Children and Animals in Books by Anne Gracie

Cute black kittenW.C. Fields said “Never work with children or animals,” and for a lot of people that holds true for romance books, too. Some readers really dislike having children or animals in books, others love them. Me? I say it’s all in the execution. Sweetly lisping precocious bratty-type children? Little saintly critters? Generally no — though I have written several books with children. Animals? Well, I’m a sucker for animals.

The reason W.C. Fields said this was that children and animals generally attract the audience’s attention away from the star — him. And it’s true. There are no children in THE AUTUMN BRIDE, but there are animals — specifically kittens. I started with my heroine’s sister rescuing a cat and a litter of young kittens from a building that was going to be demolished. That was it. It was just meant to be a slight plot complication. But kittens have a way of attracting attention…

When Abby discovers elderly aristocratic invalid, Lady Beatrice Davenham living in squalor and at the mercy of her rapacious neglectful servants,  she’s invited by the old lady to move in with her. Abby and her “sisters”, calling themselves the Misses Chance and pretending to be Lady Beatrice’s nieces, move in, sack the servants and set about improving life for Lady Bea and themselves. It all works beautifully until Lady Beatrice’s nephew Max returns from the Far East and demands to know who these impostors are. So we’re all set for a confrontation — right?

Remember how I said animals upstage the stars?

“My nieces, Max,” said Aunt Beatrice with a smile that had a lot in common with the look the little cockney had given him. Lying through her teeth and daring him to deny it.

But why? “Damn it, Aunt Bea—”

“Later, Max,” she said airily. “Thank you, girls. My nephew and I have much to catch up on. Featherby, perhaps a cup of tea in half an hour.”

Max waited with folded arms as the girls bustled about gathering things—magazines and bits of lace and fur and fabric lay scattered all over the counterpane—and examining him surreptitiously from beneath lowered eyelashes….

(snip)

Why the hell had his aunt claimed them as her nieces? Was it some kind of blackmail? Or Dreamingthreat?

The women were still fussing over the bits of fabric, sorting them in a manner calculated to annoy him.

“That will do,” Max snapped. “Collect it later.” He moved to sit on his aunt’s bed.

As he did so, five women and a butler shrieked.

“What the—”

Lady Beatrice snatched up a tiny white kitten from the spot where Max had been about to sit and cradled it to her bosom. “Max, you could have killed her.”

“Well, how was I to know you’d taken to keeping cats? I thought it was a bit of fur.”

“It is—attached to a kitten. This is Snowflake, and over there is his brother, Marmaduke.” A small tortoiseshell kitten emerged from under a magazine, regarded Max and yawned extravagantly.

See? They upstage. But Max, being a hero, rallies, of course, and takes the kittens in his stride…

He reached out to pat the white ball of fluff, and a small black missile flew out and attached itself to the fabric of his sleeve. It clung determinedly, growling.

“What the—” Max picked his assailant off his sleeve. Black as soot, black as sin, the tiny piece of fluff sat on his palm and stared back at him, undaunted, then clamped needle-sharp teeth down on his thumb.

“Ouch!”

“This is Max,” his aunt said. And then, bewilderingly, “Stop it, Max! That’s a very bad habit.”

Max frowned at her. “I beg your pardon?”

friends kittens[1]Mischance, repressing—not very successfully—a smile, came forward and removed the kitten from his grasp. “Yes, Max,” she said sternly addressing the kitten, face-to-face. “A very bad habit.” The kitten gave her nose a few exploratory pats.

“You named that kitten Max?” Max said.

“Yes.” His aunt beamed up at him.

“Why?” He looked at the small, scruffy kitten, now resting against the soft bosom of a deceitful woman. The creature was too young to know the dangers of that.

“Because he is bold and dashing and handsome, of course,” said his aunt.

“Because he is always off adventuring and never where he ought to be,” said Miss Abigail Chance at the same time. With a pointed look, damn her cheek. What did she know of his business?

She held the small black kitten against her bosom, caressing it behind the ears. Max the kitten purred blissfully, like a rusty little coffee grinder.

Max the man glowered.

See? The poor man hasn’t a chance. Not only are there five women to deal with — all of them lying in their pearly white teeth — there are kittens. . .

W.C Fields would sympathize.

So what about you? Are animals in books a problem for you? Or are you an animal lover? And if so, what’s your favorite animal? Tell us for a chance to win one copy of my book!

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Anne Gracie

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63 comments on “Children and Animals in Books by Anne Gracie

  1. I like when there are animals in books. Having the hero/heroine be an animal lover adds a more human touch to the character. One of my fav heroines is Lisa Kleypas’ Beatrix from her book ‘Love in the Afternoon’. My fav animal for a pet is the dog but all animals are lovable.

  2. I confess I love cats, and I always get excited when cats are in books. I don’t mind dogs, but cats win. I have read a couple of books where it’s written from the dog’s point of view, and they’re really good fun, but… cats still win!

    • Totally with you! And just for your [read mine-hahaha] pleasure, here is how I saw that scene with hero Max and the little kitten Max!

      BTW the add you can skip, but mine was cats, so I watched it. LOL!

      • Thanks Anne!

        I have been in and out today and just loved reading all the comments from everyone. I am one of those crazy ‘cat ladies’ that thinks cat’s are human and everything they do is cute and funny :)

        I can watch them on you tube any time…

        Thanks for coming over and this blog is yours any time you wish to stop by :)

        Mel

        PS: If you thought I’d let you off without another cat vid…think again :)

        Okay, and off I go to bed…

  3. As the kids would say (or type, rather) ‘pwned’ by an itteh bitteh kitteh! ( I speak interwebs, can you tell?) I can’t wait to meet all of these people – but I’m rationed until I’ve finished the WIP, so they’ll have to be incentive!

    • Hi Imelda. Yup, it’s really hard to be a big bad man when there’s a kitten hanging off your sleeve. Good luck with your wip

  4. I love it when the characters in a story that I’m reading have pets. It shows a different depth and side to the character.

  5. Pet lover!!! But my sister is the largest pet lover!! She took in my great-aunt’s snooty cat when my auntie went into a nursing home at 94. Only cat I know of that ‘retired’ to Florida!!

    • LOL Cate. Friends of mine took in a grumpy old dog whose owner had died, and in no time at all, she had a much happier personality. She probably wasn’t socializing enough. But it’s a shame your aunt couldn’t take the cat with her into the home. Some nursing homes have pets, and I think that’s brilliant.

  6. That is such a nice preview–can’t wait to read the book. I agree with the others’s comments about loving animals/pets in romances. It is fun to see heroes’s caring natures through how they respond to animals. Thanks for sharing.

    • I forgot to mention I have two rescue cats, both tabbies. Dragon and Isabelle are their names and they both need to go on a diet, just like their owner.

    • Hey Kathy!

      Count me in that group too! It sort of makes the characters show their true colors. I am sitting here for the past hour and trying without success to remember a book I read about a hero chasing the heroine’s cat , getting all clawed at and bringing it back to the town house, all disheveled..HELP! I am going nuts! Which book was it?!

  7. I like them both (pets and children). I think it says a lot about ones character by having them in a book :)
    It also makes the story more enduring whether its cats or dogs or kiddos. They are all gifts and each one of them have their redeeming qualities.

  8. I never have issues with animals in books. Sometimes they are there for the drama sometimes they are there for the comic relief. People in those days were surrounded by dogs, cats, horses, sometimes even exotic animals like monkeys or big cats. They bought live animals to be prepared for meals (chicken, ducks, geese etc) and on their country estates they would have fowl and deer.
    Although I am a cat lover (my favourite would be my own cat) I prefer dogs as companions to men and horses as pets for the ladies.

    • Hi Manuela — that’s an interesting comment. I’m sure a lot of women did treat their horses as pets, but in those days I’m sure a lot simply saw them as transport. And as you say, they lived surrounded by animals. The trouble is, for a writer, as well as an actor, animals and children distract from the main characters. People are always wondering, Where’s that kitten? :)

  9. I believe that having animals and children in books help to 3-dimensionalize the characters in the book and gives one the sense of being ‘part’ of what is actually happening. If animals and children are included, and very often as silent actors, not actually moving the plot along, why can’t we as the reader be part of the scheme, too?

    • Eileen, I wouldn’t use children or animals unless they were part of the plot — it gets too unwieldy, otherwise. And I think readers *are* part of the scheme — words on a page are simply that, unless they can connect with a reader’s imagination.

  10. Oh, I think animals work quite nicely in books. If the characters love animals, they have to have a soft spot. We have a rabbit & have had hamsters, because they are contained & relatively low maintenance. I do like cats, but I am slightly allergic & my husband is highly allergic.

    • Sharlene, I’m allergic to cats, too but I still love them. I had a dog once who on two separate occasions — years apart, brought home a feral kitten. The first, a tiny black ball of fluff, who arrived spitting furiously and very scared, lived with us for nineteen years. The second, only 8 years alas. And when they were gone, I remembered what it was like not to sneeze fifty times a day. :)

      • I could put up with it, but my husband would be in really bad shape. Even with an allergy pill, he is still miserable around cats & for hours afterward.

  11. I love animals in books. Elizabeth Hoyt includes animals in almost all of her books (she’s my favorite author, but shh! Don’t tell my other favorite authors). Johanna Lindsey included a few rather different pets in a few of her stories (anyone, other than I, remember the black leopard who would clean her teeth on the heroes toes?) I am an animal lover, though cats are my favorite domestic animals and I would give just about anything to hug an elephant. I think animals make the hero/heroine that much more human, shows a bigger heart, and gives the book a little extra character, (pun intended).

    • Candice, I love Elizabeth Hoyt’s books too. And I also loved those old Johanna Lindseys, but I don’t remember the black leopard. Oh dear, I might have to read them all again. What a hardship. ;) As for elephants, is there anything more adorable than watching a baby elephant with its mother?

    • Candice, my friend Marion Lennox has a book out next month with an elephant. Harlequin Romance. Sparks Fly with the Billionaire. I know, it doesn’t sound much like an elephant story, but it’s a gorgeous story about an old circus, and Romantic Times gave it a top pick.

  12. Animals rarely figure prominently in books so I love them. I am, by nature, a cat lover so I love the idea of rescuing kittens. I think we all have a soft spot for a baby of any kind which also allows both the hero and heroine to reveal their true natures. I think it’s a great way to tell a story!

    • Thanks, Renee, though I can’t claim these kittens feature prominently. One just appears from time to time to bring the hero back to a sense of what is important (ie not him. ;))

    • I’m driving myself nuts because I can’t remember exactly which book had the black leopard, but it was one of the books set in the old west. The heroine’s grandfather (I think) would send her pets from his travels and the hero was scared to death of the leopard. I am pretty sure the book is Brave the Wild Wind… if my JL books weren’t at the bottom of a stack of storage tubs, I’d have gone through them by now to figure out just which one it is. LOL No, to me, there is nothing more adorable than a baby elephant with its mother. I just love them. I feel an odd pull from my soul every time I see an elephant. Now that I’ve thought more about it, I’m 99% sure that’s the book, because it’s the first in the Wyoming series (I gave in and went to her book list online) and they end up with an elephant by the time Savage Thunder takes place. (I have a niece named Jocelyn – the name taken directly from Savage Thunder LOL).

      • Oh dear, I’m going to have to dig out my Johanna Lindseys because i don’t remember that book at all. Colt Thunder rings a bell. Am I recalling sex on horseback? ;)

  13. I adore pets and have had many over the years. However, it’s been 7 years since we lost our last one and I recently decided that I wanted a kitten. Oh my goodness, but this little gal is 6 months old now and has completely stolen my heart. I adore her so much that I just want to sit and look at her. You wouldn’t believe the toys all over the house and I have fixed numerous beds for her so she can plop down whenever and wherever she wants to.

    Having an animal in a story is such a plus. To me, a hero or heroine who can show love and compassion for an animal would be my pick for a mate. Three cheers for that idea.

    I just started reading “The Autumn Bride” today and cannot put it down. I love how you added the cat and kittens. (I hope I’m not spoiling anything by writing that.) It made me smile and I’m loving it!

  14. Connie, I can see that your little kitten has really landed in a great spot. I’ve had lots of pets, too over the years. In my childhood I was always bringing something home — I would have done exactly the same as Jane. The two pets I always wanted but never had were a squirrel (we don’t have squirrels in australia and they seemed so cute to me) and a monkey. I’m still holding out for a monkey.
    I’m so pleased you’re enjoying the Autumn Bride. Thanks for saying so.

  15. I enjoy animals in my romances. You can tell a lot about a person by his/her interaction with the animal(s). Cats are my favorites.

  16. Oh this post is just too cute not to comment. I love animals, and I love when animals play significant roles in books. They have human personalities so why not use them as characters? :) Your addition of cats sounds like a nice mix in The Autumn Bride.

  17. Anytime I have read a book with animals in it, they were a delight. They were meant to be there.

    I do like elephants. Very maternal & protective. The calves are raised by the ‘aunts’ as well. I have never read a book with elephants though. I would love to.

    • I am having a horrible day with remembering the name of books, only the authors, but there is a Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s book where the heroine is forced by her father to marry a man who runs a circus and the elephants play a HUGE role in the book. It’s one of my favorite books, and that’s what really makes it bad that I can’t remember the title!

  18. I love animals in books, especially funny ones. Children on the other hand I have a problem with, especially when they are written older than their actual age.

  19. I love animals in books – dogs, cats, horses …. their presence can really bring out sides of the characters that aren’t easily shown with the human interaction.

  20. I am a total animal lover. I have to pure black kittens @ home. Also have a guniea pig and quite a few fish. Outside we have 2 dogs-a pitbull and a mastiff. We also have 4 outdoor cats. I much prefer cats to dogs, but love all animals. I also love animals in stories. My daughter and I read together Charlotte’s Web and we both cried.

  21. Hi Melanie and Anne!

    To be not having animals and children includied in books is a mistake and I do’n’t care if the animal even is a horse! Of course my favorite animals are cats and the poor kitten or cat is usually left out and my own near Charlie (aka Atilla the Cat who is so named because he as managed to open our heavy glass sliding kitchen door open since he’s been a kitten) holds a special place in my heart since he irritates my dear hsband who is a dog lover! A problem having an animal in a book? Absolutely not instead I think they and I love the reaction of the characters ina book and how they deal with said animal!

    The same is true of children in a book in fact if an author would like some advice on the situations they can get in or a few hints of how boys can exactly the wrong think at a gathering just let me know and I’ll help them out but then wouldn’t life be boring without them?

    I think that animals and children show you what a person is really like in how they deal with them and makes the story more realistic.

  22. Thanks, everyone for these lovely comments and stories — i’ve enjoyed them all so much. Jeanne, Atilla the Cat? LOL. I know a hen called Atilla, too.

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