In fairy tales and romantic lore, the hero and heroine get married at the end of the story and have children. The infants represent another level of commitment. Even in romance fiction, there might be an epilogue with the couple with their newborn. The scene shows that the hero and heroine are bound together by more than just love.
But the infants don’t always arrive at the end of the story. In fact, a baby can be a great plot twist. An accidental pregnancy, secret baby or a baby on the doorstep can create challenges and opportunities for the couple. It can also bring out the strengths and weaknesses of the hero or heroine.
Here are a few reasons why romance readers enjoy the unexpected baby tropes:
The characters lives don’t change when a baby is born—it happens way before that. The moment of change occurs when the pregnancy is confirmed. Not only does it create a huge impact on the hero and heroine individually, but it also affects the relationship.
For example, what if coworkers tried to go back to business-as-usual only to discover their one night of passion had consequences? Consider another scenario: the hero and heroine broke up and they are never, ever, ever getting back together. A baby might change their minds. Or, what if a bad boy royal is enjoying a red-hot affair with an unsuitable woman and she becomes pregnant? Does he place duty before desire?
The accidental pregnancy alters the relationship between the hero and heroine. Any plans they had before the baby news no longer applies. A baby binds them together and ultimately develops a foundation for love.
In this trope, a hero discovers he has a child. There’s a lot of emotional upheaval with a secret baby storyline. What tore the hero and heroine apart? What prevented the heroine from informing the hero? And how will the hero and heroine reestablish trust?
This trope makes the hero an instant father. Even if he hadn’t considered creating a family, he can either accept the role immediately (like demand a marriage of convenience to gain full access to the child) or he can refuse the role (like questioning if it’s even his baby) before he wholeheartedly takes on the challenge. It’s always interesting to see what kind of spin a romance author will give this set-up.
The secret baby trope is more than just watching the hero embrace his role as a family man. The hero doesn’t just give his support, protection and love to the child. In a romance, he also will include the heroine in his family. He ultimately will fall in love with the heroine, but first he must find a way to trust her again.
The sudden baby trope is also known as the ‘baby on the doorstep’ situation. In these stories, the hero or heroine is given immediate custody of a child. Most of the time it’s the hero and he’s required to quickly accept the challenge of fatherhood.
The hero is often seen as competent and successful in other areas of his life, but he has no paternal instincts or experience. Now his world is in chaos and he needs help. This forces the hero to rely on someone else (like the heroine) and expose his vulnerabilities.
It also allows the hero to see the heroine in a new light. She might be his no-nonsense assistant with hidden talents, or she’s his former mistress who could give Mary Poppins a run for her money. She could even be his opponent who is just as clueless about raising a child. The sudden guardianship opened up a new world and new possibilities for the hero.