In the book I just finished writing, the heroine has two living parents who are loving and functional. Not that she doesn’t have her issues with them, but they haven’t (a) died and left her in poverty (b) sold her into sexual slavery, or (c) forced her into marriage with a pox-ridden octogenarian to save the family fortune.
It occurred to me how rare it is in romance for a character not to have parent issues of some kind. To have both hero and heroine in possession of two good, living parents is almost unheard of. Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is Loretta Chase’s Not Quite a Lady. (And one of them is a stepmother though not a wicked one). Julia Quinn’sBridgertons are a famous example of a really loving family – I want Violet to be my mom – but even with them, the father is dead and all the Bridgertons fall in love with people who have difficult family backgrounds.
The characters in my current release come from the more common unhappy families. The heroine of The Wild Marquis isn’t even sure who her parents were. The hero had a cruel father (dead) and a neglectful mother (alive). Although they come from very different backgrounds, their lack of family draws them together. In this excerpt Cain has told Juliana how his father tossed him out of the house when he was sixteen.
“My mother is no more anxious for my company than my sire was. I live a life of blissful self-indulgence and ease in the family’s London mansion and she keeps Markley Chase as her province.”
He didn’t ask for her compassion but he had it. She knew the pain and loneliness of being exiled from the only home she’d ever known.
“So you haven’t been home in how many years?”
“You are only twenty-four years old then, just a year more than me. I thought you older.” Not that Cain’s dissipations had marred his looks, but there was a world-weariness, a certain cynicism in his face when in repose that communicated a wealth of hard experience.
“Thank you for the compliment. My debauchery must be affecting my features. I shall have to speak to my valet about a skin tonic.”
She suspected something in his tale affected him far more deeply than he liked to reveal, that his habitual glibness disguised a sorrow she felt the urge to comfort.
Then his expression shuttered for a brief but perceptible instant and he regarded her with a careless grin, the blue eyes as mocking and dangerously suggestive as ever. He’d erected a barrier against trespassers..
Our heroes and heroines need obstacles that must be addressed in the course of the novel. Problematic parents are a great source of angst. No parents at all can be even better. When orphans face difficulties they lack the support we draw from our families. It’s easy for historical writers to kill people off (disease, childbirth, carriage accidents…) but even in contemporaries we see a high rate of parental mortality.
As a child I remember loving books about orphans. I have two parents and four siblings and I found the notion of being alone in the world exciting. Of course I didn’t really want my family to disappear, but it was an appealing fantasy. In the same way, I believe, many kids dream that they are really changeling children of royalty or fairies.
Can you think of examples of books where the heroine and hero have four nice parents between them? What so you think makes orphans appealing?
And if you are interested in finding out more about Juliana and Cain and how they handle their parental issues, The Wild Marquis appears in stores March 9.
To comment on I Wish I were an Orphan please click here.