If You Like … Stories with Good Mothers
Robin had a great piece about the prevalence of bad mothers in the romance genre, but there are romances that celebrate the influence of great mothers. The first that comes to mind for me is Violet Bridgerton, the grand dame of the Bridgerton series penned by Julia Quinn.
Another famous and well loved mother is Helena, the Comtesse d’Lisle. Helena is the mother Sylvester Sebastian, Devil Cynster, in Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens. Famously or infamously, Devil’s father cheats on Helena and presents her with a bastard (Richard, aka Scandal, story is Scandal’s Bride) to raise which she does with aplomb. Helena has her own story in The Promise in a Kiss (Cynster Novels).
For Mother’s Day, what better way to celebrate that recommending books that feature great mothers.
Great mothers: Sherwood Smith has one in Once a Princess (Sasharia En Garde) and Twice a Prince (Sasharia En Garde).
She’s a former hippie chick from our world who fell in love with the ruling prince of a magical kingdom and had to flee when his place was usurped. Her husband never made it back to our earth, so she and her daughter have always lived in fear of being kidnapped back.
When her grown-up daughter is tricked into returning there, the mother uses everything she has, wiles, brains, fitness, ideas to reach her daughter and help right the wrongs done by the ursurper.
Nora Roberts’ book Birthright has good mothers. Of course, as an adoptive mother, I found it hard to read,but enjoyed it once I got into it.
Have you ever noticed the way Disney treats mothers in their full-length cartoons? Aside from the Queen in Sleeping Beauty, our heroine’s mother is either dead, or in Bambi’s (hero’s) case, dies – a scene which traumatizes me to this very day, and they are quite often raised by the villain of the piece, the wicked step-mother…Snow White and Cinderella are good examples. Of course many of these stories are derived from fairy tales, but think…The Little Mermaid – dead mom. Bambi – dead mom. Cinderella – dead mom. Beauty and the Beast – dead mom. Snow White – dead mom. Sleeping Beauty – raised by surrogate mothers, the Three Good Fairies and her hero, Prince Phillip – dead mom. Jasmine in Aladdin – dead mom. Peter Pan – left his mom behind. Tarzan – orphan. Mowgli in The Jungle Book – parent-less. Mulan – I think she had a mother. The Lion King – dead dad, evil uncle.
I think the plot device is useful – our young hero or heroine has to overcome challenges, the most dramatic and traumatic being the death of a loving parent – in most fairy tales that seems to mean the death of a mother and the introduction of the evil step-mother.
I think my favorite literary mother is Marmee in Little Women.
Lisa Kleypas wrote about Lily, the mother of an illegitimate child, in her historical romance Then Came You.
For many reasons Lily stayed with me even though the book itself wasn’t amoung my all time favorite Kleypas stories. Her fears for her child’s safety and the depth of her love for that child was so well written that she (the character) is a stil the standout Mother for me.
And yeah, oh yeah, Quinn’s Violet Bridgerton. Brilliant writing.
I was a total blank until I came up with LÃ©onie in Devil’s Cub. Of course we get to contrast her with Mary’s mother who is not a good mother at all.
I’m a big fan of Sylvester’s mom in Heyer’s Sylvester: or, the Wicked Uncle. She loves Sylvester so much, but she also tells him some hard truths about himself when he needs to hear them. I love that!
@Julia Rachel Barrett: The Disney to Mother relationship has been examined a lot recently. Look at the new movie, The Princess and the Frog. Tiana’s father dies, but her mother is very much alive – and one of the sweetest women in all of Louisiana to boot. :)
YA has the same issue of horrible parents. It would be interesting to see the parallels between YA and Romance parent wise…
Anyway, Impossible by Nancy Werlin shows the best, most supportive step-parents I’ve seen in ages in any genre. A little unbelievable, but very appreciated. :)
Oh, I loved that romance novel which has great and quirky parents (the mother was six foot tall and the father was about five foot and five inches tall). Their warmth and affection for each other reeked off the page. It was the mother who left a bigger impression on me. Very warm and supportive.
I think they were the hero’s parents? I guess that because when the hero misbehaved, the mother basically gave a good swift kick up his bottom.
I wish I could remember which book this was. A contemporary romance (possibly category?), published not long ago. Last two or three years?
Annabelle’s mother in Lisa Kleypas’ “Secrets of a Summer Night” has a secret affair with the villain of the story to keep a roof over her & her children’s heads. Then she negotiates a marriage settlement for her daughter with the hero in order to protect her. Doesn’t sound that good the way I wrote it, but she was a good Mom. The hero had a good mother in that book, too.
Tess in Kinsale’s The Shadow and the Star, who adopted Samuel, was a wonderful mother.
I love the way Shelly Laurenston/ G.A. Aiken writes the parents in her books. They might not always get along great, but you know deep down they love eachother. And they are super funny.
I second Rose Lerner’s suggestion of the Duchess in Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle. She’s sweet and loving, but not at all wishy-washy.
Another favorite mother is Cordelia Vorkosigan, Miles Vorkosigan’s mother. I think she rises to the challenge of parenting Miles beautifully, and as anyone who has read any of those books knows, having Miles as a son would be a challenge not for the faint of heart!
In children’s lit and stories it is common to have the good parent absent, otherwise the good parent would fix the problem for the child character. Not all children’s books get rid of the loving parent(The Little House books have the good parent) but many adventures type stories would end if the good parent was there. A Series of Unfortunate Events, Walter Farley’s Black Stallion…the Narnia books.
I love romance with good mothers!
How about Helen, in Elizabeth Hoyt’s “To Beguile a Beast” (the book that got me hooked on Elizabeth Hoyt’s work and still my favorite of hers).
Liria Valencia in Carla Kelly’s “One Good Turn.” Or Roxanna Drew in “Mrs Drew Plays Her Hand.”
Dorothy L. Sayers’ Dowager Duchess of Denver in the Lord Peter Wimsey books is one of my favorite literary mothers. Her letter in the first part of Busman’s Honeymoon is SO much fun.
Oh I have to second the Shelly Laurenston mothers – though some of the heroine’s mothers are a bit psychotic they are entertaining. The bear heroes mum in the last one was great, hilarious in riding herd on her (literally) large family.
Also the Chase mum in Lauren Dane’s Samhain series rocked.
@Janine: I was just about to suggest her when I saw your post. :)
Frederica, in Georgette Heyer’s book of the same name, although technically not a mother, was a very good one.
Nora Roberts does some awesome moms – good moms and bad moms. Every kinda mom there is.
One of my fave good moms is actually in a short story by Sunny – Chinatown in the anthology The Hard Stuff. The heroine’s mom is awesome.
John – I’ve always found it interesting how fairy tales very often kill off the loving parent/s. Even Rapunzel was given to the evil witch by her own mother in exchange for rapun or rapinni, or whatever the green was that her mother craved during pregnancy.
It’s always intrigued me that Disney so successfully markets this to children and families.
I recently finished Nora Roberts’ Sweet Revenge (1988). The focus is on Addy’s mom, Phoebe, who risks everything to get Addy out of a fictional middle eastern country. In many respects, Phoebe is not particularly strong, but her choices are made out of love for her daughter. However, it was Philip’s mom who I loved for being cheerful, loving, and a bit of a free spirit in the face of being a single parent. Two great moms in one book.
@Phyl: I always wondered if Sweet Revenge was partly inspired by the story of Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth and Prince Aly Khan, whom she eventually divorced and then fought with over the custody of their daughter, Princess Yasmin. Does anyone know for sure?
@Julia Rachel Barrett:
Fairy tales are often like that. I’ve read a lot online about their origins and such, mostly because I want to write some retellings if I ever get a writing career. The main aspect is, I think, that fairy tales are meant to be lessons. While part of the lesson is the rest of the tale, many tales involve children or people being mislead, often at the demise or absence of a good parental figure. Many of these fairy tales involving princesses for instance involve the character being without a Mother. Not a father, but a mother. And these same princesses end up doing things that aren’t always good in society – such as the princess in the original Princess and the Frog fairy tale refusing to go through with a promise. These also probably show some level of the treatment of women in the time period; important, but better left unnoticed. There are probably a lot more reasons for this – I mean, in the original tale of Beauty and the Beast, Belle has a mother and siblings – so the fairy tales may have changed due to the time period – even then.
But then again…in the original Sleeping Beauty, the Prince has a stepmother that’s really a troll that wants to eat Briar Rose and her two children…Really, it’s hard to tell exactly, but it’s an interesting relationship that connects to the relationship between mothers and romance in much the same way.
@Maili: Excellent question, Maili. I don’t know and if there’s a reference in the book I missed it. I had forgotten about Rita Hayworth and now I’m wondering, too!
I’ve always had a soft spot for Chrystabel Ashcroft in Lauren Royal’s Flower trilogy.
She was so vibrantly written, & I’ve often thought her back story would be worthy of telling
Well, I think fairy tale heroines are often without a mother for the simple reason that many women died in childbirth in the old days (and the fathers did usually remarry, and it wasn’t uncommon for the stepmother to favor the children of her own body to an egregious degree, as in Cinderella). Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde does a great job of examining this stuff, and I really recommend it!
Fairy tale children have dead/ineffectual parents so they can go on a journey of discovery to find their inner strengths. Or, you know, marry a prince.