Snarkling Clean

Snarkling Clean- because you don't have to cuss to make fun of stuff. Two dedicated readers discuss romance novels- from what made us weep with joy to what made us want to poke pencils through our eyeballs.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Kids Are People, Too

I'm reading an old Western romance right now, and our spunky biscuit baking heroine is a widow with kids. One is hers; two are orphans she's taken in. I find myself appreciating that the youngest, a three year old boy, swings from Completely Adorable to Sell Him to the Gypsies, Please.

My own kids are fabulous. You might as well know it now and get your jealousy out of the way. I've been told by more than one teacher, Sunday School teacher, etc. that they are indeed just about perfect. But for all their delicious snuggly sweetness, there have been days when I would have cheerfully given them away to the first passing stranger.

I rarely find that "kid dichotomy" accurately portrayed in books. Romances especially. Kids always seem like a plot point with a grape juice mustache. They exist only to show us that the hero or heroine is the most dedicated parent in the world.

Rabbit Trail- I always find it funny that the Mother of the Year has been focused like a laser on her child; never going out, etc. After she starts being romanced by the hero, the kid who has previously been the sole reason for her being is farmed out with regularity to a kindly neighbor who apparently has no life of her own. I'm thinking- wouldn't this kid be having serious seperation anxiety issues?

Usually the kid is either trying to broker the marriage like a good little matchmaker, or is a somewhat sullen preteen that comes around after being saved from a kidnapping or something. The children don't get to be fully fleshed out characters. Even with the HEA in mind, and a sense that the stepfamily thing will work, can we see kids having good days and bad days? Being moody, silly, outrageous, impulsive? One day, Obi-Wan, one day, Darth Vader?

As a writer, I have to wonder if children don't work in romances. At least the category or smaller ones. You'd have to spend so much time and energy on characterization for parent and child to really do it justice, how do you also spend enough time on the romance in 80,000 words? So unless I get a lot more prolific and write a Gabaldon-like tome you could choke a horse with, I'm probably not going to use kids in any of my stories.

What about you? Have you read (or written) books where the kids were more than convenient plot devices?


Anonymous Kaitlin said...

I think Simon in Nora Robert's Key Trilogy. He was never used as a major plot point, but used throughout all three books. He was sarcastic and everything you'd expect of a boy his age.

I usually can't stand kids in books because they never sound right. It might be the way they speak or whatever, but 99% of the time, they come across as little adults and I know very few children actually like that.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Jolene*Marie said...

Yea, I've hardly read believable children or even teens in romances. What bugs me is EVERY teen portrayed in romances is either utterly responsible or incredibly sullen. Teens are hardly done right either.

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Check out FIRST LADY by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The teenager Lucy is awesome.

5:14 PM  
Blogger December Quinn said...

I usually avoid romances with kids for just that reason. Either they're too-good-to-be-true or caricature bad. Plus I hate it as a plot device for Our Hero to see what a Good, Kind, and Loving Woman the heroine really is-it's irritating, like we can't think of a way to show her kindness elsewhere, and easy, because what kind of person would really refuse to feed the kids-next-door whose Dad beats them?

It just adds an element of cutesy-poo, usually, that I dislike. I'm sure some people do it well. I just haven't read any.

1:45 AM  
Blogger Bernita said...

Mary Stewart handles kids well.
At least I liked it.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Any particular Stewart book you'd recommend, Bernita?

11:01 AM  
Anonymous nessili said...

Well, they're probably not the most realitic of characters, but I very much enjoy the kids in Mrs. McVinnie's London Season (Carla Kelly). If you can get your hands on a copy (no, you can't have mine, my precious :), it's well worth the read.

But I do agree with you--oftentimes the kiddos are nothing more than "plot points with grape juice mustaches" that's a priceless phrase :)

7:51 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

I recommend them all.
The one I was thinking of , though, was Madame, Will You Talk?
Got the impression the heroine goes with the guy mainly because of his great kid.

3:58 AM  
Blogger Abby said...

I'm not big on kids in romances at all. I just read "A Husband's Watch" by Karen Templeton, though (it's a Silhouette something - can never keep category lines straight) and it's about a married couple with kids who revive their flagging marriage. Those were believable kids - screaming, arguing, dropping stuff, watching TV, going to dance class. On the other hand, I'm currently reading "A Seson to be Sinful" by Jo Goodman and (it's a historical) it has three "right, guv'na!" adorable street urchins whose oh-so-hilarious urchin antics make the hero and heroine laugh... GAG.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

it has three "right, guv'na!" adorable street urchins

ROFLPIP!! That'll give you Artful Dodger visions, won't it?

6:30 AM  
Blogger Missie said...

I agree about Nora's Key books, the kid Simon is just what a 9yo should be. I could totally see my son, who is 10, doing and saying the same things. Also, in her Quinn brothers books, she makes Seth, the youngest brother, completely believable. We see his journey from pre-teen to adult, and she portrays it very realistically.

I am about sick of the sullen-teenage-daughter thing. UGH! Enough already. And isn't that phrase redundant, anyway? How many of us weren't sullen at some point or another during our teen years? That's like using a hungry-teenage-boy characterization.

I agree about SJP's First Lady, loved Lucy. Also try SJP's Fancy Pants. The boy Teddy is just adorable and precocious and mean and irritating. Love her characters because sometimes I genuinely don't like them at some point in the book.

Now, if you want to talk about bundles of precious loveliness oozing with squiggly snuggliness, then we can talk about my kids...because they are sooo perfect. Except when they're awake.

2:10 PM  

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