To baby or not to baby: that is the question

Warning: this piece has spoilers about three contemporary romances: Sabrina Darby’s Entry Level Mistress, Joan Kilby’s Maybe this Time, and Sarah Mayberry’s Suddenly You

Last month, I read a contemporary romance by Sabrina Darby that, despite its slightly sexist title–Entry Level Mistress–I was enjoying. Then, in the last few chapters of the novel, a plot twist ruined the book for me. The heroine, a smart, independent 21 year old with a successful career as an artist ahead of her, gets pregnant by her billionaire 31 year old boyfriend and, with very little thought, decides to have the baby.

Now, before you scroll down to the comment section and share your passionately held views on abortion, please, for my sake, read a bit further.

Let me tell you a bit about the context of this particular surprise baby. In Entry Level Mistress, the protagonists, Emily and Daniel, are very careful–except for this one time–not to get pregnant. They talk about birth control, use condoms, and share with each other how important it is to both of them to succeed in their professional worlds. One tempestuous night, they make love without using protection, fight the next morning, and break up. Emily, when she finds out she is pregnant decides not only to have the baby but to do so without any support from Daniel. Once Daniel finds out she’s carrying his child, he woos her back to his side, and she realizes that being with him, becoming Mrs. Hartman, will make her the happiest woman alive.

Why did this so bother me?

For starters, I didn’t believe that Emily wouldn’t have given abortion some serious thought. There’s nothing in the novel that suggests she’s religious or has dreamed of having children. In Entry Level Mistress, Emily is about her goals, her profession as an artist, and her empowered sexual self. I found it almost impossible to believe that she would decide, at 21, to have a child without seriously considering other options, especially that of abortion.

Why do I mention abortion rather than adoption? Less than 20,000 American children are given up for adoption each year. Although no one can agree on a single number, it’s safe to say over a million abortions occur in the United States each year, a third of which are had by women 20-24. Emily lives in Massachusetts, a state with comparatively liberal abortion laws. It seems unlikely she wouldn’t have given serious reflection to the choices available to her.

Furthermore, the surprise baby did not seem intrinsic to the plot. Emily and Daniel had other believable barriers to their happy ending. The pregnancy felt awkwardly shoved in the story. And, once a part of the narrative, the unplanned baby became the focus of the story. As the book ends, there’s no sense that the rest of Emily’s life outside of Daniel and their child matters to her in a significant way. A book that began with the heroine as a (very) young, independent, self-determined woman ends with her as a wife and a mother above all else.

Now, I’m a wife and mother. I have four children and I didn’t work for several years when my children were young. And while I am pro-choice, I’d prefer abortion be safe and rare. Two of my children are Emily’s age and I confess it would depress me if either of them defined themselves solely, so early in their lives, as spouses and parents. I want choices for my children. I want them to have options, consider those options carefully, and choose the option most likely to bring them long term happiness.

Let me be clear, it’s not just Ms. Darby’s prose that irks me here. It’s contemporary romance in general. In the past year, I’ve read too many books where a young (or not so young) woman gets pregnant and never considers any choice but to have a child. Worse, the pregnancies are often unintended–the condom broke, the couple was carried away by passion, etc..–and yet the arrival of a baby is usually portrayed as a boon to the relationship. That too makes me crazy. Babies are hugely stressful for marriages. 90% of couples say the quality of their relationship declined when the first baby arrived. Many women suffer from post-partum depression. Here again, don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for having babies if you want them. I had four, despite having a terrible post-partum depression after I gave birth to my first child. Having children does make parents, in the long run, happier. What I’m irked about is that contemporary romance rarely shows having a baby as the challenge it is for many many couples.

So, you may ask, what do I want? No pregnancies in contemporary romance? No. I want pregnancies that, rather than portraying a baby as something akin to a human lottery ticket, are organic to the story in which they occur.

I want more novels like Joan Kilby’s Maybe This Time. In this contemp, a divorced couple has a fling when they discover they’re both on the same singles cruise. They wait a little too long for the ex-husband to don a condom and the ex-wife gets pregnant. She wants the baby; initially, he does not. Her pregnancy is hard on her–she’s working full-time as a nurse–and rather than binding her to her baby’s father, the stress she feels pushes them farther apart. It’s not until the heroine has the baby and then gets a severe case of the baby blues, that the hero, worried something dire might happen, begins to insert himself into the lives of ex-wife and his child. Everything about this book felt real to me including its joyful ending.

I want more books like Sarah Mayberry’s Suddenly You. In that book, one of my favorite romance from 2012, the heroine Pippa gets pregnant and the father of the child wants nothing to do with her or the baby. Pippa adores her daughter Alice but being a financially strapped single mother is hard. Between working, trying to study, and caring for Alice, there’s little room in Pippa’s life for fun and romance. When she does begin seeing a man she fancies, Harry, he is at first completely uninterested in Alice, and, in fact, sees her as a reason not to get emotionally involved with Pippa. When Harry and Pippa do become lovers, Alice is often an anti-aphrodisiac. In Suddenly You, when Harry and Pippa think about their future together, both give a great deal of thought to what it would mean to raise a child together.

I want more books like Jennifer Lohmann’s The First Move where adoption is portrayed as a reasonable alternative for a young mother and where the issues around not having and not keeping a baby are explored with sensitivity.

I want books where the protagonists explore all the options–pregnancy, adoption, the morning after pill, and abortion–carefully and openly. Many say that to do so would doom a romance novel. I don’t believe that.

In 2009, Dear Author ran a poll asking if abortion was an acceptable choice for a romance heroine. 70% of the respondents said yes. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that 59% of American women described themselves as pro-choice. I believe if an author wrote a contemporary romance where a pregnant heroine decided against having a child and that decision was part of her happy ever after many romance readers would welcome such a story. After all, there are thousands of romances that show heroines having babies. There are none, that I’m aware of, that show a heroine making a different choice, one that women all over are familiar with. Those readers, the ones that want to see the choice they or others they know have made not to have a child, are ready for a romance that reflects their reality.

In 2002, country music superstar Tim McGraw released a song called “Red Rag Top.” The song went to #5 on the country charts and #40 on the Billboard Top 100. In it, Mr. McGraw tells of a pair of young lovers (he was 20, she was 18) who got pregnant. Mr. McGraw sings: “I was out of a job and she was in school/And life was fast and the world was cruel/We were young and wild/We decided not to have a child.” If country music, often considered the province of the conservative side of America, can depict ending a pregnancy, why can’t a romance?

Dabney AAR



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50 Responses to To baby or not to baby: that is the question

  1. JG says:

    I think the problem here is with those 30% for whom abortion is not an acceptable choice.

    It’s safe to say they would not buy a book where the heroine makes (or maybe even seriously considers) an abortion, and which publisher would throw away such a large part of the potential customer base when it’s so easy to avoid it?

    Granted, it’s important to explore issues like this, but usually that’s expected to happen in “real” books and not those of the mass-produced entertainment variety.

    That’s why almost all romance-novels are so bland and safe.

  2. AARJenna says:

    This is a great topic. I personally don’t tend to like books that involve heroes and/or heroines with young children, babies or who are pregnant. This is because I know the reality of having children, and I’m never able to manage to suspend my disbelief enough to belief that these parents can truly have some passionate love story. Either the kids are conveniently absent when the romance needs to happen (I’m constantly thinking “who is taking care of that child while Mr. and Missy are busy with their amorous adventures?”) or the hero and heroine have more energy to devote to each other than I can remember having during the entirety of my kids’ infancies and toddler-hoods. My husband and I waited for several years after marriage to have kids because we wanted time to be a couple before we were a family, and that’s the advice I’m passing along to my own children. Not that different strokes aren’t right for other people!! But for me to truly enjoy what is fundamentally a love story between a man and a woman (or a man and a man or woman and a woman), I just can’t have that kid factor if I want to enjoy it fully.

    That said, I haven’t read the books discussed here. But it seems like that first book – Entry Level Mistress – suffers from fundamental problems with the structure and storytelling above and beyond the issues with the sudden pregnancy. The heroine (as described) in deciding to keep the baby, is acting hugely out of character, and that is a crime of writing regardless of moral and/or political stances.

  3. BJW says:

    THANK YOU for stating my feelings so well! I am the mother of three daughters, two of whom chose abortion rather than giving birth to unwanted babies when they were very young. My daughters were not married, nor did they want to marry the men who got them pregnant. They went on with their lives, eventually marrying wonderful men and became mothers when they chose to do so. This is what happens in 2013 and I wish romance novels reflected it.

  4. mari says:


    I would not put too much stake in the DA poll. That audience skews liberal left and I don’t believe is reflective of tbe entire romamce community.

    My argument is not about real women, it is about characters in a romance book. For a character in a contemporary romance book to be portrayed as not religous, vaguely liberal ( if politics are mentioned at all) to be all of a sudden, into the baby thing, is ludicrous. It all goes back to proper character development. Know the character, develop the character and write what the character would do, not what YOU want the character to do or THINK the character should do in order to appease certain constittuencies.

    Here is something else too. It is quite true many Amrericans are passionatly pro-life. HOWEVER. I do not believe this means they would not read a book wherein the heroine had an abortion. It would depend on how the abortion was portrayed. If it is true, babies are idealized, then a passionatly pro-choice author could run the risk of idealizing abortion as well. Then the story becomes about propaganda and NOT about characters, and well, story.

    I used to believe I would never read a book, wherein the heroine was NOT a virgin. I used to believe I could not enjoy a book wheerein the hero was beta, in everyway. I have come to the conclusion, its not WHAT the author is writing about, its all in the HOW. Write what is best for the story, and character, all in service to the Romance, with every tool and craft you have available. I honestly believe a good writer could do this.

    • I agree. I think there are many brilliantly talented romance authors out there that could write a love story where an abortion was part of a couple’s HEA. I’m hoping that since publishers tend to see it as a no-go zone, that someone self-pubbing will take on the challenge.

    • Also, even if the poll at DearAuthor is skewed by its readership, I suspect that one would still be able to find a majority of readers under 50 who would feel the same way.

      • AAR Lynn says:

        I have a feeling that’s true, though I do wonder what it would look like regionally. Here in the DC area, I think a pretty sizable majority of folks in the 25-40 age category (my peer group and the folks I know the best) would definitely feel that way. However, when I go back home to visit friends and family an area that is probably a little more moderate to slightly conservative, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the numbers move closer to 50-50 among that same age group.

  5. maggie b. says:

    Kathryn Shay has two novels that deal with abortion. One is Ties That Bind and I believe the other is On the Line. In one the heroine has an abortion as a college student, in Ties a woman has an abortion without talking to her husband and the book deals with the aftermath of that. I don’t want my books to always deal with the issue of pregnancy but I think abortion should at least be discussed as an option in an unplanned pregnancy. It drives me crazy when couples won’t even talk about it. LaVryle Spencer shows a long road to an HEA for a couple with an unplanned pregnancy in Seperate Beds. In this book the hero does mentiona abortion as an option. It also shows how having the baby doesn’t make anyone really happy – except the grandparents. :-) In many cases as they watched their children derail their lives even that wouldn’t be true.

  6. Pyoelii says:

    For me personally abortion is not an option. But I totally understand that for some it could be the most reasonable solution when an unwanted pregnancy ensues. What I don’t get is how in an era where the Plan B pill is available and effective I haven’t found any book where the heroine even thinks about using it especially when unsafe sex has occurred. I know Plan B has to be used right away but surely when the couple really don’t want to have a baby and are aware that this is a possibility that they could use this. I especially wish that medical romances where unplanned pregnancies as a plot occur too often that the authors would introduce this in the plot so as not to make their nurse and or doctor characters look too dumb about their predicament.

  7. Joane says:

    I do agree wholeheartedly with this article. I would like at least to see adoption or abortion as a choice, even for a moment. I dislike the same old line ‘abortion was not even an option for her’. Why not?
    Perhaps romance writers or editors think the romance reader is very conservative and traditional, and with right-wing ideas or, moreover, that they cannnot connect with a heroine with different ideas. But considering the million of books who are erotica and are sold, well, I think the readers are more open-minded that what those writers or editors think. Even if they are against abortion, I think they could accept the heroine chosing something different.
    Anyone I’m not very fond of children in romance books. Being a mother, I find them very unrealistic.
    I think we romance readers are ready for more realistic romances. In contemporary and in historical.

  8. Tory says:



















































    Sorry, the states don’t show up – but these are the percentages of countries in states WITHOUT a provider for abortion. So while it is still available many states have conditions. Also there is no one to do it. It is not as easy as it once was.

    The following abortion facts drawn from annual statistics for abortion in the United States – as reported by the Guttmacher Institute in May 2006 – are helpful in understanding the basis of the pro-life pro-choice debate:

    1. Unintended pregnancies account for almost half of all pregnancies.

    2. Four out of ten unintended pregnancies end in abortion.

    3. Out of the total number of pregnancies, 24% end in abortion.

    4. For women ages 15-44, two out of every hundred have an abortion.
    Of these, 48% have had one or more abortions previously.

    5. For women choosing abortion, 52% are under 25.
    Teenagers account for 19%, and women 20-24 account for 33%.

    6. Black women are almost four times as likely to have an abortion as white women.
    For Latino women, the number is 2.5 times.

    7. Women who have never been married account for 2/3rds of all abortions.

    8. The majority of women who choose abortions have already given birth.
    Mothers who have had one or more children comprise over 60% of all abortions

  9. pamelia says:

    I think a good part of this has to do with the traditional HEA paradigm wherein the heroine and hero wind up married with a passel o’ kids. If the baby is the hero’s then an abortion would jeopardize the mighty HEA picture. If the baby is not the hero’s… well that’s a whole other matter.
    It’s probably difficult for many writers (and readers) to imagine terminating a pregnancy between the hero and heroine — after all, they are “meant to be” so their kids are also “meant to be”.
    I also wish there were more (ANY?) references to Plan B. I wish that abortion as an option (even if not followed through) was discussed in more books.
    It’s a really big and really uncomfortable subject (even for pro-choice women like me) and if an actual abortion happened in a romance novel it would be difficult to keep it and it’s fallout from overwhelming a lot of the book. I would love to see a skilled author take it on, but I think the required emotional weight would be difficult to balance. I don’t know that I could get vested in a character who had an abortion and didn’t feel conflicted and agonized by the decision.
    Still, I’ve seen many other difficult issues handled with skill by authors and have loved books that I once believed I could never get behind, so I’m certain someone, someday is going to pull this one off.

    • Yulie says:

      I also wish there were more (ANY?) references to Plan B.

      I can think of a couple of romances in which this comes up: Suzanne Brockmann’s Gone Too Far and Pamela Clare’s Unlawful Contact. But neither heroine ends up actually taking the pill.

      I guess authors feel that they have it covered (ha) because they make sure to refer to condom use in the love scenes. Condoms are not 100% effective, though, for preventing STIs or pregnancy, and I’d love to see that acknowledged.

  10. Agreed.

    I’m not a fan of smooth resolutions to big problems. (Although I’m not a fan of the opposite either, dramatic resolutions to very minor problems.) I think the unplanned pregnancy/secret baby/baby keeps us together plots are weak. Although I want certain parts of my romance reading to be fantastical, I like novels to be grounded in believable character motivations. The baby plots force hands and people often make decisions that seem out of character, as you described in the Mistress book.

    I enjoy messy as well, and plan to look up Maybe This Time.

  11. Jenna says:

    I don’t believe that most readers would be ok with the heroine having an abortion due to being too young or wanting to focus on her career. After reading this article I was curious about polling on the subject and hopped over to wikipedia (
    I thought the interesting and relevant part of the polling was that 55% of women believe abortions should be legal and 40% believe it should be illegal. That rate is generally consistent through age groups as well. I think publishers would see that as 40% of readers not wanting to read a romance with an abortion versus 100% willing to read a book without a heroine who has had an abortion. Additionally a poll taken in 2003 says that only 35% of people think that abortion should be legal “When the woman or family cannot afford to raise the child”. I was actually pretty surprised at this polling. I think a poll that says “Should abortion be legal” or “Would you read a romance where the heroine had an abortion are too vague.” I think the specific question of “would you be ok with a heroine who had an abortion because of rape” or “would you read an abortion where the heroine aborted her baby due to her career” would give a much more accurate view of where readers stand on having this issue in a book.
    All that being said I couldn’t agree more with the second half of your article. There are very few things that take me completely out of a story as much as babies that never cry and kids that are perfect. My first baby had colic and honest to God I thought I was going to lose my mind and as much as I love my kids they can drive me nuts. I love stories with a more realistic approach to kids and family. Child rearing is hard and can be very hard on relationships.

    • maggie b. says:

      One reason that I love Hunter’s Moon by Karen Robbards is the far from perfect children. Molly is a young woman raising her siblings. She is doing a good job but surprise! the kids still aren’t perfect. One of them is on the edge of being a deliquent, a couple of them struggle in school. This is what the families around me look like – not many delinquents but hard work keeping them from going down that path.

    • MD says:

      I think there is also a difference between “I believe abortion should be legal” and “I think it is the right choice/I will find such heroine acceptable”.

      I believe that abortion is morally wrong except in cases of rape or danger to mother’s health. But I also believe that it should be legal, because banning it does more harm than good. So, it would come down to, could I like the heroine who had an abortion? I would want her to be at least seriously regretful/sad over it, and have it portrayed as something that she has to deal with, rather than a “normal” thing. I certainly would not care for the heroine who considers an abortion as a “fix” after a night of casual sex (though I agree, the fact that they never talk about “Plan B” is just silly – they should).

      Chances are, publishers are making a calculation that a significant proportion of those 55% people who think that abortion should be legal are like me, and so are not wanting to touch the difficult subject.

  12. Yulie says:

    In Tammara Webber’s Between the Lines books, there are several characters who faced unplanned pregnancies at a very young age, and dealt with them differently – in one case it’s a closed adoption, another opted for single parenthood, and one character had an abortion. In order not to spoiler the books for those who haven’t yet read them but might want to, I won’t reveal here who made which choice, but I will say that it’s not necessarily the ones you’d expect beforehand. While none of these decisions play out within the books themselves, the aftermath is important to the characters and their relationships. I appreciated Webber exploring different choices and their effects over time.

  13. bungluna says:

    I often feel like we’re going backwards in time as women on this subject. I personally dislike the ease with which heroines disdain any support from the father of a child towards the upkeep of him/her. As if subjecting your child to financial and/or emotional deprivation was a heroic thing when so many women before us fought for these rights. I also dislike the ease of handling of children in romances. Kids are hard work; they don’t conveniently disappear when you want to have sexy times and child care is often difficult to obtain. I would like to see more realistic depictions of choices made while in this situation; that would make me believe in the characters and their HEA more. I think this farcical depiction of kids is what makes me often avoid any romance with a secret or no-to-secret baby plot. I remember all too well what it’s like to have babies in the house!

    The one pet peeve not mentioned here is the heroine/hero who doesn’t want kids and is miraculously convinced to the parent side by an accidental rugrat. As if not wanting to be a parent was an unforgivable character flaw. Not all people are meant to be parents, and forcing a baby on them is a disaster in the making imo. I always end up doubting the legitimacy of the HEA in such stories.

  14. Janet W says:

    I’d like to see it incorporated into books but I hold out no hope. When maybe-I-had-a-birth-control-failure on the part of the characters doesn’t lead immediately to the characters finding the nearest pharmacy, I see reality and romance as being on different sides of the fence. It’s ridiculous, imo, and if I read an author who doesn’t even mention that option as being a bit of a spinner of fairy tales. I’m a believer in safe and rare but sometimes accidents happen and for people not to even talk about an immediate solution boggles my mind.

  15. Carrie says:

    I don’t generally like the unexpected baby trope anyway and I personally wouldn’t be at all interested in a book where the heroine chose an abortion. Not because I think badly of women for choosing that option when necessary, but it’s a sad choice for me and it would always taint the story. I want as unqualified an HEA as possible, and for me, aborting a child for career reasons would forever cloud the HEA. That not a happy ending, especially in the days of morning after pills.

    I agree with another poster who wonders why Plan B aren’t shown as a viable option for broken condoms and unprotected sex. I can’t imagine a woman not knowing about it or not having access to a store close enough to get it in the required time period. Walmarts are open all night in most areas.

    There are also other means of birth control that are more successful than condoms, plus there are sterilization procedures for when your family is finished. These are all better options than abortion as a means of birth control. And lastly, I’m sad adoption isn’t an option for more women since there are so many waiting parents.

    As far as babies always bringing people together, I realize babies can make life harder. I’ve had 6 pregnancies, buried one and raised 5. The stress doesn’t stop when they pass toddler-hood, either. Teens and young adults are probably even harder on a marriage at times. I would like to see these issues dealt with more realistically in romances. Including pregnancy! I’m sorry, but I didn’t look “beautiful” when I was pregnant. I resembled a beached whale and I was somewhat cranky. My husband was a saint to put up with me– all 6 times!

  16. Caz says:

    I have to agree with what Jenna says upthread about her reasons for not being a fan of the inclusion of children/pregnancies in romance novels. I love my two girls dearly, but being a parent is a tough job, especially when they’re young and you’re always tired and tempers are easily frazzled. Even now, more than a decade later, I’m still always tired and frazzled, but probably for different reasons!
    I want romance in a romance novel, I read them for escapism, and it’s hard for that to happen with kids around or on the way.

    As to the issue of abortion and whether it’ll ever appear in a romance novel, it’s a tricky one. I agree with whoever said that the real issue was that the book completely jumped the shark in terms of the characterisation of the heroine, and therefore with Dabney about the fact that it would have made sense for there to have been at least a discussion about the possibility of the morning after pill or an abortion, whether either of those options was taken or not.

    But I do think that the emotional impact of an abortion is possibly a very difficult issue to address well within the normal page count of the average romantic novel, as well as keeping within the boundaries of a romance. But I certainly don’t think that precludes the topic being discussed if it’s in keeping with the characterisation as certainly seems to be the case with the book Dabney is talking about.

    I can see why publishers would want to steer clear of such an issue, especially given that I imagine their largest market is the US and it’s such a contentious issue over there. It’s not the same in the UK, fortunately, as the majority seems to be in favour of the woman’s right to choose.

    • Mary says:

      I can see an author introducing the abortion of a friend of the hero or heroine working better than the main characters. Most of us know someone who has had an abortion and tiptoeing around the issue is just as bad as an “in your face” type scenario. I am in the pro-choice camp that believes we should do all we can to prevent unplanned pregnancies in the first place. So maybe a character who is fighting to get comprehensive sex education in the school curriculum because so many of her friends ended up pregnant as teens…???

      • CarolineAAR says:

        This is how gay characterss entered romance – as friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. So maybe a secondary protagonist choosing abortion would start acclimating readers?

      • erika says:

        One thing I really dislike is an author using romance to preach about a subject and introducing abortion this way would be as annoying a the gay best friend stereotype seen even in historical romance.

        • Mary says:

          I think there is a difference in preaching and in portraying society as it is. Authentic stories about modern women are going to have unplanned pregnancies that do not end in having the child or adoption. I agree that if it is done in an “in your face” type way, it will fall flat. But keeping the issue entirely out of the genre is just as disingenuous. Surely there is a middle road.

          • erika says:

            I’m not saying it should never be written however I wouldnt be buying a romance where a heroine had an abortion just like I wouldn’t read a romance where the heroine experienced postpartum depression and kills her baby.
            So for me I like romance to reflect more rose colored fantasy than authentic realism.

          • Mary says:

            …and that is certainly your right. There are certain subjects that do not work for each of us. I think most readers of romance like to identify with the heroine. If she did have an abortion, that would automatically interfere with your respect for the heroine. It would not necessarily interfere with mine. It really depends on how it was handled.

  17. erika says:

    I would never read a romance where the heroine had an abortion. That choice is not acceptable when there is adoption available.
    I can believe a twenty something heroine who’s career minded changing her mind about her career path and becoming a mother. Why? Because one how many sexy billionaires are there in real life and two its fiction so if the prose is compelling enough I can suspend reality and go with the story. And in real life women change their minds often.
    Also a guy singing about convincing his girfriend to have an abortion is a loser who’s imo relieved he desn’t have to get 3 jobs to pay child support.

  18. Dabney AAR says:

    Hmmmm…. It’s nice to see all the different perspectives on this issue so supportively put forth. I’ve read all that’s been written.

    None of it makes me think there isn’t a market for novels that encompass abortion. Clearly those books wouldn’t be for all and that’s fine. I don’t enjoy paranormal romance, but I’m just one reader. There are many other readers who do.

    What I like about his thread is the willingness of AAR readers to say “This works or doesn’t work for me.” Nowhere have I read, “I don’t want to see that stuff published.”

    It’s lovely to see that, even around what is considered a hot button topic, AAR readers have responded with respect and civility.

    So, you guys rock, is what I really want to say!

  19. Ridley says:

    I would pay a king’s ransom for a romance novel where a heroine gets an abortion because she meant it when she said she never wanted children. Or, in the right authorial hands, a romance where the heroine aborts a very wanted child due to health reasons, and the couple deals with that fallout.

    At the very least, I wish I could find a romance where the decision to have children/keep a pregnancy is treated like the major, life-altering, decision it is and not as a half-chapter-long blip.

    • Caz says:

      @ Ridley – I just wanted to echo what you’ve said about the life-changing impact of such a decision. I’m sure a skilled author could make it work given a long enough word count.

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  21. Emily A. says:

    I may seem idealistic, but why put the heroine in that position at all?
    I consider romance to be a genre that deals in ideals so why not let the young independent woman always use protection and never get pregnant?
    I don’t understand why put the heroine through pregnancy? Not everyone is lucky, but there are women who manage not to get pregnant before they’re ready. Why put them through that? There’s something about young women and a push to have babies that I don’t understand.
    On the other hand, he’s a billionaire so maybe they can hire a nanny and she can be an artist.

  22. Gayathri says:


    In the case of this specific book, I wonder why the h/h did not choose simpler options like a morning after pill – easily available over the counter. Especially as they know that they had unprotected sex and ended up breaking up as well. So it almost seems like the author wanted a plot point and ended up introducing one which was not in consonance with the way the character had been developed so far.

    In general, I am not in either pro/anti abortion. I feel each couple must take the decision for themselves.

    • willaful says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen the morning after pill seriously considered in a romance. Generally it’s treated as abortion’s nasty little brother. Both abortion and the morning after pill are increasingly used as shorthand for Good or Evil in romances. A Good person would never ever even consider them.

      • Carrie says:

        “abortion’s nasty little brother’

        That’s sad because it isn’t the same thing as the “abortion pill” but I think the general public still gets that confused. Basically, if you’re already pregnant the morning after pill isn’t likely to change that. To me, the morning after pill should be treated in romance as the back-up plan to condom failure or a lapse in judgement. ;-)

        Abortion shouldn’t be used as the litmus test for “good” and “evil.” Even though I wouldn’t be interested in romances dealing with abortions, it’s not because I think the people are evil. It’s just that abortions make me sad and I don’t want to be sad! Personal preference in reading material.

        Like several other people have stated on this comment thread, I simply wish pregnancy wasn’t introduced so often in romances. Even though I’m a mom of five who quit her career to stay home, I get sick of the career woman heroine who suddenly changes her life and focus once she’s pregnant. I didn’t know I’d get to stay home, but I knew I wanted children and talked about that with my future husband while we dated. Getting pregnant right away was completely “in character” for me, so was giving up my career. I don’t expect that of my own daughters or of other people though.

      • Gayathri says:

        WOW – I never knew that the morning after pill is considered as a “nasty little brother”. It would really help if pregnancy is treated a little more realistically in romance. There are quite a few authors that throw this in just to add some issue into the book. While I am very tolerant of this in historicals, I find it hard to take in contemp romances. Also I take into consideration the location as well. What decisions / situations in romance is Ok for Middle East will not relevant for Massachusetts or for London.

  23. lor says:

    An old Jayne Ann Krentz (writing as Stephanie James) called Serpent in Paradise (1983) has the heroine considering both abortion and adoption when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant.

    The heroine of another very, very old Harlequin (I think it must be late 60s/early 70s) had an abortion – in her case it was because she contracted german measles very early in the pregnancy. I have no idea of the title of the book or the author.

    As for career women changing their minds – my sister married a divorced father of two in her mid-thirties; they decided not to have any children together. Several years later they had a birth control failure and she became pregnant. She lost the baby just at the end of the third month but by then she had made the decision that she did want a child after all. She went on to have one child. So I have no problem accepting a career woman making the decision to have her baby.

    My daughter was 32 when she became pregnant. When she announced it to her fellow Ph.D. classmates, many of them were astounded. They thought that because she was so “old” she didn’t want to have children. In reality, she had been panting to have a baby since she was 18! She just waited until she’d nearly completed her education, had a great deal of work experience, and was married.

    So a woman’s real wishes and dreams may not be apparent to others – although I have certainly read authors who have thrown me for a loop over a character’s actions near the end of a novel.

  24. Merit says:

    Thank you for an intelligent discussion of a difficult issue.

  25. Michelle Davis says:

    So – I want to say this respectfully. I have no problem with a character not having to give much thought as to whether or not to have an abortion. For some people, life is the driving factor in the decision making process of abortion. If you have an abortion – you kill a living being in your womb. It is that simple and that complicated. Yes, it is difficult to face an unexpected pregnancy – but my “rights” as a human being/woman do not preclude the rights of a living being – albeit one in the womb. I saw a bumper-sticker this week that really struck me – it said “Protect the Baby Humans”. I am often amazed at the outrage people have when an animal is abused or killed – and yet those same folks think nothing of abortion. Because it is my “right” doesn’t make it right. I am not backward, uneducated or ignorant as a woman because of this opinion. I just don’t think the world always revolves around me and what I want in life. Sometimes life takes us down unexpected paths that if we have the courage to follow – often lead to the sweetest rewards. In the case of rape, incest or a situation where there isn’t the ability or the finances to raise a child – there are certainly factors to be considered in favor of abortion. I also think adoption is a great option in these cases. I know a lot of people who would love to be able to adopt and often face years of waiting to be able to adopt a child.

    I have raised a child for 18 years on my own – his father left the week he was born. I was often asked in the early days if I regretted having the baby and would I change that decision if I could. I can honestly say – absolutely not! One of the greatest blessings in my life was having my son. I can’t bear to think of a world without this funny, sweet young man in it. Was it hard at times? Yes – in fact – often! Did I have to put some of my dreams on hold – yes again. But that was a very small price to pay to have the privilege of raising him. The benefits far out-weighed any burden.

    As for how this plays in a romance novel – while I can understand presenting both points of view and have read many books that oppose my view – I am personally turned off by someone who would choose abortion. Particularly someone who is in their 20′s-30′s. Well past the teenager in trouble stage. That isn’t to say that I would never read that author again – I just wouldn’t care for that storyline in a book. I am smart enough to know that there are many arguments on this subject – but I also do not feel the need to apologize for my point of view as a woman and a mother.

    • willaful says:

      Repsectfully — many people disagree with you, and that’s why we believe other points of view should be represented in romance.

      I don’t know the statistics, but I would guess that the vast majority of survivors of rape/incest disagree pretty strongly in regard to pregnancy as a “sweet reward.”

      • Michelle Davis says:

        I believe you missed part of my comment – in fact the very sentence following the comment on sweet rewards. Here it is since you didn’t seem to see it:

        In the case of rape, incest or a situation where there isn’t the ability or the finances to raise a child – there are certainly factors to be considered in favor of abortion.

        I said that having a child is a sweet reward – certainly not rape or incest. I apologize if the implication was otherwise in your opinion. The hope is that all of my comments would be viewed in context.

  26. FBG says:

    Abortion is a deal breaker for me. If I had any indication this was a part of the book’s plot, I would completely avoid it. What’s more, frankly, I’d avoid the author in future because probably only the most envelope-pushing, agenda-having authors would include it, and I don’t read propaganda. I gave up on Brockmann for this reason.

    • Michelle says:

      I agree with you about Suzanne Brockman – I gave up on her too, because to me, she really went past a storyline and straight to a very obvious agenda.

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