The more, the merrier?

I’m glad I’m starting to see less of a certain reality TV couple on the newsstands and the grocery store. I haven’t watched Jon & Kate Plus 8, before or after the scandal. I was put off by the commercials which always seemed to feature screaming kids. I’ve been there, done that with two and have no desire to see it multiplied fourfold, you know? And I’m not much into reality TV, unless you count makeover shows. So I haven’t watched other shows featuring large families like Table for 12 or 18 Kids and Counting.

But they’re clearly popular. Maybe because most families are smaller now, people are just curious. Maybe people like the idea because they feel that in a large family one would never be lonely. (I’m not so sure.) But definitely there’s lots of room for chaos and conflict, never a dull moment. Personally, there are many times I *long* for dull moments when I could sit down with a cup of tea and a book! Although I love my family, I also really like being alone sometimes, so being part of a large family isn’t a personal fantasy of mine.

When talking about historical romance series, large families are historically accurate. While some couples went their separate ways after the production of the “heir and spare” or had small families for other reasons, many couples wanted large families. A wealthy lord might hope not only for an heir but also other sons who might (with his help) become generals, admirals, bishops, diplomats or MPs and thus extend the family’s influence. Daughters might make strategic alliances or at least be a comfort to their parents.

Amongst the fifty women studied in one of my favorite references books, In the Family Way by Judith Schneid Lewis, the mean number of children was 7.5. The most prolific lady studied, the Duchess of Leinster (1731-1814), had eighteen children by the Duke, went on after his death to marry her sons’ tutor and had three more children, for a total of 21 children in 31 years. Whew! It sounds exhausting, even with nursery staff, governesses and tutors to help.

Many readers love historical romance series featuring large families. Personally, I’m OK with them but prefer when they aren’t too closely linked. I never have as much time as I’d like to read, so it’s nice that I can enjoy individual books, like those in Jo Beverley’s Malloren series, without committing to reading all of them on time and in order. I know, that violates the whole marketing concept, but I am not a typical reader.

I’m OK with romantic couples being depicted, in an epilogue, surrounded by a large and growing family. I can imagine that with the right household help, and with the hero being more involved as a father than most men of his time, it could work. But I don’t need to see a huge brood–or any children at all, for that matter–to believe the couple are happy.

Do you enjoy stories of large families, whether modern or historical? Why or why not? Do you have any favorite romance series featuring large families? What sorts of endings do you like to see for romantic couples?

Elena

About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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