Jun 17 2012 11:00am

Happy Father’s Day: Dads in Romance Novels

Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Bennet (BBC version)Happy Father’s Day! We thought to honor the day we’d take a look at some fathers in romance.

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character—Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Fathers in romance novels, like fathers in real life, range from wonderful to dreadful. Often, the presence or absence of a father forces certain events in the book to unfold—say, for example, if the autocratic aristocratic father decrees his daughter marry a particular man, or if the dissolute aristocratic father loses everything, forcing the heroine into some action to save her family.

Of course, these kinds of dads are obviously much more prevalent in historical novels, although the occasional control freak billionaire dad might sometimes threaten to disown the h/h, or the alcoholic/abusive/unfaithful father causes the adult child to behave in certain ways. In contemporary romance, it’s far more common to find dads who aren’t totally dreadful, but are flawed.

Devil’s Club by Georgette HeyerIn paranormals, the fathers are most likely to be awful, lethal beings who damage the h/h, such as the Bloodletter in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, or the Devil—like, the actual devil, not the nickname as in Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub—who’s the father in Eve Silver’s Otherkin series, or the stepfather in Vivi Andrews’ No Angel.

Here’s the dissolute aristocrat who’s pissed everything away, thus forcing his daughter to get a job as the titular Lady’s Companion in Carla Kelly’s traditional Regency romance:

She knew that Papa’s friends all crossed the street when they saw him coming, hoping to avoid being touched for a loan. Sir Rodney dressed with a flourish every afternoon and left the house with some importance, but where he went, he never said, and she had not the courage to ask.

But it was still morning, and here he was now, smiling at her from the doorway of the little salon. He surprised her by pulling a long, comical face. “Susan, why so glum? It’s your birthday!”

“My twenty-fifth,” she reminded him, amused that he actually noticed her sobriety. It was so unlike him to be aware of others, unless they sat across from him at a gaming table. Then they had his full attention, or so said one of her former suitors when she asked him what Papa did, night after night, in White’s.

Papa came to her and leaned across the back of the sofa, rubbing his cheek against hers. She breathed in the familiar smell of bay rum, content for a brief moment, and crossing her fingers that he would not spoil the moment with any of his extravagant promises. She hoped in vain.

Zsadist, possibly the scariest member of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series is equally terrifying when he’s protecting Nalla, his newborn daughter. But as you see in the sample from Father Mine, he’s scary in a totally “aww!” kind of way:

“[Bella] did mention you won’t feed from her.”

Z shrugged. “Nalla needs what her body can provide more than I do.”

“It’s not an either-or situation, though. Bella’s young and healthy and she has great eating habits. And you’ve let her feed.”

“Of course. Anything for her. Her and her baby.”

There was a long silence. Then, “Maybe you want to talk to Mary?”

“About what.” He shut the water off and shook his palm out over the sink. “Just because I’m respectful of the demands on my shellan, you think I need a shrink? What the hell?”

He snapped a paper towel free from the roll mounted under the cabinets and dried his hand.

“Who’s the salad for, Z?” the doctor asked.


“The salad. Who’s it for?”

He pulled out the trash bin and pitched the towel inside. “Bella. It’s for Bella. Look, no offense, but—”

“And when’s the last time you ate?”

Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer CrusieSometimes the hero IS the father, as in Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation, and Phin Tucker, who’s the mayor of Temptation:

Dillie shifted in her chair. “It could be just us. We could be…” She stared into space, searching for the right word, narrowing her gray eyes and pursing the cupid’s-bow mouth she’d inherited from her mother, and Phin felt the instinctive parental ache that still took him by surprise after nine years: How was I lucky enough to get this child, and how can I ever keep her safe enough? He hadn’t wanted to get married, he hadn’t wanted a baby, and he sure as hell hadn’t wanted to be a single father. And now he couldn’t imagine life without her.

Which are your favorite fictional fathers?

Thanks to our Facebook friends and H&H blogger Chelsea Mueller for help with the post!


Megan Frampton is the Community Manager, Romance, for the HeroesandHeartbreakers site. Her dad was more feckless than fearless, and she loves him very much. You can find her at Twitter @meganf, or on her website,

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Carmen Pinzon
1. bungluna
Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden makes a fierce dad, willing to unmake the world to protect his daughter.
Alexandra W
2. parasolprotectorate
I really love Leopold Dautry in Eloisa James' A Duke of Her Own.
3. pamelia
You mentioned "Devil's Cub" above without naming the Duke of Avon (Justin) specifically. He ranks right up there for me especially since his book "These Old Shades" is my favorite Heyer and I love revisiting him in his son's story.
Another favorite of mine is not actually a father although he assumes the role for all his siblings is Wulfric Bedwyn from Mary Balogh's "Slightly" series.
Post a comment