas. I'm glad you had a happy mothers day.

Michelle Teacress said...

I don't read romance very often, but the last one I read had children in it, and I didn't find it distracting at all. :)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! It's great to meet you! :D

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Children and pets really add to romances for me both in reading and writing them. I'm really surprised by that forum. I wonder if it's a certain age group, such as young adults that skewed that response.

TheBookGirl said...

It never would have occurred to me that children could ruin a story :(
I think that as long as they add something to the narrative, why not?

Cheryl Klarich said...

I like tv shows with children, especially teenagers... they can be so droll... One thing, I really dislike extended baby talk and lisps...
Give me a smart, sassy child any day!

Admin said...

Nice Post