First, apologies for the gratuitous Sound of Music reference in the title, but as you will see, it is relevant to the subject of today’s post, so I hope I’ll be forgiven.
All of us read romance for one main reason-the love story between the hero and heroine, and their journey to their happy ever after. But along the way, there are other characters who play important supporting roles. Oftentimes there’s the best friend who provides support and encouragement, the crazy evil ex who does his or her damnest to ruin things for our intrepid couple, and the loud raucous loving family and exteded family members, a la My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Today, I want to talk about another common secondary character-the precocious loveable child. I often enjoy romances that include children as secondary characters, and today I’m going to share some of my favorites.
SETH QUINN (CHESAPEAKE BAY SERIES) and SIMON McCourt (KEY TRILOGY) by NORA ROBERTS
One of the reasons Nora is one of my favorite authors is because of how well she writes and depicts children. The Chesapeake Bay series centers around Cameron, Ethan, Phillip, and Seth Quinn and kicks off in Sea Swept with the death of Cam, Ethan and Phillip’s adopted father Ray Quinn. But as they gather around Ray’s bedside, they discover ten year old Seth, who was the latest of the “lost boys” Ray had taken in and rescued along with his now deceased wife Stella. The three men honor Ray’s wish to care for and raise Seth first out of duty and obligation to Ray, but eventually for Seth’s own sake. The journey of how the four of them, and the extraordinary women whom they fall in love with, come together as a family and stand behind Seth is lovely, moving, and part of the reason the series continues to be a top favorite for me to this day.
And I’m not the only one. The original series ended with Inner Harbor, Phillip and Sybil’s story. But the fans had fallen in love with Seth and were clamoring for Seth’s story and his HEA. So Nora broke her rule that once a series ended it was over, and wrote Chesapeake Blue. We fans were lucky enough to visit with Cam, Anna, Ethan, Grace, Phillip, Sybil again, and discover more about Seth and the woman, Drusilla Whitcomb Banks, lucky enough to capture his heart.
When we first meet Zoe McCourt and Bradley Charles Vane IV at the beginning of the Key Trilogy, they did not get off on the right foot. Brad was immediately smitten, but Zoe definitely was not as enamored. Something about Bradley just put her back up, despite a sizzling kiss, and sparks flying everytime they saw each other. But the relationship between Brad and her son Simon was another story. The two of them got along like gangbusters right off the bat, after bonding over video games. In fact it gets to the point where Zoe sometimes feels a little jealous and excluded, lol. They way Nora used the bond between Brad and Simon, and Simon’s obvious affection for Brad, as a vehicle to soften Zoe and chip away at the walls and preconceptions she had in regards to Brad was extremely well done. If you ask me, a man who will help with bathtime and put your child to bed while listening to him read Captain Underpants is a keeper! Nora perfectly captures what I loved best about Simon and Brad with the this passage from Zoe and Brad’s book, Key of Valor.
“Then there was the kid. Simon had been the big bonus prize in this particular box of Cracker Jacks. Fun, bright, interesting, the boy was a complete pleasure. Even if he hadn’t been attracted to the mother, Brad would have spent time with the son.”
Says it all, right?! Not to mention the scene when Simon confronts Brad about his relationship and intentions towards Zoe and talks about “the sex” was hilarious and touching, and completely melted my heart.
A DUKE OF HER OWN by ELOISA JAMES
Eloisa James also writes great children characters, especially in her Desperate Duchesses series. The Duke of Villiers has six illegitimate children, and in order to help them gain ton acceptance, he must marry the daughter of a duke. The two candidates are Lisette, daughter of the Duke of Gilnor and Eleanor, daughter of the Duke of Montague. I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t read A Duke of Her Own and reveal who Villiers ends up with. You’ll just have to read the book and find out yourself!
But I will confess that I was rooting for one character, but ended up rooting for the other, who did end up being Villiers’ heroine. Why? Because of the children. The way Villiers’ heroine interacted and dealt with the children spoke volumes about her and her character. From the beginning, she showed genuine interest in them and their welfare. She was willing to do the hard work, while the other seemed interested in the easy and fun aspects of the job. Eloisa does an excellent job of using Villiers children and this particular heroine to make a statement about parenting and parental love. Parenting is not just about the easy fun pretty romantic moments like when you play with them and put them to bed while rocking them to sleep. It’s about being there day in and day out, discipling, teaching, providing, caring, being there for the not-so-pretty moments, and putting in the work 24/7/365. Villiers’ heroine rolls up her sleeves and gets down to the nitty-gritty with Villiers’ children, which her “competition” does not do. That’s what being a parent is, according to Eloisa. It’s damn hard work, but incredibly rewarding and joyful work too. I find this to be a very powerful and profound statement and message.
CARRINGTON JONES-SUGAR DADDY by LISA KLEYPASOne reason I love secondary characters who are children is because the way the hero or heroine interacts with the child can speak volumes about their character. In Lisa Kleypas’s Sugar Daddy, Liberty Jones has been raising her young sister Carrington ever since their mother died. The hero, Gage, comes off completely harsh and unlikeable at first because of the way he behaves towards Liberty. But we gradually see the hero underneath and his true character come through. One of the ways Lisa did that was through his interactions with Carrington. The scene where Gage steps in and helps Carrington with her science project was endearing, let us see the real Gage and to start rooting for him. He never dismissed Carrington, or treated her as pesky add-on baggage he would have to deal with if he wanted Liberty. He genuinely comes to love and care for Carrington. Carrington, for her part, adores Gage, and just like the situation with Zoe and Brad, his actions towards Carrington allowed Liberty to see Gage in a new light and soften towards him. To me, a true test of someone’s character is how they treat a child, or someone percieved subordinate or more vulnerable to them. For my money, Gage passed with flying colors.
LADY CHARLOTTE BRANDON (WRITING GIRLS SERIES) by MAYA RODALE
While children characters can be great for what they add to the hero and heroine and their journey, there are some that leap off the page and take on a life of their own. One such character is Lady Charlotte Brandon from Maya Rodale’s Writing Girls series. Lady Charlotte is the youngest sister of the Duke of Hamilton and Brandon, the hero of A Groom of One’s Own. From the beginning, Charlotte intrigued and delighted me, and she is someone I’d love to have as a friend in real life. The first words I said to Maya after I finished Groom was “I LOVE Charlotte!” Not anything about Brandon and Sophie, the actal hero and heroine of the book. I think that speaks volumes, lol. Charlotte is a well intentioned troublemaker with a heart of gold who concocts schemes, doesn’t suffer fools, can faint at will, and creates imaginary friends. She was a total scene-stealer and I fell in love with her immediately. The dinner scene in Groom where she runs circles around and makes a fool of a snooty name-dropping society matron perfectly encapsulates who Charlotte is and why I and so many other readers, love her so. I was thrilled when Maya gave Charlotte her own happy ending in Three Schemes and a Scandal, and created a hero who would be an equal match to the force of nature that is Lady Charlotte Brandon.
Tell me dear Teatime guests-Do you like children as secondary characters in romances? Why or why not? Who are your favorite and most memorable children’s characters?