Today I'm talking all about the trope to end all tropes: the secret baby!
So when the heroine in my wip surprised me with a secret baby, I'm the first to admit that I was a little taken aback. Of all of the tropes that I thought I'd write, this had never even crossed my mind but it fit my characters' motivations perfectly and ramped up the tension like you wouldn't believe!
As a result, I've found myself on a path that I hadn't been expecting, and decided (as any nerdy researcher usually does) to do some wider research to see how the trope's been dealt with in the wider romance community...
The Infamous Italian's Secret Baby
Italian millionaire Gabriel Danti was renowned for his prowess in the bedroom—and Bella Scott was unable to resist the temptation of the night he was offering…
Five years on, Bella is living alone, carving out a life for herself and her little boy. She never thought she'd see Gabriel again!
Gabriel has changed. His dark, dangerous looks are marred by scars. But his desire for Bella hasn't waned—he wants her more than ever now that he knows he has a son…
It’s no secret that I’m a Carole Mortimer fan. Her Married by Christmas was the first Harlequin Mills & Boon novel I ever read and I’ve pretty much devoured her books as I’ve come across them ever since.
The Infamous Italian’s Secret Baby is a masterclass in how to write a secret baby trope. Gabriel is the ultimate alpha hero – handsome, infamous and stubborn to boot – and the night that he and Bella share at the opening of the novel deftly illustrates how hot he can be!
Bella is also a fantastic heroine; well-drawn with an independent streak that makes her Gabriel’s perfect foil. And I love the fact that Toby, their son, is a little older than the usual secret baby, and of course this colours the way that Gabriel interacts with him. Definitely worth a read!
Lies You Tell
A mob boss finding his dead lover alive six years after her death? Shocking. Learning they’ve got a five-year-old son? Deadly.
Six years ago Sanai Ward fled her home in Florida when her lover’s infidelity nearly brought her life to a fiery end. Devastated but determined to create a safe and happy life for the child she was carrying, Sanai started over from nothing.
Single parenthood isn’t easy. But the joys of watching her beloved Nazario thrive is more than enough motivation to ignore the ache in her heart for the man that shattered her soul.
Dante De Luca is a passionate man who’s had his life stolen from him. Six years ago he was in love and happy, until his woman was killed in a fire. There was nothing left in the ashes but the locket he’d placed around her neck. Too angry to deal with his loss, Dante sought to make the world pay for his broken heart by forming an unholy covenant with an unspeakable ally. He’d live to regret it, but signing away his humanity to the devil seemed meaningless when his soul was already gone.
When an accident involving a family member draws Dante to New York, it forces an unexpected meeting between him and Sanai. Then Dante has to decide what’s more important: his rage and revenge, or the safety of the woman he once loved and the health of his new-found son?
LaQuette’s Lies You Tell proves that there’s nothing quite like suspense to liven up a romance novel – especially when it involves a fire and a though-to-be-dead lover!
I’ve always been a fan of flawed characters, so Sanai and Dante seem like a brilliant romance couple to me and I love their redemptive narrative: facing grief and anger; exploring vulnerabilities; reconnecting through love.
For emotionally satisfying character development, complete with a delightful five year old son, check this out!
Devan knows exactly what he wants from life: a good career, a husband who loves him, and a child to call his own. He’s working at the perfect job, and has found the man of his dreams in Eli. That only leaves one box left to tick. When his friend offers to be a surrogate mother for Devan and Eli, he’s convinced all his dreams have come true.
Eli has been fighting his entire life. Fighting to keep his sick mother safe, fighting his frustration, and fighting daily as an up-and-coming MMA star. The one thing he can’t fight is the feeling that he’s made a terrible mistake agreeing to be a father with Devan. On the worst night of their lives, Eli knows Devan is better off without him, and leaves.
When Eli returns three years later, he comes face-to-face with Devan and a son who might be his. Devan has moved on with his life, but seeing Eli once again reignites forgotten passion. Yet if Eli wants to make it work with Devan, he must decide if he’s ready for the biggest fight of his life.
There’s a secret baby with a twist in Christine D'Abo’ Making It, the third book in the Ringside Romance series. Surrogacy and the challenges that it raises isn’t always addressed in romance, and D’Abo rises to the challenge with a delightful read.
Of course, a reunion romance is always going to be fantastic – who doesn’t love the idea of a lost or damaged love being reignited – but when there are children involved, this is always going to make the reunion fraught with tension.
Both Eli and Devan are worthy heroes, and following them on their journey back to each other is incredibly rewarding.
The Secret Kept from the Greek
Damon Gavros: commanding, Greek…and father of her child!
When Damon Gavros steps into Lizzie Montgomery’s workplace, their searing desire cuts through the heat of the kitchen. Instantly, she’s swept back eleven years to the one exquisite night they shared! He may be the reason she once lost everything, but the irresistible connection between them blazes hotter than ever. Only there’s one thing Damon doesn’t know about Lizzie…yet.
Damon is sure Lizzie is hiding something, and he’s determined to discover what. From London to Greece, his pursuit is relentless, until he finds out Lizzie’s secret has a name…Thea – and she’s his daughter!
Susan Stephens’ The Secret Kept from the Greek was one of the first books that I read when setting out on my secret baby journey. With an older secret baby, a daughter whose character shines through in her interactions with both parents, this made me realise that children don’t have to be toddlers or younger in order to work within the trope.
There has to be seriously good reasons why the heroine doesn’t tell the hero about his child though, and Lizzie’s reasons are both believable and grounded in an emotional conflict that echoes throughout the novel.
It’s emotionally draining, but ultimately a fulfilling romance that’ll sweep you off your feet!
Always In My Heart
The youngest of three adopted daughters, Callie Hart has always loved being the baby of the family. But now the 'baby' is all grown up with a young son of her own.
When she reunites with her sisters in Ohio, she also comes face-to-face with the lover she left behind. Nigel Williams is more irresistibly attractive than ever. But what will he do when he learns about the secret she kept hidden from him for ten years? But how can he deny the feelings that Callie rewakens in him? Clouded by the heat of desire, Nigel vows to fight for his future with the woman he has always loved
Kayla Perrin’s Harts in Love series follows the three Hart sisters as they reconnect after a family tragedy and it kicks off with Always In My Heart, the eldest sister, Callie's, story.
What really works for Perrin, is the way in which she draws both Nigel and Callie’s responses to the reveal. There is heartache on both sides – both in Nigel’s discovery of his son, and in Callie’s fears that this could irrevocably damage her relationship with Kwame.
Also, their blossoming relationship seems true to life, and I love the way in which Perrin allows them to take their time to explore what is happening between them.
His Surprise Daughter
After five years apart, Tom Sheffield is shocked to find his ex-wife, Stephanie, on his doorstep. The news that they share a child he's never met sends him reeling. Four-year-old Macy has his eyes, his mouth and, from their first encounter, his heart.
Things with her mother are much more complicated. He doesn't understand what went wrong between them or why she kept their daughter a secret. And he's afraid of falling in love all over again. Yet he feels a glimmer of hope that somehow he can convince Macy and Stephanie to stay in Lake Endwell–and with him–for keeps.
I've been a fan of Jill Kemerer’s writing for some time, and Unexpected Family sis no different. After a very difficult separation, Tom’s discovery that his ex-wife Stephanie has hidden a daughter from him is shocking. Kemerer doesn’t shy away from the anger that he feels, and it is the rebuilding of trust that is at the very heart of this romance.
Watching the two of them work together to try and find the best way to adapt to a life filled with both each other and four-year-old Macy is heartwarming and really rather enchanting.
His Ex's Well-Kept Secret
She's keeping this billionaire's son a secret…
Down-on-her-luck heiress Piper Mills will do anything to help her baby—even strike a deal with the devil who impregnated her! Due to a car accident, Jaeger Ballantyne has no memory of the passionate night he and Piper shared…or that he's Ty's father. Purchasing Piper's heirloom sapphires is the only thing on his agenda…until seducing the green-eyed temptress takes over.
Piper's falling for the stubborn tycoon, even as she continues to guard her secret. Can a man with no memory of their past find a way to forgive her so they can create a future?
Take one secret baby, add a dose of amnesia and you’ve got Joss Wood's His Ex's Well-Kept Secret. Piper is feisty and intelligent and desperate to find a solution for the situation that her estranged and recently deceased father has put her in, and it means reaching out to the man she thought had cut her off without a thought.
What makes this secret baby story different from the others on my list is the fact that Piper doesn’t tell Jaeger that he’s Ty’s father straight away. This means that as a reader, I was constantly on tenderhooks, worrying about what the fallout was going to be when he finally found out.
And boy was it a shock – especially with Jaegar’s own tragic history. Gut-wrenching and funny in equal measure, I loved this!
How do you feel about the secret baby trope? What are your favourite examples Share your recommendations with me in the comments!