Today we have Mona Shroff talking about one of my favorite tropes, secret baby. Mona’s debut novel Then, Now, Always is out tomorrow, January 28. If you are in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area, Mona will be signing books at Turn the Page, Nora’s bookstore on Saturday, February 1.
(note from Kini: I am friendly with Mona after I met her through local books friends last year)
The secret baby trope is one of those that elicits strong feelings. You either love it or hate it, and I love it! Why do I love it? So glad you asked.
I love the possibility of a second chance (another trope, I know, but second chances make me swoon, too!). The main characters may have been deeply in love or they could have just had a casual hook-up that resulted in this child. If they were in love, the heroine may feel that it is better for all, if the hero does not know about the child when they break up. If it’s a casual hook-up, it’s usually a hook-up that is beyond amazing, but the couple goes their separate ways.
A secret can only stay secret for so long. Especially true for a secret baby. We all know that there’s no way the baby can stay secret forever. If nothing else, the child will want to know who the other parent is, and a reveal is imminent. Some stories will allow the ‘unknown’ parent (let’s say it’s the father) to fall in love with the heroine and the child without knowing the child is his. Upon the Big Reveal, he’s so in love with them both, the happy ending is easy. Others will reveal parentage early on and spend the book watching all parties come to terms with the why’s and how’s of the secret.
A child in the story is a great way to show insight into your characters, by how they treat and react to the child. This is fantastic, because aren’t we always struggling to let our readers know things about our characters without actually telling them? You can show the loving and playful side of a tough, alpha male through his interactions with a child. You can show the tough protective side of the heroine in how she handles her child. It is through these interactions, that we can watch our characters grow.
The secret baby trope is also useful in eliciting emotion. Recall the movie ‘Real Steel’ in which eleven year old Max wasn’t exactly a secret, but Charlie (Hugh Jackman) has had very little to do with him since his birth. Max is savvy for his young age, and quite determined, but he’s still a child. Charlie is selfish and in debt. His interactions with the determined Max reveal a side of his character that was probably not even known to him.
These tend to be stories about forgiveness and growth, about seeing the good in people even when confronted with mistakes they may have made. Secret babies open the door for a very deep level of forgiveness for both parties. In the end, if both parties have enough growth to forgive the other for past mistakes, true love has room to grow.
In modern times, it is possible to parent the secret baby and not be a couple. There can be a level of forgiveness that allows for co-parenting, but not much more. But that won’t work for those of us in romance. That’s not a HEA or a HFN. We want them to be together. It’s important to build the main characters’ relationship independent of the child. This, to me, is the biggest challenge of the secret baby trope. If executed well enough, the reader gets a HEA with a whole family. And that is why we are here. For Happily Ever After.
About the book– Then, Now, Always by Mona Shroff
Sometimes first love is better the second time around.
Maya Rao has made her own dreams come true: she’s the owner of a bustling café and bakery in New York and the mother of a beautiful teenage daughter, Samantha. But when Samantha lands in legal trouble over a misdemeanor she didn’t commit, Maya is desperate. Desperate enough to call Samantha’s dad, Sam Hutcherson, whom Maya left abruptly many years ago, and who is now a successful lawyer. The problem? Sam doesn’t know he has a daughter.
Sam has put Maya firmly in his past, despite how shattered he was when she broke his heart. So he’s both dumbfounded and furious to find Maya outside his office asking for his help—with a picture of a girl who looks just like him. But as Sam reconnects with Maya, those old sparks begin to fly. Can he even picture a future with the woman who wrecked his past?
About the Author
Mona was born in New Jersey and grew up in Bucks County, in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Growing up she was a quiet kid and had few friends but she valued the quality of each of her friends, not the quantity of her friends.
She attended the University of Michigan and graduated with a degree in Biopsychology. Mona continued her education at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, graduating with her Doctorate in Optometry. Mona married first (and only!) love, Deven, at the age of 25. Deven was a dentist in the army and they spent the next nine years travelling to different parts of the world and country while raising two young children.
Mona always loved to write, but did not get serious about it until 2011. She entered a contest where she had to start a short story with the words “Heads we get married, tails we break up”. She ended up losing the contest but she really loved the whole process of creating a plot, developing characers and putting a thought down on paper. Her first novel, Now, Then, Always, is a romance novel based on that prompt. When she’s not writing or checking eyes or doing laundry or cooking dinner or chauffeuring around her children, she trains for triathlons and loves to bake. Her favorite part of a triathlon is the bike portion, with swimming a close second. She runs because it’s included in the race. One of her ‘claims to fame’ is a quick appearance on the Today Show in 2012 as a semi-finalist in the ‘Quest for the Best Homemade Birthday Cake’ Contest. She is currently working on her second romance novel.