maggie This past weekend we celebrated the men in our lives who are dads. The guys who teach bike riding, car pool us to events and make every day a little better just by being there for us. I know lots of great dads in real life. And of course, romance has some fantastic fathers as well. Here is a list that contains just a few of my favorites.

It seems like heroines can have awful fathers. Whether it is the abusive dad of Mary Balogh’s Gilded Web or the father who just can’t care enough about his family to take care of them as in Amanda Quick’s Scandal, our heroines often seem to have fathers that have us wishing them orphans. So my first example is Hal Legend in Summer’s End by Kathleen Gilles Seidel. He puts all those abusers to shame. There is a wonderful scene in the book where he visits heroine Amy’s skating school and learns they are trying to turn her into a little robot, exactly like every other skater in the school. He takes a long weekend to work with her, finds better teachers for her and devotes a lot of time to coming up with music for her programs. Her professional success is due in large part to his work. Even better? Hal was not a helicopter parent. He came in and solved problems as needed but Amy wasn’t skating for him, she wasn’t a way for him to fulfill a childhood dream or do anything else for himself. Everything he did, he did for her.

Another great Hal moment occurred when a teenaged granddaughter embroiled the family in drama. Hal stepped back and let the parents resolve it. Anyone who has ever been around extended family knows how rare this is and how much self-control it takes. Too often, everyone in the family wants to have their two cents worth listened to. Hal set a great example by staying silent and the rest of the family was able to enjoy their vacation rather than become involved in the angst. The scenario could easily have gone very differently.

Secret baby books abound in this genre. Representing those dads is Wyatt Blake. Wyatt of Justine Davis’ Always a Hero didn’t know he had a son. Then an ex-girlfriend dies and the choice is to take the boy or let him go to foster care. He steps up to the plate, becoming the best dad he knows how to be. While he and young Jordy have a very rough start, things even out before the end of the story. Wyatt really impressed me with his willingness to take on responsibility and love someone who was kept from him till the teen years. Jordy’s age was a large part of what had me choose Wyatt. It is easy to love the little tykes, the adorable moppets who look at you with big eyes and call you daddy. A surly teen who reminds you constantly you weren’t there for him? Much harder not to throw that fish back in the pond. To me, this makes a hero; a man who comes through for you when you need him – and when it is not at all easy.

I’ve noticed an upswing in the number of books containing single dads. There are some really good ones out there but a favorite among them for me is Joe Morgan from Magic in a Jelly Jar by Sally Tyler Hayes. Joe is a terrific dad, always putting his kids first. When he meets Samantha he is careful to balance time with her with time with the kids. His new love doesn’t suddenly drive out the old. He is also careful to ease the children into being with Samantha. There is no sudden “aunt” in their lives but slowly yet surely there is a new person to love and be loved by. I dislike the route taken by many single parents in romance; it seems either they constantly have the kids with a best friend/grandparent/aunt so they can date or they have their new love instantly mesh with the kids. I think Magic in a Jelly Jar captures the reality of dating with children much better.

And then there are romances involve single moms who meet a great guy who loves them and their kids. My favorite of these is Will Lymann of Karen Robards’ Hunter’s Moon . Will is an average guy – an FBI agent with a solid career, close to his family but not in their pockets – but when he meets Molly Ballard and her four younger siblings, he becomes a sort of superman. He buys prom dresses for teenage geeks, he teaches the same teenage geek to dance, he plays basketball with a young man on the brink of turning to trouble, he teaches math to a struggling middle schooler. Yes, he solves crime and catches the villain but who really cares? He became a hero for me the moment he began to parent these very realistic children.

So who are your favorite romance fathers? Which ones stick out for doing the job and doing it well?

– Maggie Boyd