Any Footloose fans out there?
Okay, this post isn’t going to be about the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon where he plays a big-city kid who moves to a small conservative town where dancing is prohibited by the town’s powerful preacher. Even though it is a classic, and I’ve not only seen the original movie, but the remake AND the stage play version!
No, I only bring it up because of what I decided to name this post – I couldn’t resist using the title of one of the hit pop songs that originated with the movie, Deniece Williams’ peppy “I can’t help but dance when I hear it” tune.
But in this context, I’m using it to talk about child characters in our contemporary Christian romance stories. (Hence the addition of … Or Girl!)
Elizabeth Maddrey talked about this topic a little bit in her March 9 InspyRomance post, but I want to go a little deeper. I want to talk about when children in our novels sort of steal the show.
In my February release, Her Secret Desire, heroine Monica decides to volunteer as a Big Sister to a fatherless Hispanic girl, Luisa. Her reasons for doing so are multi-purpose: she loves the idea of mentoring a young girl who needs the support. But she also wants to make herself less available to her own sister and mother, who seem to constantly expect her time and effort every time they ask.
Luisa not only is the impetus for introducing Monica to our story’s hero, big brother Carlos, but she becomes a big part of Monica’s life in her own right. A precocious ten-year-old, Luisa is smart and happy and full of energy. In some ways, Luisa is as much a mentor to Monica, teaching her how to come out of her shy shell and face the world with more self-confidence – as Monica is to Luisa, helping her with her homework and spending time with her.
When reviews started coming out for the new book, I wasn’t surprised when many of them mentioned Luisa by name:
“Carlos’s little sister, Luisa, is a charmer. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious.”
“Luisa is such a fun, loveable girl but the interactions between Monica and Carlos leave you wanting more right from the beginning.”
“Luisa is a doll!”
I love when characters come right off the page with their dialogue and personality. Although children aren’t always a part of a romance novel, I love it when they become a way to bring the couple together. Luisa is not only the reason Monica and Carlos meet; she’s also the initial conflict that threatens to keep them apart. Carlos has his reasons why he is against this new relationship his mother has introduced into his little sister’s life. And he’s going to offer just enough difficulty to chase this woman away from their family. But ultimately, Luisa gives this reluctant hero the foundation to demonstrate his protectiveness, his dedication to family and his ability to mature into the man God intended him to be.
Here’s a short scene featuring Luisa, the scene-stealer!
The older woman set the box on the table and held up a well-worn finger. “Now, it’s time.” She stood, walked a few steps to the edge of the room and called down the hall, “Luisa! Come!”
Like an antsy puppy spotting escape through an open door, a little girl came zooming down the hall and halted in front of Monica. She was petite, dressed in a pair of bangled blue jeans and a short hoodie jacket. A sliver of tanned skin was visible where her shirt didn’t quite reach her waistband. Her dark hair looked difficult to control, judging from the wisps escaping from the two purple barrettes on each side.
“And you are?” Luisa asked in an adorable voice and Monica knew immediately she was smitten. She wouldn’t be able to deny this nymph anything. She looked into the girl’s eyes. They were the same soft mocha color as her brother’s.
And for some reason, that made her shiver.
Clearing her throat and pulling herself together, she held out her hand. “I’m Monica. It’s very nice to meet you, Luisa.”
They shook hands like mature businesspeople and then Luisa asked, “How old are you?”
Monica chuckled. “You’re getting right to the personal stuff, aren’t you? I am twenty-seven. How old are you?”
Luisa rewarded her with an amused smile. “I’m ten. But I know someone about your age. My brother, Carlos.”
Monica froze, her breath catching in her throat.
“Except he’s not twenty-seven, is he, Mama?” Luisa went on, oblivious to the impact her change in topic had on Monica.
“No, hija, twenty-eight.”
Monica nodded, and was relieved when Luisa raced on, “I’m in the fifth grade, and my teacher is Mrs. Bakewell. My favorite subject is reading, and I just finished all the books in my classroom, so Mrs. Bakewell asked the sixth grade for more books.”
Monica laughed. There was no language barrier here, and no trouble getting the kid to open up. This was going to be fun.
Question for you: What do like about a child being a part of a couple’s burgeoning romance? What do you not like? What are some books you’ve read with memorable child characters?