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11 January 2012

The Younger Set


My daughter Mélanie turned four weeks old yesterday. It's hard to believe it's already been four weeks, but at the same time it's already difficult to remember there was ever a time when she wasn't a part of my life. Of course babies and children are much on my mind. When I got back to writing - the week between Christmas and New Year's, well before I thought I'd be able to - I found myself tending to have the heroine remember when her son (who is a two-year-old in the book) was a newborn. I can already see that Mélanie is going to influence my writing. Yet though this will be the first book I've written as a mother, there've been children in every book I've written, going back to the Regency romances I wrote with my own mom. I even wrote one book where the heroine gave birth - I've rarely done research which later proved so relevant to my own life.

I've always liked children in books. Georgette Heyer has some wonderful young characters, from Charles Rivenhall's young siblings in The Grand Sophy to Jessamy and Felix in Frederica to Edmund in Sylvester. All of them are interesting, well-rounded characters in their own right, and they also serve as interesting foils for the heroes and heroines, bringing out different sides of their personalities, creating conflict, and giving them common cause. They can cut right through the elaborate formality of an aristocratic historical setting, as Felix does with his talk about his scientific experiments and cheerful disregard for protocol.

Lauren has a wonderful pair of children in The Orchid Affair. They can be said to bring the heroine and hero together, in that the hero is their father and the heroine becomes their governess, but the children, particularly the girl, who is older, are far from fostering any developing romance. Watching the children, and their relationship to both their father and the heroine, grow and change is one of the delights of the book. The children add moments of humor and also raise the tension as the hero's enemies threaten his children as well.

What are some of your favorite child characters in books? Writers, do you like writing about children? What elements do you think they bring to a story?

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13 Comments:

Blogger Helena said...

Congratulation on the birth of Mélanie!

I have always had a soft spot for the nine-year-old Comte Philippe de Valmy in Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart. Sometimes children are used in books merely as plot devices, but in this book Mary Stewart took care to develop the child into a very real character, essential to the story and providing a real context to the relationship of his English governess Linda with the other members of his family. The reader can understand how Linda comes to care for him sufficiently to put his safety above everything, no matter the cost to herself.

2:34 AM  
Blogger Alyssia said...

A little different maybe, but the heroine, Esme Rawlings, in Eloisa James's A Wild Pursuit is VERY pregnant throughout the course of the novel (and eventually has the wee one at the end). But this is the first and only book I've read of its kind, where one of the main characters is pregnant and her male lover still finds her extremely attractive enough to bed her and bed her frequently. Really, all pregnant women should read this novel, especially in the latter months. :)

Also, I think Kleypas writes children well, as does contemporary romance novelist Kristan Higgins. Hers always fun and lovable and ooey gooey.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Alyssia said...

Oh, and congratulations again on your sweet little Melanie!

4:13 AM  
Blogger Isobel Carr said...

I have to add another vote for Felix. The bit at the end where he catches Alverstoke cuddled up on the settee with his sister is priceless.

And I loved writing the kids in my first series. Having a set of de facto nieces and nephews around really enriched the world. Kids are just a part of reality (even though they’re not much of my personal reality). I feel the same way about pets. Though I try to justify the existence of kids and pets in the book by having them be necessary in some way to the story.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Maria D. said...

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter Melanie!

I do like children in books but other than Henry from "Romancing the Countess", I can't remember their names -

10:42 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Helena, I too love Philippe - I should have thought to include him as an example. He is a wonderfully realized character in his own right, and I'd say it's vital to the success of the book that readers care about him and understand what he means to Linda.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Alyssia, I haven't read A Wild Pursuit, but now I want to seek it out - I love the idea of a pregnant heroine (particularly having just gone through that myself!). In the book I wrote where the heroine gives birth, Shadows of the Heart, she's very pregnant at the beginning of the story and then gives birth (with the hero delivering the baby) about a quarter of the way into the book. They're on the run for a good portion of the book, so their romance doesn't really start until after the baby is born though.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Isobel, I loved the kids and pets in your first series - they made the world seem very complex and real. Thinking about it, I realize that one reason the child characters fascinated me when I first read Georgette Heyer was because I was a child myself (I was ten when I started reading Heyer with me mom), and I liked having a glimpse of the world of people my age. It's interesting that I've gone from reading the books as a child myself to thinking about them in terms of being a mom.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

Thanks, Maria! Who wrote Romancing the Countess?

11:22 AM  
Blogger Leslie Carroll said...

Tracy, I am just so impressed that Mélanie has already become quite the lady about town -- and she looks so beautiful in her holiday velvet!

I did write an entire womens fiction book (PLAY DATES), where the child was at the center of it. The story was narrated from three first-person POVs: the twenty-something, divorced mother; her thirty-something, single older sister; and the six- (later seven) year-old child. My niece was about that age at the time and the story was about the syndrome so pervasive in the mid-2000s of overscheduled, overprivileged city kids (it was set in NYC) who seem to have better social lives than their parents do. Because I saw this world vicariously through my Upper East Side sister and my neighbors on the Upper West Side, I had a handle on it, but most of my books don't feature children in major roles, although several of my historical fiction heroines have given birth in the books.

A book that has always stuck with me ever since I read it is MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and one reason I can't forget it is Goldman's phenomenal ability to get inside the mind of a 9-year-old Asian girl from another era. The heroine is a child for a good part of the narrative and I was just blown away by the depth and nuance of character. This is one of the finest portrayals of a child in adult fiction that I have ever read.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love the red velvet dress too, Leslie - my cousin got it for Mélanie. Because Mélanie arrived around the holidays we did a lot of visiting friends and family, and she's a great traveler - she seems to like looking around in new places though she can't see very far yet.

Play Dates sounds fascinating. Before Mélanie, the children in my books were mostly based on my nieces and my cousins' and friends' kids.

I confess I haven't read Memoirs of a Geisha, but I was similarly impressed with Ian McEwan's ability to get into the head of an early adolescent girl in Atonement. Particularly when it came to her thinking about writing - having once been an adolescent girl who wrote :-).

12:52 PM  
Blogger happybkwrm said...

I'm not normally fond of children in romance - very often they are either plot points to show how good the heroine is - because she's maternal! - or they're Unnaturally Wise Children who exist to say smart-ass things and tell the hero/ine how to run his/her life.

I like it when kids are KIDS. And of course, your kids are actually kids - with personalities. And sometimes they're... inconvenient to have around. I know that sounds odd. (I'm thinking of the book in which the heroine has a son with her husband and then her husband tells her, oops I have an older son who is the REAL heir. :)

Melanie's going to be a sophisticated lady!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

That's a good point - in an historical heir when birth - or perceived birth - and inheritance are so important, children often complicate adults' lives because of inheritance issues - as in the book of my mom's and mine you mention, A Sensible Match. And actually, inheritance is also important when it comes to Philippe in the book Helena mentioned, Nine Coaches Waiting, which is comparatively modern.

7:48 PM  

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