Sep 5 2012 4:00pm

Package Deals: The Appeal of Ready-Made Families in Romance

Saving Grace by Julie GarwoodRomances always feature people falling in love; sometimes the romantic love also has a familial component, with the main characters introducing their families to each other. Lately I've been reading more and more ready-made family stories.

Harlequin and Silhouette each have lines that are completely devoted to his theme. First-time dads, secret babies, the single poverty stricken mom, the virgin nanny—but what is the appeal? Some like the insertion of children in romance; it seems to soften the characters when they are trying to find their HEA while taking care of children. Plus, it opens a whole new area of conflict and angst. It’s hard enough to overcome obstacles between a couple, but when the obstacles also include children...the story takes off. Children often offer redemption quicker for not so likeable characters and inject humor into what could become a boring, been-there-done-that plotline.

Below are some of my favorite “ready made” family romances.

Ransom by Julie GarwoodJulie Garwood’s historical Highland Laird series and Lairds’ Fiancee series (they intertwine) have a child in each of the books, often the child or the sibling of the hero. In Saving Grace, Lady Joanna agrees to marry Laird Gabriel to keep the king from taking all her money and land after her abusive husband dies. Joanna instantly connects with Gabriel's son, an especially poignant connection since she's been told for years she is barren.

In Ransom, our heroine, Grace, risks her life repeatedly to save a young boy who we later find out is the brother of a power laird. My favorite though, is The Bride. When Laird Alec Kincade is given the edict to marry an English woman, he is not prepared for Jamie Jamison. Jamie turns his life upside down,  especially when she finds out he has a young daughter. Jamie ends up saving the lives of many highlander’s children in the books and her inventive ways and terrible temper makes it a joy to read.

More historical romance authors who include children and/or read- made families in the storyline are Elizabeth Hoyt, Gillian Anderson, Lisa Kleypas, and Amanda Quick.

Faith and Fidelity by Tere MichaelsTere Michaels's Faith, Love, and Devotion series deals with children and m/m couples. Michaels does a fabulous job of incorporating both storylines, giving each equal time and attention. In Faith and Fidelity, we meet Evan, the father of four children whose mom has just died. He meets and falls in love with man and we watch as Evan has to deal with the shock of being gay, explaining it to his kids, and the possible fallout from society. Their story continues on in the third book in the series, Duty and Devotion. More emotional than the first one, Michaels spends more time examining each emotional connection between all the characters as Evan and his partner still struggle to find their places in the world.

More m/m authors who include children and/or ready-made families in the storyline are Z.A. Maxfield, Mary Calmes, K.A. Mitchell, and J.L. Langley.

Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth PhillipsWould a romantic contemporary be a true romantic contemporary without children? I have no clue, but I tend to like the ones who do include them. Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes about crazy heroines, bad boy heroes, and the children they create. In Nobody’s Baby But Mine, we get a nerdy heroine, a football playing hero, and a super secret baby making plan that backfires into one hilarious mess. In her Wynette, Texas series, the entire series revolves around the parents of three children who eventually grow up and find their own HEAs. Laugh out loud, out of control, crazy parents and kids makes for an entertaining read. All the books intertwine and bleed over into one another. Glitter Baby is a good place to start.

More romantic contemporary authors who include children and/or ready-made families in the storyline are Rachel Gibson, Jennifer Crusie, Robyn Carr, and Kristan Higgins.

Raising Kane by Lorelei JamesEven erotic romances are bringing children into the mix, adding a unique storyline to an already stimulating set up. Lorelei James writes some steamy hot cowboy erotic romance with her Rough Riders series. The McKay family is the basis of this series and there is nothing more sexy than a rough and tough cowboy who not only loves his woman...but loves his kids just as much. In Raising Kane, Kane McKay is a mentor to Ginger Paulson’s young son and considers his mom as “hands off” territory. When she has a nasty accident, Kane decides to rescind that policy and show a gun shy mama that this cowboy is here to stay. In Tied Up, Tied Down, we get the secret baby plot. Skylar Ellison got more than she planned on with her one night tumble with sexy cowboy Kade McKay. One year later, Kade isn't happy Skylar didn't tell him he was a proud papa, but now he has to prove to Skylar that his days of roaming are done and he’s ready to settle down be the man she needs him to be. Cowgirls Don’t Cry has to be my favorite—Jessie Mckay’s heart was hurt when she divorced Luke McKay. It broke completely when she finds out he had an affair that resulted in a child. When the baby’s mama leaves the baby with Luke’s brother, Brand, Jessie finds herself once again sucked back into the family that she all but ran from. Brand’s always loved Jessie and he’s hoping that by getting her to help him with the baby, he can finally get her in his bed, and win her heart for good.

More erotic romance authors who include children and/or ready-made families in the storyline are Lauren Dane and Megan Hart.

Do you like mixing families with your romance? Which are your favorite ready-made family romances?


Tori Benson, Smexybooks and at Twitter.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Great choices! I've read a few of the titles/authors you've mentioned, and I particularly enjoy SEP and Rachel Gibson. Didn't know Kristan Higgins had taken on the trope--will have to check that out!
2. Torifl
redline_UNTIL THERE WAS YOU has 2 kids in it. An enjoyable story.
3. SassyT
I really don't have a preference. Usually kids have a way of speeding things along between the heroe and heroine. And children always pop up unexpectedly and say the most funny things. It can make a story that was too serious all of a sudden more tolerable because of the injection of a kid saying what everyone is thinking but no one says out loud. Rachel Gibson, SEP, and Jennifer Crusie do an awesome job with this in the contemperary books and Julie Garwood did a great job in the books you named (I think I still have copies of those books at
4. wsl0612
The right author can make any situation romantic and I am not opposed to the ready made family. In fact my niece has one daughter, her fiancee has a young son, and they're having a baby together next year (anticipating the wedding, LOL). I think her fiancee is great, and he's already become "daddy" to her little girl, it's very sweet. The only thing I don't care for in romance is the overly precocious child, it's a very difficult character to write.
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