In an earlier post, I posed the question, “Why do romance novels assume that a baby = HEA (Happily Ever After)?”  To me and to many other women like me, babies are not the be all and end all.  I, personally, do not need a baby to feel complete, but so many romance novels use the presence of babies as an indication of how happy a couple is.  For instance, a few years back I read the matchmakers series by Candace Camp and the epilogue to the last book had every single couple happily cooing at a baby or two.  In historicals, like that series, it makes a little more sense to give the protagonists children because having kids was a huge facet of noble life–without children, especially male children, the family seat would transfer to some evil relation, who cares only for himself and would probably tear down the ancestral house and build something *gasp* modern or would treat the tenants in awful ways.  However, in contemporary novels it isn’t essential for the happy couple to end up with the 2.5 kids, a golden retriever, and a white picket fence.  Not every couple wants that, and the fact that romance novels perpetuate that ideal really alienates an entire segment of the reading population.

One of the main reasons I love the In Death series is because Eve does not want kids and that she can be happy without having them.  I have no doubt that somewhere down the line, she will end up with a kid, but it doesn’t have to be right now.  (Nora Roberts has said that if Eve and Roarke have a baby that would be the end of the series because things would change drastically about the way Eve performs as a cop.)  Even though Roarke does want children, he doesn’t pressure Eve into having them just because he wants them.  He is more than willing to wait until she is ready.

The reason I am going off on this baby tangent is that the book that I am currently reading, Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare, seems to be leading to the baby = HEA ending.  I’ve gotten about half way through the book, and the hero, Griff, really wants kids, although he doesn’t come out and say it–at least, he hasn’t yet.  I read a scene earlier in which Griff, his mother, and Pauline, the heroine, are visiting The Foundling Hospital, an orphanage, and he is visibly sick over being there.  It doesn’t appear that his aversion to the place is an aversion to children–he was really good with a little boy at the beginning of the scene–not to mention the fact that he suddenly decided to live like a monk, forgoing the life of debauchery that he had been living up until about a year earlier.  He is very obviously a tortured hero and I think it is fair to say that something happened to him in the last year–I have a feeling that he got some girl pregnant and that she and the baby died in child birth.  Griff’s grieving; it isn’t hard to see, and it is quite obvious that Pauline is going to make everything better for him, which of course means that she is going to have a kid and not die in labor.

What is refreshing is the fact that it is Griff that wants babies and not Pauline, however, it still doesn’t negate the fact that in his perfect world happiness means having a baby.  You really don’t know how perturbed this makes me.  It is almost as bad as the whole Big City = Big Bad and Small Town = Perfection trope that has been shoved down readers’ throats since possibly the dawn of time.  I just wish that there were more books about people like me, who don’t necessarily believe that babies are essential to happiness.


Romance novels have been a part of my life since I was 14 years old and one of my neighbors dropped off a laundry basket full of Harlequins. From that day on, my nose was always in a book. I started my first review site in 2013, but took some time off for personal issues in 2018.

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  1. There are tons of romances without the baby HEA. I recently finished Jill Shavlis's It Had to be You and the couple ended up just dating in the end–it is part of a series, so they may eventually end up married with kids (cue Ed O'Neil and Katey Segal), but their story's ending didn't have them running around with a brood of kids. I'm currently reading the next book in that series, Always on my Mind, and while I haven't finished it yet, I don't think it will have that type of an ending either.

    The In Death series by J.D. Robb is futuristic romantic suspense and the author has said that while the series is going on there is not going to be a baby for Eve and Roarke because that would impede Eve doing her job the way she does it. Of course them having a kid is always in the cards in the end, but there isn't going to be one until it ends and the nice thing with this series is that you can see that they don't need a baby to be happy and complete. (There is a baby in the series, though–Eve's best friend and her husband had a baby a while back, but she wasn't inserted to make me believe that Mavis and Leonardo needed her to be happy.)

    Most of Karen Rose's romantic suspense novels have baby-less happy endings, although some of her heroines have eventually had kids in other books, but as with the In Death novels, it wasn't about getting the couple a baby by the end of their book as a way to prove that they're happy and meant to be (because, obviously, having kids doesn't necessarily mean that a couple will be together forever).

    Julie James's US Attorney series is another one that leaves the baby thing to be a natural progression in later books rather than as a same book epilogue, which is a good thing because most of those books take place in a very short period of time. As of now, one of her couples is pregnant and I believe they're the only ones that are even married.

    I think the baby as a happy ending thing is mostly done in Historical Romances, even though they do happen with contemporaries too, and this is probably because of the way things were back in the 18th, 19th, and even early 20th centuries when people got married and had kids because it was expected of them. It was a bit of a societal thing, especially with the aristocracy because heirs were needed to keep the titles in the family. I find it rare for there to be a historical without babies being a part of things (a lot of the time they're being used as part of the motivation for the man to settle down; it was a responsibility not something that they wanted just because they wanted a family). One of the things I love about Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series is that her heroines don't push for babies and despite knowing that most of them eventually have kids (because part of it takes place in the present with the descendent of the first book's protagonists), I know that it wasn't a HEA thing or even a responsibility thing it was because it came out of their love. It wasn't meant to show me they were happy the way it is in a lot of books.

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