Help A Bitch Out

HaBO: Not So Much Fecundity Please

One of the aspects of romance that some folks LOVE and some folks loathe is the emphasis on children upon children and pregnancy as part and parcel to the happy ever after. For some people, a romance novel isn’t complete without a baby, either in the plot, or in the future, or a secret in the plot to be revealed in the future. For others, babies in romance are distinctly not-romantic (especially when one is tired to the point of blindness from taking care of one at all hours of the night) or, in the case of those going through infertility treatments or facing the inability to conceive, terribly painful.

Reader C. has asked for romance recommendations that aren’t about babies, and may even involve infertility as part of the plot- preferably a known condition that isn’t magically healed with frequent and dedicated applications of the spooge of healing from the Wang of Mighty Lovin™.

I’m hoping for some book recommendations, but I am also fairly sure it’s
a lost cause. Also, I don’t want to start a shit storm.

What I would really like to find are some romances (preferably historical,
but contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, etc. are all fine, too) where the story
does not make the hero/heroine’s reproductive abilities an integral part of
the plot/HEA. I’d like to find something that either lets the two main
characters just ride off into their heaving, purple sunset with no mention
at all of children or pregnancy, or I’d like to find something where
infertility is a real issue that is dealt with and accepted and the HEA
comes anyway. By that, I don’t mean one of these books where half of our
happy couple “just knows” that they can’t have kids, but then everything
is made all better via the magical uterus/invincible spermians.I also don’t
want any books where the infertility is legit, but everything’s okey-dokey
by the HEA thanks to some conveniently-placed orphans.

I understand that this whole issue can really set people off, but I’m not
trying to push anyone’s “kids vs. no kids” buttons. As someone who can’t
have children without divine intervention, I’d just like find a good
romance novel to read that didn’t hit me over the head with the, “you’re
not a REAL family until you have children” message. A lot of family trees
have branches that end in the words “no issue”. Those two words do not
automatically mean that there wasn’t some ragin’-hot lovin’ going on
anyway … I’m just hoping there are some books out there about it.

My first suggestion for C: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – not because infertility is a big issue, but because the heroine is very frank about the fact that she doesn’t want children. Sometimes it’s not the idea that children are a prerequisite, but the idea that electing not to have children is a valid and acceptable option that makes a romance refreshing – this one in particular is a great example.

So: which romances feature infertility in ways that you appreciated, and which books were not so wedded to the idea that a Happily Ever After cannot occur without babies?


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Sarah says:

    The heroine of Julie Garwood’s Killjoy can’t have children. No wang on earth is going to change that for them. Also Miranda and Bishop from Kay Hooper’s FBI series don’t have kids in their future – both of them are more focused on each other and their careers.

    single72 – I hope not!

  2. 2
    charity says:

    There’s one historical I thought was fairly unique in that the HEA didn’t include settling down with children in domestic bliss.  It’s called “The Duchess” by Jude Deveraux. It was written in 1991. 

    Also, the afore mentioned “Bet Me” is definitely a good choice. 

    I can’t think of any romance novels that deal with infertility in the way that Reader C would like.

  3. 3
    Sarah says:

    Oh, I forgot! It’s YA, but Rose and Dimitri of the Vampire Academy series don’t want/can’t have kids. (Definitely recommend these books. Not a single emo vampire in sight!)

  4. 4
    Suze says:

    One of Shelly Laurenston’s shape-shifting couples, I think in Pack Challenge, were pretty clear that they had no interest in breeding.

  5. 5
    amanda says:

    Anybody but You by Jennifer Crusie. The heroine is 40 years old and makes it very clear that she is not interested in having children. The fact the hero’s father objects to her being out of her baby-making years is really the only mention.

  6. 6
    willaful says:

    I was gonna say Lord Perfect by Loretta Chase, but remembered there’s a hint of probable curage of the infertility problem in the epilogue. It’s pretty minor though, and an awfully good book.

    I sympathize with the problem, having been infertile myself… the world really does slap you in the face a lot and romance novels probably more than just about anything else.

  7. 7
    ghn says:

    In Robin D Owens’ Amee series the author indicates that the heroines are very unlikely to have children; “Exotiques” – persons transported there from Earth – practically never do. The only one of them that doesn’t have a problem with this is the heroine in _Protector of the Flight_. She was already sterile due to an accident when she was transported to Amee – and she adopts two children.

  8. 8

    I have my first older woman/younger man book coming out next week (okay, I know, but it’s relevant) and it’s nice to get away from this theme. In my story, and in many “cougar” romances, the woman has been through the biological clock period and children are either grown up and gone or there aren’t any.

    When I read the Harlequins where pregnancy and babies are a central part of the story, sometimes it makes me wonder if the couple really have a chance. Babies are a real strain on a relationship, so it’s a good idea to have a stable base before bringing a baby into the world. And they aren’t accessories, they really aren’t.

    A lot of historical romances depend on the wife being fertile. I did write one where I tried to turn it on its head, but having plugged one book here, I won’t do another! But many marriages were contracted with the express reason of providing heirs. I’d like to see a book where fertility is a problem, or not, and the couple love each other anyway. There are so many areas to explore in this area, and kudos to the books that do.

    One of my favorite Susan Elizabeth Philips’ books, “Nobody’s Baby But Mine” has a professor who wants the perfect father for her child, and of course it all goes wrong, and right. There is a problem that turns up fairly early on, and it was good to see it treated so well.

  9. 9
    Zoe Archer says:

    Chiming in with a plug for my first book, Lady X’s Cowboy.  I don’t want to spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that the heroine’s infertility is not resolved by the power of the hero’s magnificent wang, nor does her inability to have children alter their HEA.

  10. 10
    Brigit says:

    I’d recommend Robin Owens’ Celta series (which is fantasy/sf romance, and focused on the lovers getting together, not building families), esp. #4 _HeartChoice_, where the heroine is incurably infertile. Also, there was one part in the Mordecai Young-trilogy by Maggie Shayne where the heroine couldn’t have any more kids because of something the hero did, and they had to work this out.

    There are a lot of paranormal or fantasy romances out there that would fit, IMO. Angela Knight’s (immortal) couples in the Mageverse series usually don’t have kids. Alexis Morgan’s Paladins and Lynn Viehls Darkyn maybe, too?

    Another good source is this site on AAR:

  11. 11
    Shana says:

    Simply Magic, by Carole Buck; the heroine can’t have children.

    Miss Emmaline and the Archangel by Rachel Lee

    None of Jayne Castle’s Harmony books have babies in them.

  12. 12
    darlynne says:

    Nora Roberts has made it clear that baby = end of series for Eve and Roarke. The link is Altho.ugh not strictly romance novels, the In Death series is very much about this relationship and the family of friends they create.

  13. 13
    Karmyn says:

    The second epilogue of Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked deals with infertility. It’s a good story.

    They do have a baby at the end. It’s a Bridgerton story. It’s almost a requirement.

  14. 14
    StephS says:

    I came to romance through paranormals and urban fantasy.  I didn’t realize the must-make/have-baby-by-ending thing was so prevalent until I read some historicals and contemporaries.  I remember a distinct “Huh, WTF?” feeling about it.  I still don’t get the need for the baby=HEA.  So try some of the paranormal romances – usually having a baby by the end (or in an epilogue…grrr) is just not an issue at all.  Either the HEA doesn’t rely on babies or because of the paranormal-ish of one of the characters breeding isn’t a possibility.

  15. 15
    Kim says:

    If you like paranormal romance, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series (Cat & Bones) is 4 books in so far, and no problem with the fact that there will be no offspring (vampires are sterile shortly after turning).  My guess is that it will stay that way, just from things that I’ve picked up from the author’s background info., but one never knows.  It seems that the pnr’s that feature vamps tend to NOT discuss procreation, whereas the shifter/were themes often DO discuss….. well, litters and pups, and such.

  16. 16
    Sunny says:

    As a recovering infertile, I appreciated how infertility was handled in “Best Friends Forever” by Jennifer Weiner—although kids were involved.  More “chick lit” than romance, I suppose.  Same with “Just Breathe” by Susan Wiggs.

  17. 17

    Well, they aren’t properly romances at all—indeed, they are mysteries with a little romance on the side—but Charlaine Harris’ Lily Bard books (Shakespeare’s Landlord, etc etc) deal with a heroine who has fertility issues.  They are solid books and especially the fifth book, Shakespeare’s Counselor, makes the infertility issue one of the main topics.  Her happy ending really has nothing to do with having children in her life.  I don’t want to give away a bunch of spoilers. There are 5 books in the series, and they are quick reads.  If you like a little mystery with some romance, I recommend them.

  18. 18
    Melissandre says:

    P.C. Cast’s books almost never have a pregnancy.  Her books usually involve some soul/body switching, so the emphasis is on the union of soulmates; if the soulmates end up together, who cares if they have kids afterwards.

    I don’t remember if it ends in pregnancy, but you might like Charming the Prince by Teresa Medieros.  The lord has a LOT of kids (not all really his), and wants a wife just so she’ll take care of them all.  The wife rebels, and I remember she and the kids pull pranks guerilla-style through the castle.  Everything’s happy in the end, but the book does somewhat reject the “happy family = kids” trope you dislike.

  19. 19
    Carolyn says:

    One of my favorite books this year, Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas, has an infertile heroine.  The epilogue makes it clear that the H/h have a very HEA and no children.

  20. 20
    Nadia says:

    Allison Brennan’s books are contemporary romantic suspense, pretty gritty on the suspense, but her recent “Fatal Secrets” has an infertility issue that can’t be resolved with a mighty wang.

  21. 21
    willaful says:

    Just remembered another one – Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard. (Not sure I have that title quite right, but close.  IIRC, the hero has had a vasectomy and I think the heroine had some kind of issue too, but essentially having children isn’t something that ever comes up between them.

  22. 22
    JamiSings says:

    Part of me wants to defend the whole baby thing. Karen Marie Moning said on her own forum that the reason her characters have babies is because she herself cannot have children. So it’s a wish fullfillment. However, she also said not to expect Mac to get pregnant.

    That being said, there’s this book I read in high school I now can’t remember the name of. The hero was badly scarred in a war, so much he wore a mask. The heroine was a young woman whom loved him from childhood on. She was so determined to marry him that she got hired on as a servant and seduced him, not knowing her uncles had arranged for them to be wed. So once they really are married she has to earn his trust as his wife since he knew her as a servant.

    She does get pregnant but takes a tumble down the stairs that causes such a bad miscarriage she can never have children. By the end of the book they adopt instead. Which sticks out in my mind because I have never seen one that includes adoption.

    Probably not what you’re looking for and I can’t remember the title anyway. (It was sometime in the mid-90s when lots of romances were doing disfigured mask wearing heros due to the popularity of The Phantom Of The Opera.)

  23. 23
    Miranda says:

    Both the Sookie Stackhouse and the Harper series by Charlaine Harris don’t have kids. It’s not really an issue for Sookie, and Harper is clear that she actively does not want kids.

  24. 24
    Eliza Evans says:

    I just wanted to thank C for asking this question.  As someone who can’t have children without medical intervention myself, I can ALMOST deal with all the fertile families, but I go crazy when I read an epilogue where infertility was magically cured by how much the H&H loved each other. 

    Part of me wants to defend the whole baby thing. Karen Marie Moning said on her own forum that the reason her characters have babies is because she herself cannot have children. So it’s a wish fullfillment.

    And that’s totally fine for a writer, I think.  I have plans to write a book dealing with my infertility issues myself—and believe me, there are issues.  But as a READER, I am delighted when I get away from the whole children are the only path to a happy future trope.

  25. 25
    Laura says:

    JamiSings: Was that “Tapestry” by Karen Ranney?

  26. 26
    SonomaLass says:

    Definitely Charlaine Harris’ Lily Bard and Harper books, although those are mysteries with romantic elements.

    Jennifer Cruisie’s contemporaries sometimes don’t have kids as part of the HEA; not just Bet Me, IIRC.

    The two historicals I was going to suggest are already mentioned by others, above: Lady X’s Cowboy by Zoe Archer and Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas.  I’m sure I will think of others—watch this space, LOL!

  27. 27
    Cathy says:

    Erin McCarthy has a book – one of the Nascar ones – where the hero is infertile, but the heroine already has kids from her previous marriage.

    Not Quite a Husband is the only other title that immediately springs to mind with a childless couple. 

    I’ve read plenty of others where couples don’t have children, but I think it’s mostly “we’re not having kids now”, as opposed to “we’re not having kids.”  It’s too bad, too – I’d enjoy reading about more CFBC or infertile couples.

  28. 28
    Nonny says:

    I don’t have any contributions that haven’t already been mentioned, but I’d like to thank the reader who wrote in with the request. I’m infertile and didn’t want kids anyway; I’ve become quite frustrated in picking up romances only to find the Magic Pregnancy at the end, or worse, books where the solution to the Huge Relationship Problem is that the heroine is pregnant and now the relationship will be just fine and dandy. (Yes, see how well that works IRL!)

    I now have a lot more books to put on my TBR. Thanks all. :D

  29. 29
    Courtney says:

    I also would like to thank the reader who wrote in with the request. I have a son after 4 long years of trying culminating in an IVF cycle. During that period, I could not bear to read historical romances for this very reason. The H/H inevitably popped out a bunch of babies by the end and I just couldn’t handle the jealousy! I turned mostly to paranormal which rarely mentions babies at all and outside the genre stuff (like mysteries).

    As a “recovering” infertile, I think my love of historicals has been forever colored by that period in my life and I”m not sure I’ll ever devour them again as I once did (notwithstanding my recent glom of the Bridgertons—how did I miss those!?!)

  30. 30
    closetcrafter says:

    I love this topic and I am fertile! I REALLY enjoy reading stories that are not about me! That is why I read them. I like to read stories about couples who have conflicts and barriers to relationships that involve getting past those barriers so they can get together for some hot monkey lovin’. HEA involving babies and/or marraige not included. 

    Try some JAK, almost any JAK or her other genre/pen names. Most of those women are just trying to get by or solve a problem or solve a mystery.

    I also thing that Beth and Rhage cannot have the kids.

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