Then Comes the Baby… (Children in Romance!)

There is a certain logical order to romance and children, as outlined in the famous schoolyard rhyme: First comes love, then comes marriage, then (usually in a convenient epilogue) comes the baby in the baby carriage.

Nothing will squash the romance of a candlelight dinner faster than a fit or spaghetti in the hair, and finding a sitter is always an extra expense and complication!

The “Nope” Moment

Romance books wouldn’t be very interesting if the meet-cute went straight to the happy ending. In nearly every book, there is something that keeps our heroes from getting right together – their families hate each other, they’re from opposite sides of the tracks, there are professional hurdles, one of them is trying to kill the other… and sometimes, there are little kids gumming up the works.

Kids can be a wonderful plot complication. It’s hard enough to be a single parent and manage a career. Adding a dating life to that? Older kids can be left unattended, but they’ll have strong opinions about their parent getting romantically involved with someone, and younger kids absorb every available moment! The trials of juggling all of that can be perfect plot material.

Add to that the wrinkle of paranormal offspring and magical secrets, and you’ve got plenty of challenges. In Dragon’s Instinct, Ian is a writer and stay-at-home dad, and getting work done is hard enough with a squirrel-shifting toddler who can hide anywhere…but when she starts bursting into flame, the twos get even more terrible. Ask any new mother how easy it is to take an uninterrupted shower or eat a full meal – and now add supernatural complexity for extra fun. What’s more powerful? Fate or a four-year-old?

Children as “Plot Moppets”

Kids don’t have to only keep our heroes apart, though! If the many versions of The Parent Trap have taught us anything, it’s that kids will often take matters into their own hands if they have strong feelings about the romantic lives of their parents. They may not understand the gritty (or spicy!) details of romance, but they want their mom or dad to be happy, and they’ll try to manipulate circumstances to make that happen. (Often with hilarious results!)

Protective instincts

A book with kids doesn’t need a bad guy to provide plot (rugrats are perfectly capable of supplying ample drama!), but threatening children can add a level of danger and peril to a book that hits at a gut level.

A possessive ex who wants custody? Someone willing to ransom children for leverage? All of a sudden, you’ve escalated the danger far more than you could with simple threats of personal danger.

There’s also nothing quite as sexy as a gruff bachelor who is soft for a little kid. I guarantee you that a big burly guy having a high tea with a circle of plushies and a princess will melt any panties.

The Things Kids Say

Not only are kids awesome plot pieces, they are also filter-free and perfectly happy to say the things that everyone in the room might be thinking. Between their innocent honesty and adorable misunderstandings, they can provide a comic relief unequaled by any other story element.

Agents of Chaos

In real life, babies are hard. Anyone who says otherwise has only read about them in romance books where they are always sweetly-behaved and never have dirty diapers. But kids are dealing with big feelings and new things at every turn. They are often awful and messy and destructive and heart-breaking…at the very same time they are wonderful and beautiful and creative and awe-inspiring. It’s a balancing act to truthfully portray the hard parts of being a parent without destroying the escapism of a satisfying romance book. Make it too easy and you don’t honor the honest work of parenting. Make it too realistic, and it’s no fun to read.

Children are unpredictable and universal. If you need to escalate a plot, they can get into terrific trouble just by wandering away after butterflies. While readers expect a certain amount of sense from their lead characters, the sheer randomness of children and the unexpected things they can say and do lend well to spicing up an adventure, and they can be heart-wrenching and honest. Done well, they add a satisfying layer to a new relationship, and provide an instant found family.

Kids don’t have to be reserved for the happy-ever-after epilogues!

Can you suggest romance books that have handled children as characters particularly well? I’d love to know! Leave a comment and I’ll pick a random winner for a little swag pack, mailed anywhere in the world!


Elva Birch writes a lot of adorable children in paranormal romance and has a book out this week called First Comes Love. A single mom is caught by surprise when her son turns into a penguin and a polar bear shifter comes to her rescue! This collection includes hilarious baby penguin sketches and is from the world of A Day Care for Shifters.