by Anna Campbell
Recently I read a wonderful Molly O'Keefe book called THE SCANDAL AND CARTER O'NEILL, the last in her 'Notorious O'Neill' trilogy (by the way, Molly is an amazing writer and if you haven't read her, rush and grab one of her fantastic stories).
In the author bio section, she has a really cute disclaimer:
Despite how it may appear in her books, Molly O'Keefe has a wonderful mother. She has no experience with bad mothers and cannot explain why many of the mothers in her books are so awful. Molly never intended for her own mother to get those dirty looks at the grocery store.
This made me giggle because I realized I should make a similar disclaimer in the front of my books, but not about mothers. About FATHERS!
My father was a wonderful man, brave, principled, smart. And not at all like the fathers who feature in Anna Campbell stories.
I was thinking about the dads in my books and ouch, they're a rotten lot!
Your Honor, I present exhibit 1, the late Duke of Kylemore in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN. Drug addicted, alcoholic, cruel, psychotic, and a slave to his base passions. Nup, he's not likely to win father of the year any time soon. Mind you, his wife's not too great either but I'm talking about dads here. Verity's dad isn't nearly as mean but then he dies and leaves her completely defenseless so even he demonstrates a few shortcomings!
Exhibit 2 : in UNTOUCHED, Matthew's dad does the dying thing but otherwise is pretty OK, but the uncle left in loco parentis is another psycho killer type. Sheesh! And while Grace's dad eventually sees the error of his ways, he's pretty cold and ruthless with her when she's younger.
Exhibit 3: in TEMPT THE DEVIL, the bad dad is actually the HERO! Ose Noes!
Erith returns to London at the start of the book to make up for his numerous sins against his children and of course then he puts their future in jeopardy when he falls in love with a courtesan. Ose Noes with sugar on top!
Exhibit 4 (yeah, there's going to be six, so sue me! Oh, no I've already got a court case on my hands with the dad thing. Maybe DON'T sue me!): in CAPTIVE OF SIN, there's a bad stepfather and a bad dad. Charis's mother marries after her admittedly very nice first husband kicks the bucket and husband number two is a shocker. A drunkard and a lech and a wastrel. And then poor Gideon, who already has enough to cope with after his torture in India, had a father who thought his younger, intellectual son was a complete waste of space and set out to fix that problem with violence. Bad dad indeed!
Exhibit 5: two of the dads in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER aren't actually that bad or at least they have decent reasons for their behavior. But there's Lord Burnley - he definitely qualifies to live in infamy in this villains gallery of bad dads. I think an amoeba would be a better father than this guy!
Exhibit 6: MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION has TWO bad dads, both of whom are far more interested in their own agendas than in their children's welfare. Oh, and one more equivocally bad dad in Godfrey Demarest who is indulgent to his daughter but a bit of a rotter otherwise.
So I'd like it on record here and now:
Dad, I apologize wholeheartedly for all these wicked fathers, uncles and stepfathers who abound in my books. None of them were inspired by you, although I certainly was when I set out to follow my dreams and become a writer.
Actually I think bad dads are a staple of fiction not because as writers, we have suffered through so many bad dads, but because awful parents put our heroes and heroines against it. Fairytales use the same motif for the same reason.
Someone with a rotten parent (or even two, like Kylemore) gains reader sympathy immediately. It's a bit like making our heroes and heroines orphans. I've read blog posts and other pieces asking why so many orphans abound in romance fiction. Again, it puts the reader onside from the get-go.
And just for something different, the book I'm current writing features a very heroic dad for my lead guy and an OK dad for my heroine. Sheesh! What is the world coming to?
So do you have any favorite bad dads in your romance reading?
And if you'd like to explore the Anna Campbell school of bad dads, I'm going to give away a book today to someone who comments. Your choice from the backlist (just click on the title in the blog if you want to checkwhich book you'd prefer) mailed with a fatherly smile and an avuncular bookmark.
(Just a proviso - I'm at the Romance Writers of Australia conference right now so may be a bit slow getting back to comment but I promise I will, cross my heart and hope to die!)