Wed
May 7 2014 8:30am

Love the Mom You’re With: Supportive Mothers in Romance Novels

The Life List by Lori Nelson SpielmanWith Mother’s Day this weekend, our thoughts naturally turn to the women in our lives who taught and or are still teaching us so many things as they love, nurture and support us. With their encouragement and assistance, we survived skinned knees and childhood squabbles, teenage snubs, and angst, and later our first heartbreak or career disappointment. They celebrated and rejoiced in our accomplishments no matter how small—our own cheerleaders, as we edged toward adulthood. For many of you, these women are still your best friends—the ones you turn to share your laughter and your tears. I can easily say that losing my mother was one of the most difficult things that I faced as an adult.

Many people who don’t read romance books think that the books are filled with sex scenes and mushy clichés between two individuals as they fall in love. What they don’t realize is that romance books celebrate an array of relationships, of love of all forms,such as that found in friendship and family bonds. And many of those family ties revolve around the mother in the family. Often times a certain passage will remind me of the wonderful innate bond between mother and child.

The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman doesn’t just have one or two passages that celebrate the mother-daughter bond—the whole book celebrates it. Elizabeth Bohlinger wrote a series of letters to her daughter before her death. After she dies, Brett is denied her rightful inheritance until she completes a series of quests. Elizabeth is not trying to micromanage her daughter’s life from the grave, but is instead helping her to find her true aspirations again. As the attorney reads the first letter to Brett, you can see that Elizabeth, even in death, is thinking of her daughter:

“I wish I were there to help you get through this time of sorrow. I’d grab you into my arms and squeeze you until your breath catches, just like it did when you were a little girl. Or maybe I’d take you to lunch… We’d find a cozy table at the Drake and I’d spend all afternoon listening to your fears and sorrows, rubbing your arms to let you know I feel your pain.”

Few things in life beat the comfort of a mother’s arms, even once we reach adulthood.

Strong women raise strong, stubborn, opinionated daughters, so the relationship between mother and daughters is not always a smooth one. Maybe because the protective instincts kick in so strongly. Like Elizabeth Bohlinger, Charlotte Hale from One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards attempted for the best reasons to control her daughter, Taylor’s life, only to discover that it backfired on her:

Dear Taylor,

The first time I saw your face, I realized how much my life had changed. I was overcome by love, afraid to breathe because of the perfection of the moment. Sadly, in the next I was paralyzed by fear. I wanted to lay the world at your feet, yet I had no idea how to begin. I vowed then that I would give you everything you deserved and more. You would lack for nothing, and for the rest of our years together, I set about making that happen. What I never realized, until it was too late, was that you had been born with everything you needed to find your own way. All I had to do was love you enough to let you . . .

It took years for Taylor to quit blaming her mother, but when she did, Charlotte forgave her with a mother’s grace:

Taylor collapsed on the bed beside her mother, put her arms around Charlotte’s neck, and began to cry. “I’m so sorry, Mom. So terribly, terribly sorry.” . . .

Charlotte took her daughter’s hand and kissed it. “Let’s be done with regrets. We learned…bitter lessons, but we found each other again. Some people…never do. I am so grateful for you.”

Already Home by Susan MalleryIn Already Home by Susan Mallery, Jenna Stevens was very lucky with being adopted by a wonderful family, Beth and Marshall Stevens. Her parents are her lodestone. When her biological new age hippie parents show up, Jenna immediately runs to “true mother”:

Without thinking, Jenna moved toward her. “Mo-om,” she said, her voice cracking.

Her mother took her in her arms and held her tight.

Everything was familiar, she thought gratefully. The feel, the scent, the secure embrace that never let go too soon.

Beth guided them to the wooden bench across from the desk. . .

“Tell me what’s wrong. Are you hurt?”

“No. I’m fine. She couldn’t figure out where to start. We’re talking no warning. One second they were just there, saying … She touched her chest. “I can’t breathe.”

“You can.” Her mother kept an arm around her and studied her. “Tell me what happened, Jenna. This is starting to scare me.”

My birth parents are here.”

Beth’s mouth dropped open. “What?”

“Tom and Serenity Johnson. They waltzed into my store this morning. . . They acted as if they knew me. . . They’re hippies and weird and vegetarians. Serenity said she’d been waiting for a sign from the universe to come find me and it arrived.”

“Via FedEx?” Beth asked.

Jenna glared at here. “This isn’t funny.”

Well, it sort of is, because mothers know how to cut through the drama and get to the heart of the problem. Over the course of the book, Jenna discovers that although her parents gave her up, she was always in their thoughts and hearts, especially her birth mother’s, and she learns that there is room in heart to love both.

Of all the books that Sarah Addison Allen has written, The Girl Who Chased the Moon is easily my favorite. One reason is the secondary storyline about Julia Winterson. When Julia was fifteen she became pregnant. Abandoned by the baby’s father and her own father, Julia had no choice but to give up her child for adoption. Still, she has never forgotten her:

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

By this time, with the help of continued therapy sessions, Julia was able to think of Sawyer without the world turning a furious ember red around her, and she remembered what he’d told her about following the scent of his mother’s cakes home. It became a symbol to her. Maybe one day in the future, baking cakes would bring her daughter –who had a sweet sense like her father—back to Julia. Then she would explain why she gave her up. At the very least, it would carry Julia’s love to her. . .

Nearly twenty years later, Julia was still calling out to her. Knowing she was out there in the world somewhere was what got Julia through every single day.

Julia rested her head against the doorjamb for a moment, then she walked into the hallway. She paused at the door to the stairs, then walked past it and into the kitchen.

A “hummingbird cake”, she decided as she turned on the kitchen light. It was made with bananas and pineapples and pecans and had a cream cheese frosting.

She would make it light enough to float away.

She reached over to open the window.

To float to her daughter.

It is not that women don’t have a life without their offspring, because they do. But always in the back of their mind, mothers are thinking of their children – even if that child has secured independence and financial security.

Nora Roberts writes about wonderful mothers, although she does have a preference for writing about the mother and son bond. I easily fell for Rosalind Harper from Black Rose: In the Garden Trilogy. Rosalind’s boys have just given her gift that touches her heart:

She was struggling not to cry now as she embraced each of her sons. It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever been given, and I will treasure it more than anything I have. Every time I look at it, I’ll think of the way you were then, the way you are now. I’m so proud of my boys. I always have been.

This sentiment will be repeated over and over on Mother’s Day, as we attempt to honor the most important women in our life with gifts and acts of kindness. The mother and child bond is a strong, resilient one, and a mother’s pride and love for her children has no boundaries.

What books have you read that mimic the relationship between you and your mother? Even if the relationship is not similar, what maternal characters have made an impression on you?

 


 


Leigh Davis, blogger

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3 comments
Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
The Girl Who Chased the Moon is my favorite Addison as well. The story of Julia trying to reach her daughter through cake is so lovely. And the ending! So utterly marvelous. Love it.

Lots of good books in this column. Great look at moms in romance.
Brianna
3. carmenlire
I especially love Violet Brodherton from JQ. She is so warm and supportive with all her children, a bit of a feat considering there were so many. Plus she had her own life, she wasn't just living vicariously through her children.
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