Lady B: Such fond memories! I remember how His Grace used to set me on his knee and say, dearest Heliotrope, my little flower, you are the cleverest little miss in all the world! I often marvel that I was able to find an acceptable husband in Lord B, for nearly any gentleman would have been cast in the shade standing next to my dear father.
Gaelen: I feel the same, Lady B. I may be biased, but I’m quite convinced I have one of the best dads on the earth.
Lady B: As I have always said, our fathers have a vast influence on our future dealings with men. I firmly believe that for good or ill, a gel’s relationship with her sire imprints her mind with a pattern for how she will expect to be treated by gentlemen. She will either look for a man similar to her father—or purposely search for the opposite of him.
Gaelen: That must be why fathers in the romance novels that my fellow lady scribblers and I write are so important to the heroines. Heroines’ mothers are as rare as hen’s teeth in historical romance, but the genre is full of fathers of all kinds, good and bad, and I think it’s because the father-daughter relationship has a direct bearing on the heroine’s attitude toward men.
Lady B: Examples?
Gaelen: But of course! The divine Katharine Ashe has a very interesting father-daughter situation in her upcoming book, How To Be A Proper Lady (going on sale at the end of the month! Woot! See that yummy cover in the upper right corner of this page!) Isn’t that so, Ms. Ashe?
Katharine: Right you are! The heroine in this book has two fathers–one who raised her as his own to the age of ten, although he knew she was not his, and her birth father (now deceased) who took her from her genteel life at age ten and taught her how to be a sailor. She loved her adoptive father deeply, and her uncertain reunion with her aristocratic family is central to the story.
Lady B: That sounds most poignant, and adoptive fathers and father figures also deserve our love. Ah, here is Lady Miranda Neville! What has been your experience in writing about fathers and daughters?
Miranda: Well…it’s hard to find good parents in romance – there’s so much more conflict in bad family situations! That said, the sisters I wrote about, Diana and Minerva, heroines of The Dangerous Viscount and Confessions From An Arranged Marriage had a lovely dad, Mr. Montrose – sweet but eccentric. He loves machinery and keeps a weighing machine in the front hall of his house. Family and visitors are weighed when they arrive and their weights recorded in a book. Needless to say, his daughters do not appreciate this. But Mr. Montrose is very wise, despite his mad inventor exterior, and he knows exactly which guys his daughters should marry.
Gaelen: Psst! Miranda’s cover is on the right, dear Ballroomies!
Gaelen: Sorry, Albert, I didn’t see you there… Pardon, Lady B. You were saying?
Lady B: I was just about to ask Ms. Noble, haven’t you’ve written about a rather sad situation concerning a heroine’s father, I believe?
Kate: Yes, my book, The Summer Of You, had an interesting father-daughter dynamic. It’s not particularly happy though, because he has dementia, but it is central to the story.
Gaelen: I like having the heroine’s dad throw some sort of monkey wrench into the romance.
Lady B (with a blank look): What on earth…? A hand tool that has to do with primates?
Gaelen: Er, no, sorry - just some sort of twist or trouble.
Lady B: Then why didn’t you just say that, daft chit?
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Gaelen:As I started thinking about this subject, naturally, what came to mind was Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and the lovely father-daughter relationship between Lizzie and Mr. Bennet. (Another favorite father-daughter duo from books/tv was Michael Landon as ”Pa” with “Half Pint” Melissa Gilbert in Little House on the Prarie way back in the day.)
From my own writing, I realized that father-daughter dynamics have been really important throughout my Inferno Club series. The dads in those books run the gamut from hero to zero. In the first book, spy hero Max upon returning from the war chooses Daphne off a list of “perfect bride” profiles that he had his man of business develop for him. He settles on her and what Max wants, Max gets. (My Wicked Marquess) He treats his pursuit of his chosen lady as just another spy mission (he’s clearly been in the field too long, ha ha) and ends up manipulating, intimidating, bribing, and browbeating her father into agreeing to an arranged marriage. Daphne’s father is another scholarly type, well meaning, but meek. It’s left to Daphne to find the backbone to stand up to this domineering alpha male.
In My Dangerous Duke, Kate believes her father has been dead for years, but in truth, Captain Fox had to disappear because of sinister enemies who would’ve used her to get to him. So he faked his own death. Their reunion later in the book when she when she finds out he is alive was a very touching scene to write. The other heroines’ dads range from dysfunctional (the constant fault-finding of of Mara’s parents in My Irresistible Earl) all the way to dad-as-pal, like Emily’s father, the brawny woodsman in My Ruthless Prince.
The one thing that all the dad-and-daughter dynamics seems to have in my books is that the father seems to be the most responsible for turning the heroine into an spunky, independent-minded woman, whether through his supportiveness, fostering her confidence and inspiring her to be brave, or from neglect or poor parenting, by forcing her to fend for herself.
How do you feel that your dad influenced your relationship with men? – OR – Do you have a favorite memory about your dad that you would like to share?
I’ll go first and say that I think my awesome dad taught me to expect that a man should value me for myself and know when to be protective versus when to challenge me. This ties in to a favorite memory that I think shaped who I am today. My dad is, and always was an outdoor enthusiast. Well, I had just barely learned how to ride my bike as a little kid when he took me on a looong bike ride that turned into a grueling ordeal of endurance and grit!
I don’t think we were lost so much as Dad hadn’t realized that a maze of country roads that were easy for him were a serious marathon for a first/second grader. (Can’t remember exactly how old I was.) But I was not about to cry like a baby in front of my dad, so I just gritted my teeth and kept riding on.
I will never forget how my dad kept encouraging me and no matter how big the hills were in front of us, with nothing but woods for miles around, he taught me to treat it like an adventure. And he never showed any doubt that I could do it, so I just assumed that I could, too. I think there was also a promise of icecream involved, too. Which always helps. *g* Today, of course, he says, “I can’t believe I made you do that.” LOL, but I think it was good for me.
Here’s to Dads! What a Mom calls crazy or less than sensible, a dad calls fun. :)