The surprise pregnancy/secret baby storyline has been a part of Romance for as long as there's been a Romance genre.
Remember those “Old Skool” heroines who marry because they have to? And those jet-setting Harlequin heroes who get their mistresses pregnant, then go all he-man possessive once they find out, demanding marriage or else? And what about those parted lovers who meet up years later by pure chance, with the hero doing a double-take: surely that mini-me clinging to the heroine isn’t really a mini-me?
(Seriously, if contraceptives in the real world failed as often as they do in Romance novels, we’d have billions more people on earth.)
Well, Virginia, I am here to tell you: there is nothing hearts and roses about pregnancy. I know some women have easy breezy beautiful Cover Girl pregnancies, nary a dry heave to mar their oxytocin-primed sense of well-being. Not me. And I’ve been through the whole pregnancy-delivery-postpartum thing three times. And don’t get me started on the sleepless nights, poopy diapers, spit-up, colic, and realization that you will never again have a moment to yourself. Especially when there’s three of them and only one (or two) of you.
So, we’re agreed: there is nothing the least bit romantic about pregnancy or its aftermath.
Why, then, do so many women (myself included) still love to read about it, especially if it’s an unexpected or secret pregnancy?
Or maybe that whole pregnancy-as-part-of-romance trope speaks to a deeper, more atavistic desire. Who wouldn’t wish to be cherished, loved, protected, and inextricably linked by virtue of baby to a virile alpha male? (Sorry to burst your bubble, ladies, but studies show that men’s testosterone levels decline when they become dads.)
According to Lord Byron, that ultimate of romantic poets, “All tragedies are finished by a death, All comedies are ended by a marriage.” And maybe all Romances are concluded by a pregnancy?
…Or not. We are, after all, seeing an unprecedented flourishing of romance sub-genres in which women are strong, career-minded, and regard motherhood as a choice. And plenty of genres completely skirt the issue, either because of the characters’ ages (YA/NA), sexual orientation, or species (shifters, vampires, witches).
The good news is that whichever side of the fence you’re on when it comes to pregnancy in romance, you will never run out of good books to read.
Jill Blake writes Contemporary Romance. Pursued by the Playboy, the first book in her Doctors of Rittenhouse Square trilogy, includes a surprise pregnancy. Each book in the series is self-contained, and can be read as a stand-alone.