For anyone who knows me, you will know that I do not like this trope, despite it's popularity and how well it apparently sells. Why? Well, I just feel so bad for the man who has missed out on knowing he is a father. Whether this child is only an infant, or a young child, or even an adult, he has missed out on something very important. And, for me, this makes the heroine an instantly unlikable character.
Please remember, this is just my view and many people do not agree with me. In saying that though, I have read some truly fantastic secret baby books that I have absolutely loved. But before we get to that, let's discuss the key elements of the Secret Baby trope.
If there is a baby, then the hero and heroine must have a history. Whether it's simple or complicated is up to you. How did they meet? What did they mean to each other? Were they in love? Basically, how is it that this child came to be?
Why is it a secret?
This is the key question when it comes to the Secret Baby trope. Why did the heroine keep this child a secret? Why doesn't the father know about the child?
As stated before, I do not like this trope. Secret Baby is one I'll immediately put back on the shelf so you'll need to keep it out of the blurb to catch me. But even if a reader does like the Secret Baby trope, as the author, you need to give your heroine a solid, believable, and sympathetic reason of to why she did not tell the hero about this baby. The reader needs to understand and see her reasoning. And there can be many, many reasons. But for a good Secret Baby, I'd recommend going with something very deep. Something that can be deemed selfish or 'she didn't give him a choice' has the potential to turn your heroine into an unsympathetic character, which isn't something you want to do.
Good reasons for keeping it a secret:
- 'I was already married and passed it off as my husband's child.' Here there is a clear motivation and while it may not be very fair on the real father of the child, and she probably shouldn't have had the affair, it is understandable.
- 'He left me.' Clearly, it's his fault then. But if you're going to do this, try to give her a more deeper reason again, because she could have always still told him.
- 'He betrayed me and left me.' Clear motivation and the heroine is hurt.
- 'He doesn't want children'. Personally, here you could still give your hero a choice, but it shows that your heroine is scared to tell him and is more understandable than a selfish act.
Secret Baby versus Accidental Pregnancy
These two tropes are similar, but very different situations. Key words - 'pregnancy' and 'baby'. In an accidental pregnancy story, the heroine tells the hero about the pregnancy and they try to work it out. In Secret Baby, the hero finds out after the pregnancy.
My Favourite Secret Baby Books
Reiver's Moon by Jill Staunton
When Mitch witnesses a car accident and pulls over to help out, he didn't expect to find his ex-girlfriend unconscious behind the wheel ... or twin little boys in the back seat! How cute are they though? And how much are they just like him ...
In this book, Jill has created a believable back story in which Annella had loved a lie ... and that Mitch was the lie. As an undercover cop, he posed on her father's cattle station as a stockman to expose her father as a thief and arrest him. Betrayed, Annella wished to never see him again and Mitch respected by her wishes, relocating and moving on with his life. Until fate threw them back together. Annella's feelings were clearly defined, understandable, and minimally selfish.
Home for Christmas by Nora Roberts
In this story, wandering travel writer Jason returns to his hometown for Christmas for the first time since he left almost ten years ago where he encounters Faith, the girl he left behind. Needing to escape the tiny town and see the world, he didn't want to leave Faith waiting for him and therefore never called. But that's okay. She quickly married someone else and had a baby ... or so he thinks.
In this book, Faith had all the intention of telling Jason that she was pregnant after he left and sat waiting by the phone. But after months had passed and he hadn't called, heart broken, she married someone else in order to give her child a happy home, as Jason obviously didn't want her. Faith's motivations and feelings are understandable and even though she always could have called Jason herself, her pain and hurt outweighs her selfishness.
Zoe's Muster by Barbara Hannay
This book is the different type of secret baby, where the heroine of the story IS the secret baby. After discovering that her father cannot actually be her real father through blood typing (which Barbara has actually used accurately, unlike some), Zoe heads off to the Outback to meet her birth father. In this case, Zoe's mother had been committed to another man when she had an affair with the outback stockman and returned home to Brisbane pregnant and passed off the child as her husband's. But as the secret baby herself, this takes all the selfishness and unlikablity out of the heroine as it isn't her fault. And it creates a lot of tension when she arrives in the Outback and doesn't tell her father straight away who she is ... and the man who is actually her half-brother can't understand why she doesn't want to date him.
I hope that clears up some of the aspects behind the Secret Baby trope and provides some help if you're looking to write one of these stories.
Please remember, these are just my opinions and while I don't enjoy Secret Baby, many people do.
So thanks for stopping by,
Until next time,
Rachel is a writer of romantic fiction who enjoys discussing tropes. This blog thread will focus on identifying different tropes of romance fiction, as well as other crime, thriller, and fantasy tropes. Rachel will share her thoughts on each trope, discuss their vital elements, and discuss books featuring each trope.