Even in historical romance fiction, with its near mandatory promise of happily ever after for the hero and heroine and the new family they create, families that are not split by death, divorce, or abandonment are the exception when it comes to the backgrounds of the novel’s lead characters.
The dead or absent parent, the domineering mother, and the indifferent, controlling, or outright abusive father—all are staples in historical romance, and far more common than parents who are more or less happy together and pleased to be caring, responsible parents. Among Georgette Heyer’s most popular romance titles, for example, only Devil’s Cub and Arabella include two living parents, and only the latter offers detailed domestic scenes that reveal a close and loving, albeit imperfect, family.
Few romance authors choose to follow the example Heyer set in Arabella. One of the few who does so is Loretta Chase who opens her Carsington series with a prologue to Miss Wonderful (2004) that features the Earl of Hargate and his countess, an unusual aristocratic couple who share a bedroom, a bed, and conversation about their sons. Although the focus of their concern in this particular scene is Alistair, their third-born son and hero of the novel, the context suggests that such conversations are the norm for these characters. Indeed, Lady Hargate alludes to another conversation about Alistair that, like the current one, indicates that the Hargates understand their sons and care about their happiness, an impression that is confirmed in Mr. Impossible (2005), Lord Perfect (2006), and Not Quite a Lady (2007).