Secret Baby seems to be one of the most polarizing tropes in all of Romancelandia, but it is one that I absolutely love. It can be completely over the top, but also wonderful.
One of the things I love about this trope is seeing how the author makes an unbelievable situation not only believable but something I can connect with and understand. I love seeing how a fractured family can work their way back to each other. And how an unexpected/unknown baby factors in.
There are so many things that can cause a secret baby- like were they teenagers and broke-up before they found out about the pregnancy? Was it is a one night stand with no way to contact the person after the fact? Will the hero be mad? How long will it take him to get over his anger? Did the heroine sufficiently try to find the hero? Is her rationale for keeping the baby a secret sound?
The thing I love the most about secret-baby trope is the parents getting to fall in love again and the previously absent parents getting to connect with their child. (It was very difficult to locate an example of a pairing that was not M/F) I believe this trope is adjacent to single-parents that I wrote about earlier this month and because of my experience as a single-parent I am drawn to books about families finding their HEA.
Here are a few examples of Secret Baby that I have read and enjoyed.
His Pretend Baby by Theodora Taylor- This book was filled with WTFery and OTTness and I loved every moment of it. The hero is actually the baby’s uncle. Sounds weird, I know, but this book really worked for me. IIRC there are neurodivergent characters in the book as well.
Hold on Tight by Serena Bell- The heroine got pregnant at a young age by a soldier and had no real way of contacting him. Several years later their paths cross and thus begins an angsty journey of reconnection. The hero has to deal with issues from being in the military and the physical impacts on him and how that factors into being a parent. I really loved this story.
Bountiful (True North #4) by Sarina Bowen- The heroine gets pregnant during a summer fling. They didn’t exchange a lot of identifying information. So after the summer fling is over and Zara discovers her pregnancy, she searches for him to no avail. When he shows up in her bar again and discovers her secret, Dave slowly takes on the role of father. I loved this whole series.
Forever My Girl (Beaumont #1) by Heidi McLaughlin- This sits in my memory as one of the first secret baby books I read. I can’t remember the exact circumstances of the secret, but it is there. The hero comes back to town thinking he will reconnect with his first love and finds they have a child together. This book has been adapted to a movie, that I have not yet watched but fully intend to.
Baby Come Back by Molly O’Keefe- This is secret baby adjacent as the hero finds out about the pregnancy and decides he needs to get his shit together and make amends with the heroine. I absolutely adore O’Keefe’s writing and find it angsty and luscious. This book was one of my favorites of 2017.
Books I have not read, but contain the secret baby trope.
Again by Mary Calmes
Along Came Love by Tracey Livesay
Constant by Rachel Higginson
A Little Dare by Brenda Jackson
All Revved Up by Sylvia Day
Lies You Tell by LaQuette
Lisa Kleypas has several secret baby books
Goodreads has a Listopia that has approximately one million more books with this trope
I read contemporary 99.9% of the time, so all my recs are from that genre. As I was searching for books and recs, I saw many Harlequin Presents and Historical tagged as secret baby. Have you read any of them? What are your favorites? What do you enjoy about this trope? What is your go-to secret baby book?