It’s hard enough to write a powerful, realistic relationship for the protagonists of a romance. Authors who manage to give them truthful relationships to their children or parents as well have truly accomplished something remarkable. Here are some of the books AAR Loves for their realistic depictions of parent (or parent figure) and child relationships.


Infants and young children

Bountiful by Sarina Bowen

This one is a favorite not just for the second chance between bartender Zara and hockey player Dave but for the realistic portrayal of Zara and her infant daughter Nicole. Because Dave wasn’t around for the first several months of Nicole’s life, Zara has been a single mom with all the ups and downs that entails. Zara is a breastfeeding mother and that’s not shied away from in the story, nor the temper tantrums and sweetness of a toddler. For Dave, discovering he has a daughter means a choice between continuing the single life of a successful hockey player or settling down with a family. How the author pulls it all together makes for a really lovely story.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Tim’s a teenage recovering alcoholic, kicked out of his house, when a girl he slept with while blacked out turns up with baby Calvin. Tim’s journey from shock to competence and love is depicted in truthful details, like confusion over how many layers to dress Cal in and bewilderment that a baby can need so much STUFF in his diaper bag. The author perfectly captures the crushing, exhausting lows of a baby whose screams can’t be fixed, but she also brings to life the intoxicatingly endearing highs, like the smell of baby noggin and the feeling of connection when they finally learn to focus and look you in the eye. Our reviewer wrote an entire blog post in honor of this book. The Boy Most Likely To is also a realistic depiction of being an older sibling in a large family, as the heroine Alice has taken on parenting responsibilities for her many siblings ranging from infant to her own late teen years.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby

The heroine Emma has a baby and, from the moment her newborn son doesn’t latch on to her nipple with ease, things fall apart. By the time baby William is two months old, Emma is miserable, stressed, and afraid. He’s colicky, a poor nurser (Emma’s nipples are constantly cracked and painful), and he never sleeps for more than two hours at a time. And the most terrifying thing of all? Emma doesn’t love him. This is a romance–the father of the baby is Emma’s ex husband Darcy–and by the book’s end, the reader has experienced a lovely rare love story with a happy ending that celebrates marriage and baby carriages even as it makes clear the path to both is often full of loss and sorrow, struggle and pain.

There aren’t very many romances that portray babies as, well, awful. Our publisher Dabney says, “As someone who had a rough postpartum depression, I think about this often when I read romances in which the heroine has a child. The challenges new moms face are rarely a part of the story and, if they are, they are usually caused by some external factor–poverty, a difficult spouse or family, debilitating social situations. I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance in which the mom struggles to like, let alone love and care for, her new baby, until I read Maybe This Time.”

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Oz and Milo by Lily Morton

In the first book in Ms. Morton’s new Finding Home series, Oz falls in love with Silas, and the epilogue introduces their daughter by surrogate, Cora. They’re sweetly adoring and careful of their darling girl and although it’s only a brief glimpse of their time as a family of three, it sets up events in the next book, Milo. In Milo, readers get to spend much more time with Cora, her two dads, and their close friends Milo and Niall. In fact, Milo and Niall end up falling in love when they become temporary babysitters for Cora after Silas and Oz are forced to make a quick trip to London. She’s a lovely foil to their evolving relationship, and Ms. Morton proves she knows the ins/outs and nuances of child rearing. Her depiction of parental love – and the love between these two novice babysitters – is tender and affecting, and absolutely enhances the story.

Buy Oz at: Amazon

Buy Milo at: Amazon

Forever Right Now by Emma Scott

Sawyer Haas is a law student who works hard and parties harder – until he’s literally left holding the baby. A former one-night-stand turns up on his doorstep during one of those parties, clutching a small bundle she introduces to him as his daughter Olivia – and then leaves. It’s pretty much love at first sight for Sawyer who, while only twenty-three, is a responsible, mature young man. He finds himself an apartment and for the next ten months runs himself ragged caring for Olivia while continuing his studies. He does a great job – his little girl is well and happy and Sawyer’s goal is to have his name added to her birth certificate, so there’s no possibility her mother will turn up out of the blue again, and this time take her away. Breezing into his life – and the apartment upstairs – is Darlene Montgomery, an ex-dancer and recovering drug addict, who has moved to San Francisco in order to begin a new life. Sawyer and Darlene’s romance is sweet and angsty in places, and is cathartic for both of them, but the author never lets us forget the important place Olivia occupies in Sawyer’s life; the way he juggles his life in order to do the very best for her is at the forefront of the story and feels very true to life.

Buy it at: Amazon

Kids and Teenagers

Imagine by Jill Barnett

A ragtag group of orphans, one spunky lady lawyer and a criminally convicted baseball player – and a genie – become a family after being trapped on a desert island together.  The kids are really well-written, and they manage to come off as kids with their own insecurities, personalities and desires without seeming like treacly plot moppets.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Building Forever and Chasing Forever by Kelly Jensen

The books in this series all feature older couples. In Building Forever, Charlie, a widower in his late thirties, has been a single parent to his seventeen-year-old daughter Olivia for five years.  Olivia and her friends are really well-written and feel like late-teens rather than bratty kids, and any parent with children of similar age will absolutely recognise Charlie’s worries as to whether he’s doing a good job or not.  It’s a wonderfully positive relationship, and Olivia is incredibly welcoming and supportive of her father’s new love. Chasing Forever, the third book, features the redemption of a bad-boy character, and part of his growth comes through the relationship he forges with his teenaged nephew.  Brian Kenway was a bit of a shit in the earlier books, but in this, we find out a bit more about him and why he’s the way he is, while he has to learn how to parent his nephew, Josh, who was thrown out by his mother – Brian’s sister – when he told her he was gay.  Because the same thing happened to Brian, there’s the potential for a strong bond between them, but it’s not as simple as that; Josh is skittish and Brian is forced to face up to and deal with some of the things about his own past he’s long-buried.  The other part of this equation is Mal, a history teacher at the local school, whose quiet support is invaluable to Brian as he adjusts both to life as part of a couple and as a de facto parent.

Buy Building Forever at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Buy Chasing Forever at:Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Story of Life on the Golden Fields by Dong Hwa Kim

In a rural Korean village in the past, a widow runs an inn while raising her daughter Ewha. Each falls in love, the mother with a traveling artist and Ewha with a local young man. The mother is a wonderful teacher to Ewha, both in what she says and in how she lives, demonstrating financial independence, a willingness to resist social pressure, and unapologetic sexual desire. The way these two support each other, and the growth of the relationship as Ewha matures, is beautiful (as is the artwork in this graphic novel trilogy). Highly, highly recommended.

Buy it at: Amazon

Wolfsong by TJ Klune

Wolfsong, the first book in the Green Creek series, is a shifter story like no other, and a reviewer’s top read in 2016. Ox Matheson is a lonely and awkward twelve-year old struggling to deal with his emotions after his father abandons him and his mother. The novel unfolds as Ox matures, along the way meeting (and eventually falling in love) with Joe Bennett, a young wolf with a traumatic past. This story is full of good and bad depictions of family life – Ox’s wonderful relationship with his mother, Joe’s with his extended and immediate family, and assorted other relationships… but the parent/child relationships (Joe’s and Ox’s) ground the story and the series, with repercussions that playout as the series unfolds.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

How to Misbehave/Making it Last by Ruthie Knox

How to Misbehave is the courtship story of Amber, a community center program director, and Tony, a contractor, so the kids don’t appear until the sequel novella, Making it Last. Tony and Amber are swamped by the financial, physical, and emotional demands of their large family. Amber talks honestly about feeling too overwhelmed to be sexual – at one point, she despairingly notes that between the babies and Tony, she just wants people to leave her breasts alone. This story is an honest, un-Instagram filtered look at the mental and emotional strain of raising a family, when romance too often comes second to just getting through the day.

Buy the four-book Camelot set: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Suddenly You by Sarah Mayberry

Mayberry weaves book magic, so it’s hard to go wrong with a story of hers. Suddenly You is a favorite full stop, and definitely a favorite about parenting. Pippa’s a single mom and the ex of one of Harry’s friends, so he’s convinced she’s both out of his league and off limits. Life, however, has other plans. Combine this with a child who is a human and not a plot device and this one is a winner.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Deal Maker by Lily Morton

Deal Maker is the second book in the terrific Mixed Messages series. Jude, a male model, is made temporarily homeless after a neighbor’s bathtub drops through his ceiling and floods his apartment. He lucks out when a friend recommends him for a three month, live-in job working as a personal assistant to Asa, an actor and single dad. The interview goes well…until Jude mentions he’s a model and Asa abruptly turns cold and dismissive. Jude, hurt by Asa’s assumptions about him, proceeds to prove all of them right…and in doing so, demonstrates he’s much more clever and intelligent than Asa gave him credit for. They eventually become friends – and more, and along the way we’re shown a lovely relationship between Asa and his young, irrepressible son Billy, and then the charming and absolutely delightful relationship that develops between Jude and Billy. The story, the relationships, the primary and secondary characters – the depiction of the parent/child relationship, they’re all masterfully and lovingly rendered. It’s epic – just like Billy.

Buy it at: Amazon

It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian

In this lovely queer ode to The Sound of Music,  Captain Phillip Dacre has spent much of his adult life at sea while he wife stayed home and managed the household and their large family of children. When the story opens, Phillip – now a widower – is forced to return home to care for his unruly children after spending the past few years relying on a succession of family members do it for him.  He’s offered assistance (and advice) from Ben Sedgwick, the local vicar – who grew up in an unconventional family of his own. Their attraction is intense and electric, and initially they but heads trying to take care of the Dacre children. I didn’t particularly care for Phillip’s version of parenting, but Ben, the yin to his yang, loves the Dacre children like they were his own – and together they muddle through. The author clearly knows children and delights in their shenanigans.

Buy Now: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

After All These Years by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

Curry James and Tom Winchester both married other people and had children before Curry was widowed and Tom divorced. Now, when Tom returns to their small town to fix up and sell his parents’ house, the two have a chance to reconnect – not just as adults, but as the parents of teenagers. Curry’s son Huck is especially well-written as a boy struggling to define manhood in the absence of a father, but Diana’s relentless positivity overlayed with a desire for more of a relationship to her father are honest as well. Both teenagers confront hormones and interest in sex, and both parents confront the fact that their kids are confronting it. This is just a wonderful, truthful novel.

Buy it at Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Protagonists with Parents

Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn

If you read romances with characters in their thirties and older it’s not uncommon to find ageing parents as part of the story. In Beginner’s Luck, Ben is coming to terms with his father getting older. He’s had an accident and can no longer get around his store as easily so Ben has moved home to help him in the interim. How Ben treats his father during this transition of their parent/child role is essential to Ben’s ‘good guy’ character and this family relationship enriches the novel.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

 

List of Links for AAR Loves

Interested in finding more books AAR Loves..?

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Romances featuring Refugee Heroines

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AAR Loves… Romances featuring music and musicians

AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part One (Military, law enforcement etc.)

AAR Loves… Partners to Lovers romances – Part Two