Plenty of people joke about how dysfunctional their family is. For others, it is no joke at all, but a sad reality.
Romance novels examine this issue by looking at how coming from a tough home situation influences a hero or heroine and their love story. The shelves are full of books such as Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel, which shows the near crippling impact of a cruel, autocratic father and a seductive step-mother on the vulnerable hero. Others examine the high cost of having an alcoholic parent, such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Natural Born Charmer. In Sweet Everlasting by Patricia Gaffney, the heroine’s father is physically and sexually abusive. The parents of the heroines of Jeannie Lin’s The Jade Temptress and The Lotus Palace sold them into prostitution. Even when the abuse isn’t horrific as that mentioned above a parent who is hyper-critical of their child can affect their self-confidence and ability to form strong relationships such as the parents of the heroine in Jennifer Cruise’s Bet Me.
Dysfunction isn’t always about direct abuse, though; sometimes the actions parents take against others can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. Perhaps the strongest of these impacts comes from having a parent who's killed. Whether they kill within the family, such as a dad killing a mom or step-mom or they are found guilty of killing others, the child forever wrestles with questions of tainted blood, guilt and that lost feeling of losing a parent even when they are still living. They also have to bear the shame and humiliation of being known as a murderer’s offspring.
Gia Andrew’s from Kimberly Belle’s The Last Breath has long known what the community thinks of her family.