With the holiday season upon us, whatever holidays one might celebrate, it’s a time for families to gather. Families happen to be one thing romancelandia is not going to run out of anytime soon (along with virgins, dukes and billionaires. Dibs on The Virgin Duke’s Billionaire Family as a series title.) From earliest history to farthest future, families are the backbone of romance fiction, and that’s not only talking about family-centered series (though that is one part of it.) Every romance novel is the story of a family, as two lovers meld their separate lives into one. Around the holiday season, when we may be caught up in the bustle of traveling to see our own families, or the chaos of preparing to host them in our own homes, our favorite romance novel families are bound to be at least as entertaining, and far less stressful…at least that’s the plan.
Though romance novel heroes and heroines travel in packs more often than not these days, that wasn’t always the case, and not every family member who wasn’t dead or already married by the end of a particular book did not always have their own story waiting in the wings. That doesn’t mean that the hero or heroine’s parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, or even children, didn’t have important roles to play. Where would the Regency romance genre be without matchmaking mamas and profligate papas who refused to step away from the card tables before all they have left to bet is their own daughter? Factor in adorable moppets, be they the lovers’ siblings, children, or wards/charges, and family really does become a supporting wall in the structure of the story, even in a standalone.
Normally, we think of a nuclear family, but let’s not forget the many variations on a theme. Stepsibling romances are their own niche, when Mom or Dad’s new spouse brings along a step brother or sister who’s all grown up and adds a certain something extra to blended family gatherings. Imagine sitting around one of those holiday tables; not going to be boring there, that’s for sure.
Babies, whether biological or adopted, have been staples of the romance genre since before there was a romance genre. Where would category romance be without secret babies, be their fathers billionaires, cowboys, or billionaire cowboys (or any other profession, for that matter?) There’s even been a book or two that manages to pull of the impossible, and make it the mother who’s surprised by the child’s existence. Sound inconceivable? (Pun intended) Ah, but that’s where masterful storytelling can make it all perfectly believable. Actually, children of all ages run rampant in romance, whether or not they belong to our lovers. Kids have no filters, boundless energy, and remind us of a more innocent age, as well as symbolize the future. It’s been said that no child should be born with a job, but, in romance fiction, we can make an exception. Bonus points for flashback versions of our hero or heroine in kid form, especially if the lovers have known each other all their lives.
Siblings are a fact of life for many readers, and for many romance characters as well. It wouldn’t be possible to count all the series based around groups of brothers, sisters, or blended bands of both, but the different paths children of the same parents can walk, on their way to their own happily ever afters, provides a never ending source of stories to be told. Siblings have their own opinions on our lovers’ potential mates, and they know all the dirt on their brother (or sister) from the same mother (or father, or both) which can provide valuable insight for the potential new family member, and if that new family member has a sibling, cousin or friend, who catches the fancy of said sibling, well, we’re going to want that next book, aren’t we?
Don’t count the previous generations out, either. It’s been said we are all the result of a thousand loves, and the love stories, be they present day or older lore, of the parents or grandparents of our hero or heroine can color the way they look at, or for, love themselves. When there’s snow on the roof, there’s still fire in the furnace, and romance fiction is proof that it’s never too late to find the love of a lifetime. Maybe that’s for the first time, because true love is worth the wait. Maybe it’s a second chance at love, after previous heartbreak. Maybe once upon a time lovers get another shot at forever, now that they’re finally big enough to stand up for what they want. Mature lovers have a lifetime of experience to bring to the table, more than enough to show those kids how it’s done.
No matter where one falls in a romance fiction family, there’s a story to be told, and love to be found, if only we’re brave enough to put our hearts on the line. That’s a gift we can all appreciate, no matter what time of year, but the festive holiday atmosphere adds that special something extra.
So, dear readers, now I turn it over to you. What do you like best about families in romance novels? Do you like them to play an active role in the current book’s romance, or not take up too much of the main couple’s space? Do you have a favorite sort of relative to read about, perhaps still-madly-in-love parents of one of the lovers, tumultuous teenagers, adorable infants, or sexy siblings? What are your favorite families to read about in romance? Do you like family-themed holiday stories? Or, do you want to be that one relative who needs a little alone time and wouldn’t mind a break for a standalone once in a while? Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.