I am a romance writer at heart, and in my fictional world, heroines always have good intentions. But in the real world, it doesn’t always work out for the best.
Take this week, for example.
No, really. Take this week. Please. Take it and hide it, so I can pretend it never happened.
You see, I only had good intentions: make my 9 year old’s birthday one she would never forget. She’d been dreaming of a bunny. And by dreaming, I mean really dreaming: she’d wished on every star and every candle for at least 2 years for a sweet black bunny she could cuddle in her arms. Her birthday was nearly here, and my husband finally agreed.
We’d get her a bunny and sail off into the sunset as the Best. Parents. Ever.
Holy cow was she excited. And by excited, I mean really excited. Couldn’t draw a proper breath, hyperventilating on the floor excited. I felt like a heroine extraordinaire to have been able to make this dream come true for her, even though it mean having a cage the size of a MARTA bus in my daughter’s bedroom, and urine-soaked shavings floating on air currents throughout my house. The bunny was adorable. She was little and black with a white tip on her nose. She would curl up in our laps, and give random kisses. She was theperfect gift, bar none.
And then, about a week into this idyll, the call came from school: “Come and fetch your daughter, she’s covered in hives.”
I broke out in a cold sweat. The mother in me immediately started chanting, “It can’t be the bunny. It can’t be the bunny.” My mini-heroine had never shown the slightest tendency toward allergies before.
But the scientist in me was ticking off the possibilities and arriving at an alarming hypothesis: It HAD to be the bunny. The timing was right, accounting for the crucial period of allergic sensitization. It was the only change in her environment, the only interloper in a household that had previously never suffered a single hive. Worse, this was no ordinary allergy, no benign sniffling/sneezing/runny-eyed thing. This was an evil, itchy, one-step-away-from anaphylaxis type of allergy and I was running scared.
So I put her through a series of tests. I sat her down and put the bunny in her arms. Hives.
I had her feed the bunny and then touched the hand to her shoulder. Hives
I touched the bunny and then touched her. Hives.
So this week, I was forced to the decision no parent wants to make: my daughter’s happiness or her health. I chose her health, presuming I could work hard to restore her trust and happiness. *Gulp* So we found my daughter’s bunny a new home, amidst tears and promises and hearts heavy with regrets.
That will teach me to be the Best. Parent. Ever.
How can a heroine recover from a setback like this? I like to think I’ve got some brilliant examples of fortitude and perseverance in many of my favorite romances. After all, no one gets a Happily Ever After without a lot of conflict, right? In my newest historical romance, Moonlight on My Mind, my heroine experiences (and to some degree causes) a series of painful setbacks in her life. She survives by being loyal to those she loves, and stops at nothing until she singlehandedly rights the wrongs she has inadvertently caused, winning the hero in the process. I need to channel some of that now.
For my daughter, I have to look at this as part of her backstory, a piece of her childhood that helped her grow up. For me, I have to look at this as a learning experience. And boy have I learned my lesson. The next time my daughter wishes for a bunny, I am going to get her another pony.
Jennifer McQuiston writes Different. Historical Romance. She is the NYT and USA Today Best-selling author of What Happens in Scotland, Summer is for Lovers, and Moonlight on My Mind. She lives in Atlanta with her family and the pony she promised her daughters with mommy’s first book deal… but alas, no longer a bunny.