Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Advice for fathers in romance novels

Over at Book Riot, this clever post from Jessica Plummer: Advice for fathers in romance novels.

I’ve read a fair number of historical romance novels in my day, and though the genre has a wider range than its detractors would have us believe, there’s one thing that remains by and large consistent throughout: 90% of the main characters’ fathers suck eggs. Whether distant and cold, wildly irresponsible, or flat-out abusive, romance novel dads are by and large the absolute pits.

I probably haven’t read nearly as many romance novels as Plummer, but YES! And it’s too bad.

I’ve read three novels by Carla Kelly, for example, all of which were good and one of which was truly outstanding (Softly Falling). Now that I think of it, I must buy some more of her books. But my point at the moment is, the father was pretty awful in all three of them. The father in Softly Falling got a redemptive character arc, which is one reason I liked that one the best. In the other two, the father was fairly awful.

Jessica Plummer’s post is great fun and you should definitely read it. I hate to pull out all the best bits, but I can’t resist sharing her first tidbit of advice for fathers:

Don’t raise your highly sensitive child on a dilapidated estate on a remote, howling moor, constantly reminding them of your family’s past glory while the house falls to pieces around your ears.

Advice to live by!

Now, where can we find some great fathers in romance novels?

I’m reading a Georgette Heyer novel right now. This particular book has no important fathers on stage, but I can think of others of hers where the father is very important and not a “complete and utter jag” as Plummer says. For example, the father in The Devil’s Cub, and again, the father in Cotillion. In the latter book, the father is not as important, but he is a presence in the novel and he’s obviously a good father. I liked him and wouldn’t have minded seeing more of him on stage.

Who else writes good fathers into their romance novels? Seriously, I’d like to know. I can think of quite a few good brothers and a handful of good mothers, but not many good fathers; no doubt a trend exacerbated because many romances, especially historical romances, start off with the father’s death causing all kinds of problems for the remaining family.

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4 Comments Advice for fathers in romance novels

  1. Mary

    Who manages to pull off a historical romance when the father is able and willing to support his daughter? The number of plots that would shatter into smithereens. . . .

  2. Maria

    You also tend to kill off all the fathers in your books:)
    Now that I think of it, if the good fathers are alive they tend to be on a different continent for much of the action.

  3. Craig N.

    As Mary says, a really good father for your heroine is a resource that will cause significant plot problems.

    Could your romantic hero have a good father? Also requires careful handling: running to Dad for help is neither heroic or romantic, but not doing so when any fool can see you ought to is, well, foolish. Now that I think of it, Freddy’s father in Cotillion actually avoids those twin problems rather well, Freddy’s father doesn’t take his romantic problems very seriously, which turns it into a (minor) subplot that Freddy’s unexpected competence also establishes him as deserving of respect in the eyes of his father.

  4. Rachel

    Maria, I know! What can I say? Killing parents off early reduces the crowd of important secondary characters. And sometimes the character arc of the younger protagonist requires the death of his father.

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