Surprise Babies, Bad Mothers & Happily Ever Afters: Pregnancy Narratives and the Concept of Motherhood In Eight Contemporary Romance Novels

Masters thesis
University of Uppsala
Publication year

Here's the abstract:

The purpose of this study is to examine how the themes of pregnancy and motherhood are portrayed and understood in eight contemporary romance novels. Emphasis is placed upon the romance genre being an almost entirely female genre, meaning it is written by, for, and about women. 

Interdisciplinary theories and concepts are used to study the depiction of pregnancy and motherhood in these romance novels. Research from the fields of sociology, psychology, literature, film studies, and gender studies are used and consulted. Moreover, real-life studies are used to further support claims, investigating how reality translates to fiction. 

The analysis is divided into five larger parts which are: sex, hookup culture, and female sexuality, contraception and abortion, pregnancy narratives, bad and absent mothers, and daughters having daughters. The study found that female sexuality is at the center of sex scenes in romance novels. Hookup culture and alcohol play a large part in these novels as well. Contraception was commonly used by the protagonist, while abortion was briefly (if at all) discussed. The female protagonists made the decision to keep the baby almost immediately upon finding out about the pregnancy. These notions greatly conform to the romance genre’s traits as well as real-life experiences exemplified by interview-based studies made in North America. The mothers in the novels were almost always absent or bad which affected the female protagonists’ concepts of motherhood and mothering. In seven out of eight novels, the protagonists have a baby girl which encouraged the female protagonist to mother differently as well as to break transgenerational maternal cycles. The pregnancy caused the protagonists to fall in love and sex also played a central role in the development of romantic feelings. 

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