Fri
Feb 15 2013 3:00pm

Mothering Heights: The (Over?) Importance of Procreation in Romance Novels

In December last year, Brooklyn couple Jonathan Mann and Ivory King broadcast on YouTube a song that quickly went viral: “We’ve Got to Break Up.” While, true, the song smacks of self-promotion and features a truly puzzling musical interlude/freakish dance number, at its core it speaks to an issue many couples increasingly face: one wants kids, the other one doesn’t. The lyrics make it clear that their five-year relationship is ending amicably, but on this one issue they are both resolute, and therefore the musician and the artist must part ways, he to presumably find a vessel for his eager seed, she to continue pairing Mr. Wickham’s castoffs with eye makeup from a '70s Bowie cover.

Now, I won’t hazard a guess as to the percentage of people reading this who initially thought I meant that it was the male half of the couple who didn’t want the kids rather than the female, but if you were one of them, ask yourself… why? Why is it always assumed that a woman must want to have children? And especially, why is it always assumed in romance novels that without them a woman, a family, cannot possibly be complete?

I have to admit, this was not a subject to which I had given much thought before recently reading Emily Giffin’s 2007 novel Baby Proof, but as I became immersed in the travails of our heroine, Claudia, and her seemingly endless quest to justify her decision not to procreate to disbelieving friends and relations, it occurred to me just how insidious, how endemic to romantic fiction is the idea that the only good woman is a good mother. Or, at least, potential mother.

Still from Raising Helen starring Kate HudsonChildren abound in Romance, both category and single title, with popular themes like Secret Baby (ugh!) and Single Father appearing month after month after month. Inherit the Kid is another one, a trope of which not only romance novels but also movies are fond: Diane Keaton in Baby Boom, Kate Hudson in Raising Helen, and to a lesser extent Katherine Heigl in Life as We Know It, in all of which the carefree career woman finds herself trying to have it all, failing, and then choosing kid(s) over job every time.

Hell, even the infamous Fifty Shades books gave the long-suffering Anastasia two tiny tots—and wow, are they going to grow up well-adjusted or what? (Sequel suggestion: Fifty Shades of Child Psychotherapy.) As Carey Purcell points out in her Huffington Post, er, post on the subject: “When Anastasia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant and shares the news with Christian, he rages at her, asking if she did it on purpose and storming out of the house, disappearing for hours. Even though Anastasia thinks to herself that the pregnancy happened too soon in their marriage, she never considers terminating it.” Because being a doormat plaything in Grey’s Red Room of Pain is acceptable; pondering whether she should even have a kid, considering her own deficiencies and the volatility of her (to be charitable) “relationship,” would put her entirely beyond the pale.

How many epilogues have you read where the longevity of our couple’s happiness is illustrated by either the joyous news of a pregnancy or the tender reflection on the fruits of their union, already prepared earlier? In fact, I can’t think of a single romance novel epilogue that did not, in some way, relate to either imminent or extant spawn, as though life beyond love and marriage is somehow not worthy of note without the baby carriage.

Certainly, in historical novels the prevalence of this can be forgiven. Back then, a woman’s major role in life often was to bear children, and in the more rarefied heights of Society where we so often spend our fictional time, the begetting of an heir means our heroine will not go on to live in the shadow of universal disappointment. When Georgette Heyer holds up a vain, selfish mother to ridicule for having abandoned her children in Venetia (my favorite Heyer), we enter entirely into the ton’s feelings regarding this scandalous behavior, and can understand why such an unnatural creature would be utterly ruined by eloping with a wealthy roué. But seen from poor Lady Steeple’s perspective, she really has been very badly put upon. The fact is, as she tells us, she “never wanted children”—she was forced to have them by the dictates of her world and the very real lack of birth control and/or woman’s right to choose. She had little choice in her marriage, either. Left to her own devices, she would have taken an entirely different path, but in her era and class a teenage girl such as she had been hadn’t any other option, and so she is deplored by the reader for electing not to remain dutifully, though reluctantly, by her unwanted children’s side forever.

But surely now, when we women are more than property, more than dynastic currency, and much more than the means to an heir, surely our fiction can more fully reflect our changing roles, and changing desires. Don’t just have a heroine who is a truck driver and think that’s equality. Have a heroine who’s a truck driver and insists on our hero having a vasectomy as a wedding present (if indeed they must get married—but that’s a whole other post). Or give us an epilogue that talks of, I don’t know, their recent Kenyan safari or the fact that her long-awaited book got published, and then don’t have them also discussing what to name Hero, Jr.

Urban Fantasy is one refuge from all of this, Julie Kenner’s entertaining Demon Hunting Soccer Mom series aside. Usually our UF heroines are single (or, at most, “It’s Complicated”), and willfully childless—indeed, many of them are vampires, and could not have children even if they wanted to. But in almost every other subgenre of the wider arena known as Women’s Fiction (including much of Paranormal Romance; looking at you, sundry hellren), “motherly” is up there with “sense of decency” and “unique specialness” as a not only desirable but utterly expected trait in a leading lady.

In her post on all the children in contemporary romance lately, H&H blogger Kwana Minatee-Jackson makes mention of “kids the ultimate wingmen,” and suggests that their presence in a book is often merely as catalyst to romance—they are the means by which our two parties meet, or at least continue to meet. This is definitely the case, and has been for a long time. One of my favorite category Regencies is Judith A. Lansdowne’s The Bedeviled Duke, which features a hero owning four sets of twins, and a heroine who comes to love them. Certainly my favorite Medieval is Theresa Madeiros’s very amusing Charming the Prince, in which our hero, Lord Bannor the Bold, finds himself in possession of a bunch of sprightly little tykes and soon finds in his hastily acquired bride, the spirited Lady Willow, rather more than he had bargained for. And I love, love, love Michele Bardsley’s Broken Heart Vampires series, every one of which has a cute kid or several up to some sort of matchmaking mischief, often all unwittingly.

Elsewhere, I have previously mentioned my abject devotion to Lee Damon’s Again the Magic, in which the hero has an adorable son, Gus. He is not the reason for our couple’s meeting, nor for their continuing acquaintance, but even there, the non-maternal soul is demonized: Gus’s biological mother was a party girl who had wanted to terminate her unplanned pregnancy, but our hero, O’Mara, insists on her carrying the child to term. Later, of course, she becomes the villain of the piece, basically selling her kid to her one-time fling, because if you’re the kind of woman who doesn’t want a child, then obviously you’re the kind of woman who would kidnap him for ransom. In contrast, our heroine, Kitt, loves Gus on sight, becomes his substitute Mama in record time, and thereby proves herself a fitting mate to this rich and handsome man. Think about it. Motherless kids in Romance novels are, in many ways, there to make our leading lady look like a paragon of all the virtues—either they’re the selfless foster mother, like in a favorite Loveswept of mine, Marcia Evanick’s Perfect Morning, or the plucky single mother, like in a favorite Nora Roberts of mine, The Best Mistake, or they’re the Nurturing Angel there to replace the Cold-hearted Career Woman, like in another favorite of mine, True Confessions by Rachel Gibson.

You’ll notice a number of “favorite” novels mentioned above, so obviously the omnipresence of the Good Woman = Good Mother trope in romantic fiction isn’t a deal breaker for me—personally, I love other people’s kids, and love to see them in Romance, as long as they’re at least vaguely well-written. (And are preferably not named silly things like Renesmee.) All I’m saying is, not every woman wants to be a mother, so can we please get a little more acknowledgment of this reality, and consequent validation of this life choice, in our reading material?

Which brings me back to Baby Proof. As we commence our story, Claudia is happily married to the dashing Ben, a successful architect with whom she reached a mutual understanding on their very first date: neither wanted children. Their families talk babies, their friends have babies, and then Ben has a change of heart, leading to a very swift divorce when he chooses his longing to replicate his DNA over his wife. Throughout, and following, the breakdown of their marriage, Claudia faces incessant charges on her uterus, until finally she decides she wants Ben more than she wants to avoid TGI Fridays and moving to the suburbs, and is willing to get pregnant after all.

I have never gone from loving a heroine to despising her so quickly and thoroughly as when this happened—no, not even when some pleasingly feisty tomboy in a bodice ripper falls in love with her rapist… sorry, “forcible seducer.” I found the last quarter of the book difficult to read, as Claudia becomes increasingly pitiful, yearning for her stupid, deal-breaking ex-husband and indulging in constant, irrational jealousy over some girl she has no real evidence he’s even dating. Still, for all that I would have loved Claudia to remain true to herself, to not compromise her beliefs so utterly on the mere chance of winning back such a douche, there can be no denying that her actions, and reactions, were entirely too human, and certainly very female.

Forget that the need to breed has been hardwired into our blood and bone and every bodily system, we have also been raised to be mothers, our earliest playthings dolls, our earliest idols the likes of Mrs. Brady, Mrs. March and Maria from Sesame Street. Our childhood stories showed us that women who didn’t like or want kids were Bad: from Snow White to Hansel and Gretel and from The Witches to Ghormenghast, we were everywhere confronted by these relentlessly selfish and/or downright wicked monsters who were to be feared and, occasionally, defeated. Even Anne of Green Gables’ beloved Marilla was given to us as a harridan until she finally fell under the young Miss Shirley’s excitable spell; it was not the King of Vulgaria but the Queen who outlawed children in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; poor, eponymous Eloise’s mother abandoned her in a New York hotel, only occasionally recalling her existence; and in The Juniper Tree, dear old stepmom cooks up the kid and serves him to her husband as a light snack. Which may explain why Regina (Lana Parilla) of Once Upon a Time was given the “redeeming feature” (as so many commentators have it) of her deep love for the precocious Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), because without it she would, of necessity, have to be our ultimate villain instead of some new breed of anti-I-almost-think-I-like-her-now-quasi-hero. Apparently, if she had wrought so much misery in the Fairy Tale world and didn’t like kids, we could have no sympathy for her at all.

And here we thought the times had a’changed.

In some ways, of course they have. Anyone questioning this need only check out sites such as The Childfree Life, which bears the legend “A safe haven in a baby-crazed world,” and the mission statement to be: “… a gathering place for people who share the common bond of choosing to be non-parents, and for those in the process of making that decision.” The site reviews books with such titles as Complete Without Kids and Kidfree & Lovin’ It!, while a busy forum features such topics as “Keeping the Babies Away” (Birth Control and Sterilization) and “Our Non-Children” (Pets & Animals). This is just one example of what can only be considered a growing movement of deliberate suppressed reproduction, and as Baby Proof’s Claudia struggled to come up with valid “reasons” for her decision, I couldn’t help wondering why, especially in this day and age, she needed one at all. Whether financial, emotional, logistical, environmental, or any one of a dozen other possibilities, can we not all agree that a woman is good and whole and fulfilled and perfect, even without having obeyed all of her biological imperatives?

In fact, maybe they are no longer imperatives at all. There is a somewhat fringe theory among anthropologists that war breaks out in a society when the population becomes too large, in an attempt to thin out the herd—especially of extraneous men, and the future generations they might produce. There is another, even more controversial, theory that suggests that we, as a species, are producing a larger proportion of gay people now than ever before because procreation is no longer so vitally important to each member of our global tribe. (More likely, it’s just more open closets, but academics/random bloggers on the internet love to theorize.) Is it not then at least remotely possible that the women—and men—who are now more and more choosing not to have children are simply another lane along the evolutionary highway, one that leads to an off-ramp because the rest of the species have already caused a traffic jam?

There are over seven billion people on this planet; just once, I’d like to see a romance novel in which our happy couple decides they don’t wish to add to that number, and then they stick to it, and they don't even adopt, and then they do other fun stuff instead, like buy Jet Skis.

Crib image by Kenziepoo via Flickr

 


Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.

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23 comments
AutumnM
1. AutumnM
Such an interesting article! As a writer, I've chosen not to detail potential offspring (or even--GASP!--weddings). I feel no need to apologize for that, but I can tell you that those are the #1/#2 requests/comments from readers: "I want to see the wedding!" and "I'd love to see their kids." I'm not anti family or anti kid (married with four rugrats), but I do recognize that producing children is NOT for everyone. In fact, many of my 30s/40s friends have either decided or resigned themselves to being child free.

As a reader, I have some real concerns about getting into that whole arena. First, children are rarely often depicted in a realistic manner, and realism in behaviour and relationships in what I read or write is important to me. Second, as a parent it troubles me to see them shoved to the side, as they nearly inevitably are, until they can create a 'cute situation'. Then back to grandma's or daycare they go. It's unrealistic. Finally, as far as childbirth and weddings... well, they're boring unless you have a personal stake in them, and are difficult to write well. More often they are sappy as hell, too snarky for reality, or just flat boring.

I'm definitely going to RT the tweet on this topic, because it's important to consider and well-written. Thanks!
Amber Belldene
2. AmberBelldene
I agree with Autumn--A really interesting topic and well written post! I write paranormal, and that means I could skirt the issue. In my first novel, I was willing the gloss the issue of my sexually-liberated career-woman heroine becoming a vampire and giving up her "procreative" potential, but so many of my beta readers pushed back, saying I needed to let her explore and feel that choice more intensely.

I agree with the premise that having a baby should not be a part of everyone's HEA. And certainly more and more people choose not to. But those beta readers made me see that EVERY woman makes choices about reproduction--whether she is single or married, celibate or sexually active, longs to be a mother or really, truly doesn't. Procreation is tied to sex, and deeply woven into our society and arguably our desires in ways that don't go away even as our gender roles change.

I know women who have made all those choices, who haven't had choices, or who have made choices only for them not to be realized (infertility, miscarriage). But the choices are usually a huge part of their life as women, and I'd like to see smart books about ALL of those situations.

Thanks for raising such a great topic.
AutumnM
3. Diane Peterson
A very thought-provoking article. I am an avid reader of historical romance and your information is almost always correct -- there seems to be a baby in every epilogue. I hate it when she just cannot get pregnant or is barren until the "miracle sperm" (as a friend called it) arrives. I would like to point out one notable exception to the rule -- Sherry Thomas's book, Not Quite a Husband. I dearly love the epilogue because it speaks of the enduring love of two unique and talented people and NO children. Check it out.
Brittany Melson
4. BrittanyMelson
Very interesting post. I'm unmarried and childless and completely satisfied with my life (well...satisfied with not having a husband or kids, anyway), and I get annoyed by people's obsession with marriage and reproduction. People ask, "Are you married?" "Do you have kids?" And when the answer is no, sometimes they'll ask, "Why not?" Or say, "Don't worry. You're still young." Or they'll say, "You're lucky." Or make some other sort of judgment call when their opinion was totally not solicited.

I understand that women will often ask other women these questions in order to find a connection/common ground (I'm guilty of asking people what they do for a living way too much), but it would be nice if we all found other ways to connect with each other, through things like shared values, interests, and perspectives on life. And I wish heroes and heroines would find other ways to connect as well. I love it when two flawed individuals begin to care for each other despite their flaws--like Sherlock and Watson in "Elementary," my current romantic obsession. I love those two as a couple so much. And Jane and Lisbon on the Mentalist (although I'm getting impatient with their lack of progress), and Nolan and Emily on Revenge, and Doc Martin and Louisa on Doc Martin (although they do end up having a baby--but their relationship was good before the baby), and in fiction (although I find it less in fiction), Gail and Simon in Brenda Novak's When Lightning Strikes (Simon has a kid, but Gail doesn't have to play mommy during the story). Maybe some commenters on this post will mention some books that are out there that do have awesome, childless heroes and heroines with a great connection because I can't think of any off the top of my head.
AutumnM
5. Stephanie B
Have you read Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me? The heroine doesn't want kids, and the epilogue specifically addresses the fact that she has her perfect HEA *without* children.

That's definitely the exception to the rule, though!
AutumnM
6. Normandie Alleman
This is a very interesting article. I can see why those who don't have kids or don't want them would want to read more stories in which the couple doesn't want or have them.

The fact is that many people (not all) have a biological desire to procreate with their mate once they find them. It's a normal part of our physiology. There have even been studies suggesting that the reason women "fall in love" with men they have sex with is due to a chemical reaction women have after intercourse that is designed to bond them with their offspring's father. Clearly it does not work out this way in every case.

And as a mother of six... I wouldn't know where to begin to write about a heroine who didn't want children. Writers usually write what they know, and I think the trend in romance novels reflects the population, with women who want children being in the majority.
AutumnM
7. chris booklover
The summary of Emily Giffin's Baby Proof is at best incomplete. It omits the crucial fact that Ben makes the same decision (from an opposite direction) as Claudia does - he decides that he would rather remain married to her than have children with anyone else. He is the one who makes this declaration (she doesn't reciprocate). The couple resume their relationship, and do not have any children or any plans to have any at the end of the novel.

More generally, there are many, many romance novels in which children are not mentioned at all (think of the Harlequin Blaze line as opposed to the Harlequin Presents or Harlequin Superromance ones). It seems to me that you are asking for something entirely different - namely, a positive endorsement of the "child-free" lifestyle. There are not many of those in romance, although I would add Linda Howard's Death Angel to the Crusie and Sherry Thomas examples quoted earlier in the thread. The reasons for this are simple. More than 80 per cent of Americans - women as well as men - want to have children. Very few people who have them are inclined to regret this fact later in life, whereas it is not uncommon for people without children to say that they wish they had done so. Given these realities, we are unlikely to see many couples in romance actively and explicitly rejecting the idea of having children.
AutumnM
8. Alissa H.
Thanks for covering this topic! I'd love to see more romances with heroes and heroines who are happily childless. If, as one comment says, 80% of Americans want children, then can we have 20% of romances childless? It would not surprise me if there are people who have children and wish they had not, but are afraid to say so for fear of societal disapproval. Not wanting children is "odd" enough, regretting children would probably be classed as bad by many. I like children and enjoy spending time with nieces, nephews, and the kids of my friends, but have never wanted children of my own. Sometimes I find the focus on childbearing and childrearing in romance, chicklit and women's fiction alienating. Don't all readers enjoy reading about people with whom they can identify, at least sometimes, if not in every book?
Carmen Pinzon
9. bungluna
Very good article.

Jennifer Crusie is an author whose heroines/heroes don't always have to have kids to be happy. Aside from Bet Me, there's also Anyone But You and several others where the main focus of the HEA is not procreation.

Personally, I find it disturbing that kids are used as a shorthand for successful marriages in romance fiction. As if adding the stress of parenting will overcome any other deficiencies in the relationship. Yes, because being a doormat is great when it comes to parenting qualities. Oh, so true that being an alphole surely equips you to be a good parent.

I don't mind kids in my romance, as long as they are added to the relationship, not the whole point of it to begin with. I also wish that more hero(ines) would stick to their guns. If you don't want kids, don't let the wonder wang or the magic whoha 'cure' you. And if all you want is a genetic donor to procreate, then go looking for another partner, because forcing them to your pov is a lousy foundation for a lasting relationship.

I know it's a historical, but The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is an example of a romance that was ruined for me because of the child question and how it was forced.
Kareni
10. Kareni
Eve Dallas and Roarke are another child-free couple.
Rachel Hyland
11. RachelHyland
@AutumnM

You're so right about the children of convenience situations, when they only seem to come on the scene to be drive-by adorable, and then get swiftly upstaged again by The Plot. David Letterman calls those Lifetime Channel true stories "Where the hell are my kids?" movies, and sometimes that's how I feel about parents in Romance. Where the hell are your kids?

@ AmberBelldene

"Smart books about ALL of those situations." EXACTLY!

@ Diane Petersen

"Miracle sperm"! Ha! Love it. And thanks for the heads up on Not Quite a Husband.

@ BrittanyMelson

See, I am torn between shipping Sherlock and Watson and desperately wanting them to remain platonic but devoted, like Mary and Marshall in In Plain Sight. At the moment, I'm still in the platonic camp, but every week I slip a little more to your side of the fence. Jane and Lisbon, however... that HAS to happen. And they need to give us at least a little something, soon. You're right, the lack of progress is getting frustrating, that "I love you" last season notwithstanding.

@ Stephanie B

Somehow, Crusie has never really come in my way, except for a paranormal of hers I read a while back, and have to admit didn't love. But Bet Me sounds exactly like what I am looking for, thanks! Will download to Kindle immediately.

@ Normandie Alleman

Obviously, "write what you know" is always good advice, but are there not many female writers who write from a male POV (and vice versa), or human writers who write from an alien POV, or hell, even octogenerians who write as modern-day teens? If one can do all of that, then surely questioning the kid factor is doable?

@ chris booklover

True, Ben finally rescinds his rejection of Claudia (after he's already divorced her), but the important decision in here, for me, isn't his, but hers; whether or not she tells him about it, she makes it, and choosing to have a baby against your own insticts in order to get/keep/win back a man? I just don't like it. But to each their own, of course!

@ Alissa H

Great comment! Sadly, I suspect it will be a long time before 20% of romantic fiction represents a determinedly childfree lifestyle.

@ bunglunga

And there's Crusie again! She's now on my booklist for sure! And this part:
"Personally, I find it disturbing that kids are used as a shorthand for successful marriages in romance fiction. As if adding the stress of parenting will overcome any other deficiencies in the relationship."
Preach!


And also this:
"I don't mind kids in my romance, as long as they are added to the relationship, not the whole point of it to begin with. I also wish that more hero(ines) would stick to their guns. If you don't want kids, don't let the wonder wang or the magic whoha 'cure' you."
Amen! "Wonder wang." Hehe. Yes, I have a real objection to those "cures."

@ Kareni

Good point! Romantic Suspense is also something of a refuge from kid fever. Not entirely, but definitely more than many subgenres.
AutumnM
12. Maddie Grove
@ bunglunga: It's literally forced in The Duke and I. I don't think I've ever felt more sorry for a romance hero due to his marriage than with that book. Of course, I have a problem with the Bridgerton series that might be odd; I usually like or even love the non-Bridgerton characters, but the Bridgerton siblings either annoy or infuriate me. Hyacinth pisses me off the least, if that gives anybody an idea. (Then again, I've only read five out of eight books, so that might change someday.)

I'm neutral on kids in romance, more or less, but I think it's silly that they're so de rigeur. Most of the time, do we really need epilogues with babies? If the hero and heroine are in love and married (or otherwise together for the long haul), isn't that something that can be left up to the reader's imagination?

I actually like Secret Babies in theory, but I usually end up hating this sort of plot because the hero is such a douche about it. I mean, the baby's usually secret because the hero fucks off (in which case it's his fault he doesn't know) or is prevented from seeing the heroine (in which case it's neither protagonist's fault), so why all of this screaming at the heroine for being deceptive?
AutumnM
13. akajill
I am happily single and childless but also an avid romance reader. I don't mind the baby epilogue that much on the whole as I realize that on this topic my feelings put me in the minority. (There is also the fact that I don't hate children either! I like them very much, I just don't want them.) There have been moments, however, when it really and truly puts me off.

The most recent example was Breaking Point by Pamela Clare. In that case it wasn't our happy couple having the traditional baby makes three happy ending. No, it was the fact that the 4 previous couples from the book series (this was the first I had read) showed up in the middle of the book to console someone over a serious situation and did so bringing their MANY children from infants to preschoolers. The scene of mega domestic bliss was absolutely ridiculous given the serious situation in the story and to be honest, I found it almost offensive in the way it was portrayed. At the very end the heroine makes a choice that fit right in with the above scene, but I felt was completely against her character.

These two things were completely opposed to the nature of the story and also, in my opinion, were making a statement that this way, and only this way, lay true happiness. It wasn't just hinted at the end it was blatant and in your face. It really, really bothered me and despite the fact that I liked the book if you took out those scenes, it completely soured me on the author.

The quotes from Jennifer Crusie in the comments above, by the way, are absolutely perfect. I knew there was a reason I liked her books so much.
AutumnM
14. akajill
Gah! My edits to my comment didn't take. That last part is supposed to be gone as I realized the quotes actually came from commenter @bungluna.

To @bungluna I wanted to say that her comment was great and I totally agreed with her.
Brandy Stott
15. brandeeleigh
I guess I never really thought much about my HEA's having baby make 3. However, that being said IMO I find that without the (wanting baby/having baby) it makes me feel that maybe my HEA won't last. I understand that if the hero/herorine wants to leave the realationship kids don't always make the difference but I feel if you have childern involved you are tied to that other person for good/or ill for life... Often times like in real life without kids if it doesn't work out you can throw in the towel and possibly not fight as hard to make things work. I am not the "norm" in today's world either I guess. I married my high school sweetheart been married for 19 years and have 2 kids and love my life, I'm only 37. I LOVE to read romance because I get an HEA, real life is hard enough I get the oooey goooey feeling when I read a great book with an HEA kids or not. In my mind they always get married, have a couple kids and live on to be great grandparents showing their kids and grandkids what TRUE love should be about :)
Kiersten Hallie Krum
16. Kiersten
Fantastic post. As a woman who loves other people's kids but has absolutely no desire whatsoever to be a mother, I appreciate highlighting this post exceedingly. I also second Bet Me and NQAH as great, non-baby related HEAs in outstanding novels.
AutumnM
17. Dee @ Dee's Book Blog
I think I can deal with maybe a kid, in the epilogue, but when it starts getting insane (i.e. need a family tree to track all of the off-spring - Lorelei James, I'm speaking to you), then it is going too far...but as with others, I want to kids to be part of the story and not just a, oh, let's give him/her kids because they need them.
AutumnM
18. Jennifer R
Oh, The Duke and I. I had less of a problem with it than usual because (a) childfree wasn't really an option in that time in the first place, and (b) his reason for being childfree was to spite his dead dad, which is kinda ridiculous. But yeah, it's problematic.

Are Anyone but You and Bet Me the only childfree romances anyone else can think of too?

From what I recall of peeking at the end of Baby Proof (I couldn't finish it), it sure sounded like they'd end up having babies, even if Ben suppossedly said he'd go without. I remember reading some interview with the author about how she didn't think the kid thing should doom a relationship and there should be compromise....I don't think she succeeded.
AutumnM
19. silence
Pack Challenge by Shelly Laurenston
Is a shape shifter romance with no kids. Joint doctors apoint to make sure in either the epilogue or the start of the next book. :)
Carol Stoneburner
20. lapillus
The necessity of baby makes three is one of the (many) reasons I don't find myself reading much in the way of contemporary romance. I don't mind it in historicals as it makes sense in the cultural setting, but I really want a wider range of possibilities for contemporary womanhood.

Speaking of historicals, one of the reasons I found Cecilia Grant's "A Gentleman Undone" so refreshing was that the couple defintely remains childless at the end. Lydia's infertility isn't magically cured and despite this they both find themselves happy as a couple.
AutumnM
21. Sabrina Jeffries
Great article about procreation in romance! Ironically, I'm one of those people who love babies in epilogues, and I often catch grief from my friends FOR that because I happen to have a lot of friends who chose to be childless. While I understand and even sympathize with that choice, I always wanted children, so I write books according to what I like.

I HAVE left out the babies in a book here and there, simply because the character seemed to warrant (at least temporarily) a childless existence, but as you say, it's more difficult in historicals, where choosing not to have children would have been frowned upon . . . and pretty much impossible, given the vagaries of 19th century birth control.

But I agree--it would be nice, particularly in contemporary romance, to see couples choosing not to have children once in a while. :-)
AutumnM
22. Carinna
Well, I guess it depends on the reader. For me, "baby makes 3" means the end of honeymoon and romance and the beginning of a lot of worry, hard work and life-long obligation. So definitely don't miss their presence if all I'm looking for is an escapistic read.
AutumnM
23. GloriaBow
I am late to the party on this conversation but do want to thank Rachel for her insights on this topic. I especially relate to the comment "...just once, I’d like to see a romance novel in which our happy couple decides they don’t wish to add to that number, and then they stick to it..."

The main reason I wrote my novel, a love story with the improbable title Human Slices, was to create a female protagonist who is quite happily childfree and is looking for a man who "gets" that about her.
Those women are hard to find in our love stories.
http://wp.me/P2CpPw-p
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