In honor of Father’s Day this coming weekend, I thought I’d talk about some of my favorite fathers in romance novels. Most of the fathers I’m going to mention are not the heroes of the books, but the fathers of the heroes and heroines. They had to have been romantic at some point to have begotten the starring characters, right?
In a good number of romance novels (more than fifty percent?) the author has killed off the hero or heroine’s father in that period of time called “backstory”. This is done for a variety of reasons: the Regency hero needs to come onstage fully vested in his peerage, or the loss of the father has given the hero or heroine a character-enhancing Big Wound, or the heroine needs to be fancy-free without any paternal restraints, or, saddest of all, the story’s projected word count requires trimming extra characters.
Snip, snip, and bye-bye Dad.
Fortunately, many stories do have interesting fathers. We’ll start with a father from a contemporary romance–contemporary two hundred years ago–Mr. Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
Mr. Bennet is a flawed and somewhat careless father. Parents of silly adolescent girls can certainly understand the urge to retreat into the pages of a good book, and this poor man had five daughters, all of them likely silly at one point or another. Still, it is clear he very much loved at least one of his girls, our heroine of course.
Next I move to a contemporary author writing historical books, Loretta Chase. In some of her stories, she discards Dad. When she keeps him around, he is a fully formed character, interesting and endearing in his own right. One dad who shows up in several of her books is the Earl of Hargate, the paterfamilias of the Carsingtons. He manages to get each of his four unmarried sons suitably hitched.
Another of her fathers who I adore is Lord Lexham of Don’t Tempt Me. Lord Lexham is the heroine’s father, and the hero’s former guardian. Though he was loving and attentive, nefarious forces conspired and at the age of twelve the heroine was kidnapped and sold into a harem. The story begins when she is liberated and returned to England. Her father is the first to recognize her and welcome her with open arms.
Turning to an author closer to home, in her debut historical novel, Tainted Angel, author Anne Cleeland introduces Vidia Swanson, a British spy. Vidia’s father shows up to play a large part in the story, but–no spoilers–you must find out how and when and why for yourself.
In Natural Born Charmer, contemporary author Susan Elizabeth Phillips reunites the hero with his rock star father, and by the end of this book, many wounds are well on their way to healing.
Fathers count. By their presence or absence, fathers have an impact on characters, just like in real life.
And what’s more romantic than seeing a bad-boy character morph into a hero with love enough for the heroine’s kid? Sometimes it’s a classic romance, sometimes there’s a marriage of convenience, and sometimes, the heroine’s kid is the hero’s secret baby.
Here are two romantic hero fathers from contemporary romances:
In Diva in the Dugout, author Arlene Hittle brings us a secret baby story with a hunky baseball player hero who learns he has a four-year-old daughter and knows he can’t walk away.
And in Marry Me Marine, author Rogenna Brewer tells what, for now, is my favorite marriage of convenience story. Oh yes, this one is different. As a single mother, the heroine can’t join the Marine Corps unless she finds a husband. She persuades the hero, her recruiter’s wounded ex-Seal buddy, to marry her. Strictly a piece of paper. However, a year later, when her grandma dies, she drops her son with the hero and the piece of paper stretches to include fatherhood.
I know, I know, there are a lot of ways this story could go wrong, but it doesn’t. And just to show you, here’s the last line of the book, spoken by the son. The hero has tracked down the boy’s birth father and has arranged a meeting–before the birth father relinquishes all his parental rights to the hero. They’re about to go in and meet the birth father:
“No matter what happens today,” Ryder said, “I found my dad a long time ago. When my mom found you.”
What about you? Who’s your favorite fictional father? I’d love to hear your thoughts!