Theme: Secret Babies

Many of you will notice that a lot of the books recommended in this month's reading list are older titles. That doesn't mean that this once super popular theme doesn't still charm its devoted readership. Many authors still write stories in which the birth (or discovery) of a child is the pivotal development in the plot. Romances that enter the "playground" often offer a new dimension, a depth to the romance that powerfully affects the reader. Romance's first secret baby books explored this phenomenon but also had something extra special to offer readers. Hence the enormous popularity!

Even the best kept secrets are eventually revealed, and the secret best loved by romance readers is that of the "secret" baby. Is it possible for a romance heroine to actually keep a pregnancy or a child secret from the man who made sparks fly long enough to produce the child? Or even better, is it possible to keep a baby secret from its mother? You'd be surprised how creative (and devious) romance's heroes and heroines have been in their quest to protect the child they have decided to care for out of love. Whatever the secret, these heart-felt stories always offer a couple the opportunity to be reunited through mutual love and their shared love for a child.

What's The Appeal?

In the seventies and early eighties if a romance reader wanted to find sex in her books, she had to read Historicals. Category romance always offered a happy ending and a lot of sexual tension but very little sex–and certainly none up front in a book. Secret Baby books were the very first category romances that really pushed the envelope and challenged the "guidelines" of acceptable sexuality in romance. Obviously, to create a baby some sexual activity must occur (barring a few test-tube babies). The result: a very popular storyline with an established and healthy readership.

And to further rid the taboo of "premature sex" in a romance, don't forget that once the child is conceived or born there is no longer a moral issue for the parent (or the reader), because that same wonderful child is now the ultimate payment due for any immoral act. The heroine or hero is free of the guilt of sexual desire–by paying a lifetime of penance, loving the child produced by that "sin."

But sex isn't the only reason romance readers adore the secret baby book–and why they're still so popular even in this more liberated era of romantic fiction. The storyline taps into deep emotions–for the heroine, hero and the reader.

Once a child is involved in a relationship, a new kind of love emerges, one that isn't necessarily deeper but certainly transcends the simple relationship between the man and woman.

The shock for the parent unaware that he has fathered a child is enormous and often is the impetus that enables a reconciliation between a couple once believed to be impossible.

The hero and heroine often have to face challenges and grow emotionally once they've taken on the responsibility of parenthood that allows them to be more mature and loving in their adult love relationship.

Recommended Reads

(Note: The list below was compiled at press time: Romantic Times Issue #151, October 1996)

Historicals

  • DECEIVED Mary Balogh (Onyx)
    Regency
  • DECEIVE NOT MY HEART Shirlee Busbee (Avon)
    Colonial America
  • ABBIE'S CHILD Linda Castle (Harl Hist)
    Western
  • BRIDE OF THE WIND Shannon Drake (Avon)
    Pirate
  • LOVE & WAR (North & South Book 2) John Jakes (Jove)
    Civil War
  • DARK FIRES Brenda Joyce (Avon)
    Victorian
  • CAPTIVE BRIDE Johanna Lindsey (Avon)
    Pirate
  • TENDER IS THE STORM Johanna Lindsey (Avon)
    Western Expansion
  • DEARLY BELOVED Mary Jo Putney (Onyx)
    Regency
  • WICKED LOVING LIES Rosemary Rogers (Avon)
    India
  • TWICE LOVED LaVyrle Spencer (Jove)
    Americana
  • SEPARATE BEDS LaVyrle Spencer (Jove)
    Americana
  • MY ONLY LOVE Katherine Sutcliffe (Jove)
    Victorian
  • THE WARFIELD BRIDE Bronwyn Williams (Topaz)
    Victorian America

Contemporaries

  • PRIVATE LIVES Judith Arnold (Harl. American 524)
  • A DAY IN APRIL Mary Lynn Baxter (Silh.)
  • MY BABY YOUR CHILD Nikki Benjamin (SSE 880)
  • RENEGADE LOVER Barbara Bretton (Harl. American 441)
  • LOVE TEXAS STYLE (from Sons of Texas series) Annette Broadrick (SD 734)
  • FLAME LILY Candace Camp (Harper)
  • FROM THE TORRID PAST Ann Cristy aka Helen Mittermeyer (2nd Chance 49)
  • BRIDE AT WHANGATAPU Robyn Donald (Harl. Presents 232)
  • INTO THE LIGHT Judith Duncan (Harl. Super. 196)
  • BETTER THAN BEFORE Judith Duncan (SIM 421)
  • WHISPERS OF LOVE Shirlee Hailstock (Pinnacle)
  • THE TROUBLE WITH J.J. Tami Hoag (Loveswept 253)
  • ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE B.J. James (SD 823)
  • THE SOUND OF THE GOODBYE B.J. James (SD 332)
  • DREAMS OF EVENING Kristin James aka Candace Camp (SIM #1)
  • THE SILKEN WEB Laura Jordan aka Sandra Brown (Silh./Warner)
  • THE FAMILY WAY Jayne Ann Krentz (Harl. Temp. 146)
  • TRUE COLORS Susan Kyle aka Diana Palmer (Warner)
  • POINT OF NO RETURN Rachel Lee (SIM 566)
  • WOLF'S EMBRACE Gail Link (Leisure)
  • THE NIGHT OF THE BULLSAnne Mather (Harl Presents 54)
  • THAT'S MY BABY Judith McWilliams (SD 597)
  • MASQUERADE OF LOVE Alice Morgan (DCE 48)
  • FINALLY A FATHER Marilyn Pappano (SIM 542)
  • SOMEBODY'S BABY Marilyn Pappano (SIM 310)
  • FANCY PANTS Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Pocket)
  • A CRIME OF THE HEART Cheryl Reavis (SSE 487)
  • BY LOVE BETRAYED Anne Reisser (DCE 81)
  • DILLON'S PROMISE Cinda Richards (2nd Chance 330)
  • HER SECRET, HIS CHILD Paula Detmer Riggs (SSE 881)
  • MICHAEL'S FATHER Dallas Schulze (SIM 880)
  • WORDS OF SILK Erin St. Claire aka Sandra Brown (SD 139)
  • HONOR BOUND Erin St. Claire aka Sandra Brown (Silh./Warner)
  • RUN TO THE MOON Sandy Steen (SIM 459)
  • BABY ON THE DOORSTEP Cathy Gillen Thacker (Harl. American 521)
  • WALK IN BEAUTY Ruth Wind (SSE 881)

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