#WritingChallenge! Secret Babies

by Deirdre

WritingChallenge imageDid everyone get a chance to read our interview with Harlequin Nocturne Senior Editor Ann Leslie Tuttle? If not, go ahead and read it now – I’ll wait.

Ann Leslie has some great advice on romance writing, and the importance of marketable hooks:

“First and foremost, I’m seeking a romance with an engaging and saleable premise. Certainly brides, babies, billionaires and blizzards are all themes that can sell well in the romance genre, but I want to see a fresh twist–be it in the author’s voice or the story execution.  After all, why buy what I already have?”

Secret baby stories are popular because they have so many elements that contribute to a high-stakes, dramatic story – secrets, lies, conflict, and characters forced to face their fears and make important decisions – together!

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But what fresh twists could make the secret baby hook relatable in 2016? In an age of global communications, family configurations of all kinds, and an emphasis on honesty in relationships, how on earth does a woman give birth to a child that the father knows nothing about?

Your challenge this week? Give us your contemporary take on the secret baby story. No need to write a scene – just give us your setup in a couple of sentences!

Don’t forget this tip from Ann Leslie:

“As I read, I’m constantly asking myself if the events that unfold support and develop the conflict?”

The key to a satisfying romance is a great hook combined with realistically motivated, well-developed characters.

Ready to have some fun? Post your Secret Baby setup in the comments any time between now and Sunday night, and we’ll check in with you on Monday!


159 replies on “#WritingChallenge! Secret Babies”

Hannah was engaged to Wayne, a man she thought was the antithesis of her father. Wayne was also the first man she’d slept with. She discovered he had feet of clay when he set her up with an “Indecent Proposal” scenario with the man who could get him his dream job. Hannah showed up at a hotel room, wearing little beneath her trench coat, prepared to enjoy a getaway with her fiancé. Instead, a stranger in a robe handed her a letter, and offered her a glass of champagne while she read it.
David Akida was the son of a gullible woman and a con man. His father tried to teach him the con game, but David didn’t want to take advantage of people. He ended up in a business where he specialized in vetting people – he was good at recognizing the bad apples. On one particular project, he ran into Wayne who was willing to basically pimp out his fiancée for a job David was vetting.
David knew this guy wasn’t going to be hired, but he was concerned for the fiancée. She might be in on this – or she might be in a position where she was being taken advantage of, like David’s mother had been. He agreed to the deal, with no intentions of following through. David expected to either meet a con woman prepared to offer sex for advancement, or an innocent being taken advantage of. If the fiancée on offer was in on the deal, David could walk out, but if she wasn’t, David’s experience was that it would take a real sell to convince her this wasn’t a joke, and that the man she thought she loved was using her.
So David prepared for the sell, He did his best Hugh Hefner imitation. When she came to the door, he guessed she was clueless, and waited to see how she’d respond. It took her a while to comprehend exactly what the letter said. David did not expect the reaction he got – anger. Hannah said fine, she’d do the deal, but only if Wayne did not get the job. Hannah threw herself at him, David took a moment too long to make sure this wasn’t some sort of game on Hannah’s part, and things got out of control. Hannah ended up leaving in tears. David felt horrible, but was pretty sure she’d learned a lesson she’d never forget.
Hannah broke up with Wayne, and fled to her grandmother’s. When she found she was pregnant, she didn’t want to have anything to do with either of the horrible men who could be the father. Still, it was a relief when the baby was a girl, with the Asian heritage and unusual bright blue eye combination of the man in the hotel. A search on the company website where Wayne worked didn’t turn him up, and not knowing his name, she couldn’t contact him, so she could raise her daughter on her own with a clean conscience.
Until the night twelve years later when she ran into him with her daughter who was his spitting image.

You’ve given Hannah a good excuse not to find her child’s father and the set up is very emotional. I love how this story also involves a mixed race child.

Anne – I love this whole premise . I love the new twist on Indecent Proposal, which I loved but hated the ending…lol. But I think it would be stronger for the heroine to do her part in the scheme, only she really likes this guy, and he does the same, really likes her and wants to help her escape her hubby the jerk. then she can try to hide to have the baby, but with his money and wits he finds her. Lots of potential…

To be completely honest I’m not super familiar with Harlequin, so take any advice I hand out with a grain of salt (or maybe the entire shaker!). I like the premises of the story, and think it could be great. That being said, as a reader, there were a couple of things that turned me off on the hero. The first when you described him doing a Hugh Hefner impression; when I’m unfortunate enough to think about Hugh Hefner, I think about an older man in a tacky robe and slippers along with a few (dozen) bottles of hand sanitizer. I get where you were going along that line, but I’m not sure I’d get too far past that just because of the comparison. The second was that it still almost seemed that David took advantage of the situation – of Hannah’s anger rather than a woman’s willingness to perform to help her fiancé/husband, but I still wonder if it could be twisted somehow. That aside, I really like Hannah and her hot temper and also that the daughter is old enough to be a part of the story but give the romance room to breathe when they meet up again.

Yes, I don’t want David to come off as a creep. The plan is to have the story start in the present, so readers get to know the real David, and then flashback to the past to see how the whole thing in the hotel went down. Thanks to her father and Wayne, Hannah has issues with men focused on financial success, and that with the night at the hotel gives her lots of reasons to mistrust David and fear what his influence could do to their daughter. David has tried to be as unlike his father as possible, so he’s upset that Hannah has put him in the position of having an illegitimate, abandoned child. As well, he has to learn how to be a father. Sam is going to have a will of her own too, so if I get to write this one someday, I’m hoping it will be interesting.

Very interesting setup Anne! You’ve explained how Hannah might not know the real identity of the father, and the reasons why she might not try too hard to contact him. I would agree with Moonshine Writer that you want to make sure your readers have good reasons to root for Hannah and David, as part of your “engaging and saleable premise.” What might motivate Hannah, beyond anger at Wayne, to follow through with Wayne’s scheme? And how can David’s behavior be justified in a way that makes him admirable? Think about these characters as people you know, and imagine them in the same situation. What would they do?

The hero has been notified of the whereabouts of his runaway bride two years after she vanished in the company of his wayward younger brother who turned up dead days after they disappeared. The heroine has been in a mental institution heavily sedated for all that time. When he reluctantly brings her home, still suffering memory loss from the cocktail of drugs, she is intrigued by the little girl who calls the hero papa.

You and I know each other well, and I bet you could guess how much I love my daughters. This really tugged at me. Shame on you for making me mist up with a few words. I hope you write this one out.

Hi, Fiona.
I love how your word choices, mental institution, heavily sedated and papa etc convey your story takes place in a historical context. It is an unusual twist as the heroine is the one who may or may not be the child’s parent. Thousands of wayward dads around but I don’t think I’ve met a heroine with a possible secret child before.

It’s not easy to come up with a way to have a secret baby the mother doesn’t know about, which sounds like the spin you’re using here. Interested to know how it all went down.

I like your spin on the secret baby trope, with the baby being a secret from the mother, Fiona! Mary’s observation that your story is historical brings up a good point – language and writing style can go a long way to making a story feel fresh. Using real life observations of how young men and women speak and write (lots of examples on internet comment threads!) in your writing will contribute to a fresh, contemporary and relatable voice.

The Senator’s Secret Son

It was hard to see Kane through all the flashing cameras, cables and reporters clamoring for his attention. The room drowned with a chorus of questions as every news station in Phoenix wanted Kane’s statement about his political opponent’s latest scandal. Together, they’d managed to run Kane’s campaign as smooth as butter and equally flawless, thanks in large part to her finesse dealing with public relations.
The room blurred, then took a horrifying dip. Ivy squeezed her clip board against her chest as her stomach clenched against the toast she managed to choke down this morning. If this was morning sickness, it could potentially ruin everything for Kane. Men like him aren’t allowed affairs with interns fifteen years his junior.
Tears constricted her throat as he caught her gaze through the tangle of people and equipment that separated him. The wink he gave her was slight, but dangerous. She’d warned him before those cameras will catch his every move. Their every move. Ivy turned away from the stage to fight through the maze of people, hoping she’d make it the restrooms unnoticed. How could she hide this from him, from all of them, for so long?

Anne, the plan right now is to have Kane get shot once in office. That way while he’s hospitalized and not *all there* the secret would be easier to keep from him while driving up the emotional aspect of the story. 🙂

This is so topical with election fever in full swing. Better still she’s his intern and he’s just made a statement about his opponent’s latest scandal! When Kane finds out about her pregnancy, it will be fun to see how his PR machine deals with this.

I love politics! Well, not exactly at this moment when we are about to elect a buffoon no matter which party takes this election, but in general I find them fascinating. The only thing I can think to mention is that, given the age difference, depending on what direction this takes the hero could be seen as having taken advantage of her or depending on your timetable for him finding out (which I imagine isn’t too long unless he is comatose or something) he might be older than a typical hero.

Politics is certainly the one field left where an illegitimate child can be a deal breaker. Ups the stakes.

Love the politics angle, Elle! I can see why a woman might keep that pregnancy a secret. If Kane is your hero, though, you may find it a challenge making him sympathetic to a modern reader. As always, well-considered character motivation makes all the difference!

A psychologist meets her soulmate on holidays but afterwards, he doesn’t appear to exist.
She raises their baby alone but it’s a struggle as her job in a prison’s psychiatric unit entails erratic working hours.
A VIP client ‘the teflon terrorist,’ is admitted who is in danger of once more walking free. If she can get this elusive criminal to admit to anything incriminating, even a parking violation, the acclaim means she might finally find a job with more family friendly hours.

He looks familiar but better looking than she remembers from their fun filled fortnight nearly six years ago.

Definitely a dark romance and could go many ways. Not sure if I’d like the daddy to be psychotic tho.

I’m intrigued by the idea of a hero being admitted into her ward…but I’m kind of hoping that there is some kind of mix-up – that he is an officer and they are hoping to generate media coverage and get the real VIP to mess up outside or something. That being said, if he is and she falls for him again without knowing the truth, that could mean her job rather than family friendly hours. And if he’s is the real VIP, what does that mean for her child? Very interesting twist ~CM

Would be interesting how to sell the father as a Harlequin hero in this scenario, which would certainly get people reading.

Hi Mary,

What an interesting concept! There are certainly some intriguing ideas here, and we like how you’ve introduced elements of danger and suspense. We also liked the idea that the hero simply vanished, leaving her with their fling’s surprise consequence and no way to tell him!

However, do handle this sort of dark hero with care – a terrorist is more than likely to be irredeemable for readers, and instead you want to ensure that readers can root for your hero and his relationship with the heroine! In addition, the heroine’s role as his psychologist means their front story relationship would cross some ethical boundaries and possibly create some discomfort for readers – just something else to keep in mind when shaping your set-up!


The hero is a small town mechanic who had a weekend fling with an upcoming singer/songwriter. Her big career break happens right as she figures out she’s pregnant. She doesn’t want to keep the baby, but hero convinces her to let him raise the child instead of terminating the pregnancy. As soon as she starts to show her baby bump, she hides out in his town under the pretense of working on her new album free from “creative distractions.” After the birth, she heads back to her glitzy life of fame and doesn’t want anything to do with her daughter or the man who fathered her.

Two years later, the singer/song writer is killed in a car accident and the heroine—who is the singer/song writer’s half-sister and worked as her personal assistant–finds a birth certificate while going through her half-sister’s papers. Realizing she has a nice she never knew about, she sets out to find the child and shows up unannounced on the hero’s doorstep. Immediately bonding with her nice—who looks exactly as the heroine as a child—she convinces the hero to let her get to know her niece and makes arrangements to stay in town for a while. As the hero and heroine spends time together, there is a strong attraction between them that becomes increasingly harder for either of them to resist.

Internal conflict keeping the couple apart: He’s suspicious of anyone related to a woman who gave up her child for fame and thinks the heroine may have a hidden agenda to take his daughter away from him. She’s always lived in her half-sister’s shadow and thinks the hero is confused about being attracted to her and is really just trying to get over her much glitzier and vivacious half-sister.

External conflict/threat to the romance: The singer/songwriter got married a few months before her accident and her new husband does not want to share his sizable inheritance with a little “snot-nosed bastard” he never knew about. He first tries to a scheme involving seducing the heroine and gaining custody of the singer/songwriter’s daughter. That way he’d have all three pieces of the inheritance. When that doesn’t work, he turns to darker methods that threatens both the little girl and the heroine’s lives.

I’m curious about how the villain finds out about the child. If the child’s mother left something to it in her will wouldn’t the heroine find out that way?

Thanks, Elle! And yes, she’s there by Ch. 1.

Fiona, there is no will. Villain thinks he gets everything as surviving husband. He finds out about the child because heroine tells him. She doesn’t know he’s crooked and thinks he would want to know. Heroine is the recipient of a substantial life insurance from her half-sister. The singer/songwriter hadn’t had a chance to change it between her whirlwind wedding and car accident.

The hero will have to work with the heroine to protect his daughter. Great for speeding up the ‘getting to know you’ part.

Ooo…Asa, nice job in hiding the child and endangering her at the same time. Like the heroine being not only sister to but also the mother’s road manager. Great twists and lots of possibilities.

I like this. The setup seems well thought out and I always appreciate an element of danger. I also like that the hero is a mechanic – for some reason I envision a sense of community where everyone knows he and his daughter and come to embrace the heroine as well.

Part of the whole secret baby thing is why the mother goes through with the pregnancy – interesting explanation of this one.

Hi Asa Maria,

Wow, there’s a lot going on here! It’s fabulous to see this unusual twist on the secret baby theme, and you’ve obviously paid attention to detail when plotting this set-up. We’d recommend thinking about how you can keep the singer-songwriter firmly in the backstory, however – readers will want to be thrown right into the hero and heroine’s story and get to know and root for them, and it risks confusing matters if the singer-songwriter’s situation is front and centre here.

Also, think about how you can mine even more deep emotion from these internal conflicts. For example, these are a great start, but wouldn’t the hero realise (once he gets to know your wonderful heroine even a little bit!) that she’s not like her half-sister? What emotional conflict would keep them apart then? Think about how you can get extra mileage from his situation – perhaps he had trust issues from his childhood, for example, which were hammered home by the half-sister’s abandonment? How did he feel about her? There are some great elements here to explore and provide that deep, inner reason that prevents your hero from falling in love with the heroine too quickly, keeping the romantic tensions between them sky-high!


Catherine and Jonathan were best friends through high school. He was always there for her, even the time she lost the love of her life, the night Jon comforted her loss and admitted his feelings toward her. One wonderful night of passion, three thousand miles, and twenty years later, Cat sees Jon’s artwork in a tourist-filled beach town, looks him up on the Internet and sends him an email.

I’m a sucker for two things; One being cowboys, and the other are romances set in beach towns. I love the ocean and often buy books that can take me to the shores. 🙂

I love how Cat can recognise his art work after so long and am curious about the contents of her email. This story idea is really unusual and has lots of possibilities – most specially an adult ‘secret baby.’

Thank you all. There’s more to the synopsis of course, but they did only ask for a couple lines so I tried to keep it short. 🙂

Beach and artist seem to just go together to me. Maybe it is because when we traveled as a kid, my Mom (who is a professional painter) dragged us through all of the little galleries, and while I didn’t appreciate it then, I can look back and see how the paintings really reflected the culture of the place. I also like the names. For some reason I think names make or break stories, and I can envision an artist named Jonathan without a beret and snotty attitude. I’m also imagining him telling her how her memory influenced his work…or her allowing him to make a piece/paint a piece in some scene!

Never came across an adult secret baby that wasn’t the main character – could add some interesting dynamics.

Moonshine – me too. I grew up in California beach towns and this one hit right where I lived, so to speak. Lots of memories and lots of angst. Someday I’ll get it written. Too busy with the Sexy Blitz right now.

Dear Chrissie,
First of all, thank you so much your many comments and for submitting your set up! Did I mention how much I love reunion romances? I especially love the best-friends-turned-lovers angle. I had a few questions. Why would Jon admit his feelings for her the same night she lost the love of her life? Wouldn’t he wait a little? It’s a minor point since he probably couldn’t help himself with the timing of his declaration. So, would their secret baby be twenty years old? And since they were good friends, why wouldn’t she tell him about their child? I love the idea of an adult secret baby and characters, I’m guessing, in their late thirties. Definitely on the right track! Keep writing and thanks again for giving us a peek at this story.

Patience, thank you so much for the nice comments. I haven’t written this story yet, but it has played in my mind for some time, just like the dozens of other stories that keep me away pounding away at the keyboard. My premise for this story is the lie she tells him at the time and being only in her late teens, she moves with her parents out of state. She marries and raises two children, one is Jon’s. She’s vacationing at the beach on the opposite coast when she recognizes his artwork, the work she always encouraged him to do back when they were young. She’d gone along the beach towns with him to the art galleries and shared his disappointment when no one wanted an “unknown” in their gallery. She continued to encourage him until the day she realized she was pregnant. As fate would have it her parents had planned to move when she graduated. She tells Jon one night before they leave, but he was drunk at a beach party and laughed it off as a joke. Later when he has her friends track her down with phone calls, she finally tells the friends she aborted the baby to make him go away. Fate comes back to bite her when she finds the card, she turns it over and knows it’s his work for there on the back is his photo and a description of the artwork. She sends an email and finds he’s been looking for her for years. He waited to marry because he loved her so much, but recently his is a rocky marriage that is breaking up. Now she has to tell him about the past but can she do it without alienating the only man she ever truly loved? That;s sort of what I have so far. Lots of ideas to polish and work out. Thank you for asking.

“Weave backstory into your scene writing challenge” was completely forgotten about. Well there be feed back for that one?

Add your scene by midnight Sunday, September 25 and we’ll get back to you with feedback after the weekend!

I wondered the same thing! I think it might have been all the Blitz activity that went on back around that time. There was the SEXY and the Canadian Blitzes.

It’s not unheard of for celebrities to fake pregnancies. False due dates. Detachable bellies… So for talk show host, Bella Jenkins, faking a real pregnancy isn’t a huge stretch. All she has to do is create an empathetic ‘pregnancy’ theme in order to show her audience she’s as relatable as ever. Growing belly. Diet restrictions. Regular interviews with an obstetrician. Bonus – it’ll keep the baby’s father off her case until she can figure out a way to prove he’s not the father in order to keep her emphatically family-free life just that.

Being bumped from foster home to foster home taught talk show producer Jake Gilmore one thing – if he ever has a family he’ll do anything it takes to make it work. So when Bella demonstrates pregnancy yoga on her show and her top rides up to reveal a very un-fake belly – one that looks suspiciously big enough to have been created around the time they had a tequila-fuelled night together – he’s determined to prove they can be a proper, happy, and loving family.

There is scope for humour here with the so called fake pregnancy and television show. The hero’s reaction ups the conflict. Both characters will have to undergo massive change to create that ‘proper, happy and loving family.’

I love this premise! The opportunity for humor is there, but so is intense emotions because of the hero’s backstory.

Similar premise to that one movie where she fakes her pregnancy…can’t remember the name but this is a whole new twist. I like that he’s determined to win her over too.

I really like the hero’s background. I think that it will really drive him, therefore driving the story forward!

This is a new one for me – I hadn’t heard of celebrities faking pregnancies. Maybe that’s how they get their figures back so quickly!

Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments. I’m loving reading all of your story ideas! This prompt has been so fun, and very inspiring too – thanks SYTYCW!

Hi Kellie,

Thanks for sharing your great secret baby set-up, it’s great to see how this challenge has inspired you! There are lots of fab elements here, particularly the fake baby bump and Bella’s talk show, which you could have a lot of fun with.
Some of the premise did confuse me a little bit though, I have to admit – why does faking a pregnancy keep the baby’s father off Bella’s case? What baby is this referring to – do they already have one together? Or if it’s referring to the fake bump, why does Bella need to prove Jake’s not the father – couldn’t she just admit to him that the bump is fake?

That said, you’ve certainly put in some lovely emotional touches here with the hero’s background, and his history as a foster child chimes really nicely with the themes of the front story! We can certainly see why he might want to be with the heroine to create a real family – but what emotional conflict (for both Jake and Bella) is preventing them from falling for one another too easily? Remember, readers want to see them have to earn their amazing happy-ever-after, with plenty of will-they-won’t-they tension keeping them gripped!


Lena disappeared from David’s life four years ago, and he has tried to forget about her since he realised she wasn’t coming back. On a trip through the countryside they had holidayed in years before, he has a chance encounter with Lena and a child who looked like she was conceived around the time she left.

Lena just wants to forget about her old life and the shame and anguish on how her daughter was conceived. But when David shows up out of the blue, emotions kick in and she is drawn to him again. But the shame still sears through her. David is not the father to her three year old daughter Marlena. During a visit at a client’s home as a talent manager, she was drugged and when she had passed out, her client had raped her. Discovering she was pregnant, she quit her job and fled out of fear David would leave her over this.

Together, can they mend the bond they had once had and try to forget the past? And can her former client face repercussions?

Poor Lena. She was put in a dreadful situation. Hopefully David will be strong enough to accept her and Marlena.

Ah, but was she pregnant before the rape or after? A DNA test would discover the truth. I don’t like rape stories though…so depressing for the victim.

Despite the backstory including rape, I think this has potential. As a reader, I think I’d like to see the heroine not dwelling on her past, but being stronger having overcome the obstacle. If I remember correctly from my classes, bodice rippers used to be very popular, but I’m thinking that the subject today may need to be approached carefully. Good luck with your novel!

Rape is ugly, but unfortunately it seems there’s a lot of women hiding this kind of secret – just not usually with a baby. I can see where David would be upset she didn’t trust him back when it happened.

This would definitely make for an emotional read, Sinead, and the twist is staggering! I could see this for Harlequin Romantic Suspense. Despite the inherent sadness of the topic at hand, you’ve created opportunities for some very positive things to come out of it – David stepping in even when he’s not the father and Lena finding the strength to pursue justice. This might be a longer path to an HEA but totally worth it!
I’m curious as to David’s occupation. Could he perhaps be a prosecutor? Or linked to the entertainment industry in some way?
– SYTYCW Editor Kayla

Secret Baby pitch
A holiday fling with gorgeous Liam five years ago was the last fun Emily had and the only time in her life she’d been a little irresponsible.
They’d met at an international conference for promising young corporates and stayed on for an unforgettable, romantic week-end afterwards. They left each other, smiling, promising to keep in touch.
Except, he didn’t. When Emily discovered she was pregnant, she tried to find Liam but it seemed he had disappeared.
It hasn’t been easy for Emily to climb the corporate ladder, but she’s thrown herself into her career for one reason; her daughter. For the past four years she has been a super-responsible single Mum and earned a formidable reputation in her career. Her life has its rewards; her salary allows her, her mother and her daughter to live a decent lifestyle, with Mum doubling as baby-sitter. Emily, frankly, doesn’t have time for a man in her life, even though she sometimes wishes…
Then, with an impending merger of the corporation, Emily and the other managers are preparing to do battle with the take-over company for positions. The billionaire CEO has decided to personally oversee the changes. Emily and the others are to meet him this morning. They take their places around the board room table and wait. The PA announces him.

What a jerk! Unless he was hit over the head and shanghaied or something. Good story proposal with lots of new twists is can work.

Thank you for that feedback!
He’s a hero, so yes, a good reason for vanishing.
I thought this might be a good set-up for some sparks to fly.

I am delighted by this, Margo, because it has so many tropes I love. Office romance. Weekend in paradise. A woman who can do it all! She has a high powered career and is still supermom. I agree with the other commenters though, Liam would need a good excuse behind his disappearance, especially because it’s pretty hard to fully vanish these days, what with social media and all. Perhaps he could have been abroad with an international company for the first year and unreachable, and after the baby is born Emily decides to go it alone?
– SYTYCW Editor Kayla

Disclaimer: I rarely (i.e. never) read/write anything that people are not likely to die in, but this came up on my news feed and needing a distraction from my current projects I figured what the heck. I enjoyed reading everyone’s angles on the prompt, and wish all of you good luck in your careers!

Three years ago Coldwell Police Department’s public relations officer Brielle Whitiker stumbled across information that would blow the lid off a violent gang’s drug operations – and get undercover Detective Chase Shryock killed. Not knowing the extent of the department’s corruption, she tracks down the detective to warn him and ends up in his arms for an hour, then on the run with his child after an explosion kills kills him. On the run, she finds safety in the small town of Cougar Creek and Brielle – Ree as the town knows her – works as a waitress until the man she thought she witnessed die strolls through the door.
Having maimed – if not severed – the drug operations of the T-16 gang, Chase knows its only right that he locate the woman who tried to help him and whose life that ended up destroyng. In his arms for an hour, and his heart since then, he finally tracks her to a hole in the wall town where she’s rebuilding her life working under the table and caring for her daughter, who happens to look nothing like her mother, and have every Shryock dominant feature in the Shryock gene pool. The only problem? Brielle watched him die once, and she doesn’t want him anywhere near her child, because who can ever destroy a multi-million dollar operation and get away with it, especially when the bad guys are only seperated by bars, and the good ol’ boys in blue may not be as good as they seem.
And from here I suppose it could go many ways – prison break/all the moles in the department weren’t accounted for/internal conflict. Because I like danger I’d probably go with someone tracking them, though.

She shouldn’t have been out at all; certainly not at this hour, and never in this neighborhood. Brielle risked a quick glance behind her, the single watery streetlamp that hadn’t been vandalized into dark oblivion giving off an eerie glow on the deserted street. She squared her shoulders, kept her eyes straight ahead in a false show of bravado. He was watching her. She could feel his eyes following every step she took, but it still felt like an eternity before she unlocked the door and slipped behind the wheel of her ancient Toyota. She’d thought the old rustbucket might be less conspicuous than its replacement, but as it coughed to life she realized than anything moving tonight in the unnatural stillness might as well be a glaring red beacon for less than friendly eyes that watched behind darkened windows.
Don’t trust anyone. Detective Shryock – Chase’s – words echoed ominously in her mind, but before she could jam the car into gear, the world around her shattered.
Ash and debris rained from the sky, and the blast caused her entire head to ring. When the glow of it finally registered, she caught her breath. The house where she’d come to warn Detective Shryock that he wasn’t as deep undercover as the powers to be would have him believe; the house where, an hour ago, one undercover Detective Chase Shryock had proved that wine-induced girl’s night discussions about him were more truth than fantasy, was engulfed by flames.
Brielle couldn’t move. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horror, couldn’t bring herself to just drive away even as lights flickered on and people spilled into the glow. Frozen, seconds ticked away like hours until the distant wail of sirens brought her spiraling back into the present and she saw the dark form of a department-issued SUV creeping up on her. No emergency lights, just the driver’s side window rolled down and the face of the esteemed Coldwell Police Chief illuminated by the fire. Her own horrified eyes locked with his cold ones, then the Coldwell Police Chief brought his hand up, index finger pointed directly at her as he brought his thumb down.
He mouthed the word, but she heard it loud and clear as his taillights disappeared.

Thanks, Chrissy! I actually really enjoyed writing this, although once it posted I noticed all my mistakes, lol.

I love this romantic suspense setup, and the reasons for the baby being a secret are plausible, contemporary and intriguing! You also have solid motivation for Ree wanting nothing to do with Chase, concerned as she is for the safety of her child. As you point out, there are many different directions you can go from here. For a story that puts the romance plot at the centre, you might want to delve into the emotional impact of the baby on the relationship. How does Chase react when he learns he has a child? And Ree when she discovers Chase is still alive? What plans did they have for their lives before they were reunited and how (apart from the suspense storyline) are those plans disrupted? I’d love to know more! Nice job!

Tara almost dropped the phone upon hearing the news about Victor’s engagement. Just three months ago, she and he were on such a path, everyone thought they were on the verge of getting married – the very thing she thought would happen when she returned to Florida. She placed the phone on the charging base and slowly made her way over to the recliner, her favorite place to wind down. Her mind went back to how it all had started.
Amazingly, after four years of sneaking mutual glances across the classrooms, lunch room, gym, and wherever scheduling circumstances at Grayson High brought her across the path of Victor Marks, it was a chance meeting that brought them together at a singles outing one evening in her junior year of college. Her best friend Madeline and her new husband had just been installed as the singles group leaders at their church and had invited Tara to their first event. Of course Madeline knew about the forever-burning torch Tara had been carrying for Victor and adamantly expressed to Tara that she had nothing to do with Victor being invited as well. It didn’t matter. As soon as the group leaders had greeted everyone and encouraged the group to get to know one another, Victor made a bee line to Tara and planted himself in the seat next to her. For the entire night, it felt as if only she and Victor were the only two people at the massive table in the elegant restaurant. His hazel eyes held hers captive the entire evening and his deep, baritone voice was like soothing music to her soul. They were so comfortable with each other; it was as if they had always known each other!
For the next two weeks, they saw each other every day, and talked about their plans for the future. Tara divulged her love of fashion and excitedly shared the news about her upcoming internship at one of the top fashion schools in New York, while he in turn talked about his plans to join his father’s law firm upon graduation and to also start grooming to be his father’s successor as pastor of their mega church. Finding out about his passions had only caused the deep dormant feelings Tara had felt for Victor for the past few years to deepen surface. They fell so hard and so fast for each other, it only took the right setting – the two of them alone in his apartment on a beautiful night- after a lovely dinner- for the ultimate to happen. Just this morning, before the earth shattering phone call had come from Madeline, Tara remembered the earth had moved before: in her bathroom earlier that morning when the pregnancy indicator stick had turned blue. She could never go back to Florida now……

Oops! I had to make an amendment to the final sentence…

Now, sitting here in her recliner in New York where she was completing her internship, she made a rock solid decision. She could never go back to Florida……

Not sure I get the conflict in this one. I see there can be, but what kept them apart long enough for him to find another girl?

He didn’t actually find another girl – Tara is unaware that she and Victor are the victims of a malicious plot from Gina,  an interested suitor who works for Victor’s father and enviously observed the engrossed couple. Turning to social media, she posted pics of Victor and herself at different church events and posted a picture of her hand sporting a glitzy diamond with the caption “so looking forward to becoming Mrs. Victor Marks”. Madeline called the minute the news was out…..
Tara disconnects herself from everyone in Florida, including Madeline. She does not want Victor to know about the baby out of her anger at finding out about the fiancée (though fake). She considers the possibility of bringing Victor’s hopes and dreams as a mega pastor to a screeching halt with the news about the child, but incidentally, the designs she creates during her internship quickly catapults her to a prominent position with an international designer in spite of her expectancy. 
Years later, Tara and Victor are brought together for a televised talk-show spotlighting successful, eligible bachelors where he is one of the featured guests and Tara is one of the costume designers on staff (or one of the contestants being matched with the bachelors – not sure where I want to go with that yet).
*Thanks for your comments! I know I used a lot of wording (working on this), but I hope I provided enough to show the conflict. You really helped to get the creative juices flowing! *
Thanks, Chrissie!

Is there a reason why she’s so isolated that the fake out from Madeleine works? Why would she immediately believe it? If Madeleine was at the event where they first got together, why wasn’t she with him? Why didn’t he track her down if he liked her so much? Just trying to follow…

Thanks for your comments, Anne and Fiona. I realize there are LOTS of loopholes, so I am posting a REDO (I apologize for taking up so much of the post space!)…and I think this would be a Love Inspired romance, Fiona.

Tara finally gets the chance to explore an unrequited love for the man of her dreams, bad boy Victor Marks, who has seemingly turned 180 degrees from his bad rep in high school. She receives a call from the design school and has to suddenly leave for New York within a few days to fill a needed position with a very in-demand designer, throwing a wrench in the budding relationship. Then enters Gina, a subtly psychotic suitor who seizes the opportunity of their separation and posts an outright lie about her engagement to Victor on social media, with pictures to back her claim. Madeline, Tara’s best friend who was unaware of the scheme, sees the post and calls to New York to inform Tara. To cover her dilemma of having conceived a baby with a man that she thought was in a relationship (something she had promised herself she would never do since she was the product of an adulterous affair and never accepted by her father), a very wounded and embarrassed Tara disconnected herself from her previous life to devote herself to shielding herself and her child from the personal scars she’d carried all her life, even if that meant assuming a stage name, new identity, etc. Victor eventually finds out about the Gina’s treacherous lie and goes the mile to clear his name and to reclaim the honor he fought so long to gain. He searches for Tara as much as his busy schedule and financial backing would allow, but the trail goes cold and his demanding schedule does not allow for him to continue his search.
Five years have passed when a reality show airing brings Tara and Victor together. They both have to fight through the feelings of shock, anger and rejection to get to the truth and Victor is determined he will not let Tara get away this time because he recognizes he has never had room in his heart for another woman because of her. Then he discovers Tara’s daughter, who has his same amber eyes and the same beauty mark next to her mouth that his sister has. Doing the math, his reasons for staying in New York have gone to another dimension.

Wow! This is definitely a juicy story and I’m a huge fan of reunion romances. I like the fact that Victor and Tara seem to gravitate to each other starting in high school. My suggestion is that you create a compelling reason for them to break up, with one party especially injured. This would create additional emotional conflict. You have good external conflict, outside circumstances pulling the two characters apart, though often external conflict can be debunked (You’ll see what I mean). If Victor and Tara are headed nicely down the same path this second time, it’s just too cozy for them. The second time they meet, perhaps they could be less cozy but have a lovely reunion before Tara goes back to her life. Then she discovers she’s pregnant. It may be just me, but I’m not a big fan of the mean ex out to sabotage a relationship and Gina’s false assertions can be debunked by other people in town. It doesn’t seem a strong enough reason to keep the characters apart. But perhaps there are trust issues between Tara and Victor. Or he’s trying to live up to this vision of himself as the perfect preacher and this relationship really goes against that. I don’t think you really need the reality show to bring them together and that seems very coincidental, that they’d both be there. Maybe a family mixer of sorts? But you also have to consider why the heroine keeps the baby a secret. So many ideas to consider—and you’ve got a great start here! I realize this is all very subjective. I wish you much success with this story. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Thank you Kathryn, Calida and Patience! Patience, I truly appreciate your critique and wonderful suggestions! I will definitely consider them. 🙂

Darcy stood barefoot on the beach, her toes playing with the warm sand as she pondered over what to do about the predicament she was in. The rhythmic motion of the undulating waves did nothing to ease the turbulent emotions running riot inside her.
Darcy’s gaze drifted to the tiny blonde bundle sat by her feet. A warm smile curved her lips as she observed her three year old attempt to build a sandcastle, her cute little pixie face set with determination. Determination. A trait she remembered well in her daughter’s father, Lyle Hamilton.
Twenty-four year old Darcy Benton, a jobbing actress living in London, had met Lyle, one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed film directors on the set of a chat show. She’d been invited to talk about a part she’d played in a relatively successful mini costume drama while Lyle, who had flown in from New York, spoke about a movie he had been working on.
The attraction that had flared between herself and Lyle had been instant and undeniable. After the show he had pursued her. She hadn’t had the strength to say no to the tall, dark haired, sexiest man she’d ever set eyes on. He was due to fly back to the States the following day and she knew if she denied herself a pleasure that she knew would be unforgettable, she would regret it for the rest of her life.
After a night of pure unadulterated hot sex, he’d made clear to her that he wasn’t into commitments and that he enjoyed his freedom. She hadn’t been too upset by his words because she hadn’t expected their time together to be anything more than a one-night stand. He was a Hollywood celebrity. Their worlds were complete polar opposites. By the way he had spoken to her she guessed that he’d assumed she’d taken care of protection but she hadn’t. He had been the first man she’d slept with and there hadn’t been anyone else since because their one night together had resulted in their daughter.
Now, flat broke and barely able to make ends meet she had landed herself a lead part in a movie which she heard had the makings of becoming a blockbuster. She’d accepted the offer immediately. It was the role actors dreamed about. The company was going to pay for her to re-locate to America for the duration of the making of the movie. And the money offered to her would solve all of her financial worries. But the only problem she had with this dream job was the director. It was none other than, Lyle Hamilton who was engaged and soon to be married.

Very well setup. Hollywood stories always appeal to people. Just like we enjoy following their drama on screen and off. Nice job!

What an incredibly fun story! It’s not often that we have celebrity romances, but this premise seems so classically juicy that it doesn’t matter what careers the characters have. I love that their night of passion had no strings and they both understood this. And I love that they now have to work together with so many obstacles keeping them apart: Lyle’s engagement, their child, the past. Really wonderful job! I would definitely read this story!

Ps. My one nitpicky comment was about the birth control. I know it’s not romantic but why didn’t the heroine think about birth control? In the scene itself this doesn’t need to be an issue, but since you bring it up–that he was expecting her to take care of it–I thought I would ask.

Thank you SO much Patience, for the very kind feedback! Your kind words have absolutely made my day! Thank you. 🙂 xoxo
The heroine didn’t think about birth control because she’d never been in a serious relationship and never had the need to use birth control. Secretly she had been saving herself for her soul mate. But when she met the hero, she forgot about everything and gave in to the need that drew them together. 🙂

Emma’s hometown fiancé is killed in an Air Force exercise.
While grieving, she wanted to be close to him in some way. She skipped classes at UW, where she was going to school in Laramie, and drove to Sheppard AFB in TX, where Sam had been training as a fighter pilot at the Euro-Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training program.

Not having access to the base, Emma went to a local bar that Sam had mentioned, a favorite watering hole for the pilots. After a little too much alcohol and a lot of regret that she and Sam had never had sex, a memory she now wished she had , Emma’s eyes continued to return to one particular pilot. She went to a motel with him that night.

Feeling extreme remorse for her uncharacteristic actions and embarrassment for waking up next to a guy she’d just met, Emma slips out early the next morning and heads back to Laramie.

When she discovers she’s pregnant, everyone in her area assumes the baby is Sam’s. The families are thrilled to have a legacy of him. Under the avalanche of guilt for what she’d done and appreciation for all the support they’ve given to help with what they thought of as their grandchild so she could finish college and go into the Air Force as an officer, Emma lets the assumption continue. She couldn’t stand to hurt them and squash their joy in the baby when she doesn’t know who the pilot from the bar was, other than his first name, and never expects to see him again. Until six years later when they are stationed at the same base. And she discovers he has never forgotten her.

Nice twist on a classic. I like the military factor too. They have no control over their lives, where they are stationed etc. (non-officers anyway.) so lots you can do with this one.

Thanks! I appreciate the feedback. Yes, he’d discovered it was her first time that night. He searched for her the next day, but there was no trace of who she was.

I can tell already that this story will make me cry. Poor Emma has to deal with the death of her fiancé, then the ramifications of betraying her town, not to mention raising a child on her own. It’s understandable that she wouldn’t know who this pilot is but I wonder if she ever tries to find him, even through his first name? I think this is a fantastic set up for a story. I would love to know more about how Emma remembers the pilot over the six years before they are reunited and what kind of conflict they have when they are on the same base. There is so much potential here! Great job.

Thank you very much for the feedback, Patience. Emma remembers Noah every time she looks into her son’s eyes, which she knows are a few shades darker than Sam’s were. Although Noah is the only one she’s been with in the six years, Emma is finally allowing herself to date a man she met at the base. Until Noah arrives. And realizes a number of things.

Reid St. Clair knew who the woman was immediately as she strolled into the bar. There was no mistaking that figure in those tight jeans, that halo of golden waves, nor the icy blue glare that pinned him to his seat. This was Amy Henderson and she was pissed.

“You should have told me who you work for!” Amy snapped at Reid from between even white teeth.

“Hey, it didn’t come up.” Reid stood to meet the wave of fury that emitted from the woman he thought he’d never see again. It had been an amazing weekend and even though he found himself thinking about her repeatedly over the last month, he never expected to feel the same rush of emotions as his eyes rove over her. “Why would you care?” Widening his stance, he waited for reason behind her anger.

“Because I just received the best job offer of my life from Quinten Havelock.”

“My boss,” Reid said frowning.

“Yes, and here’s the first kicker or you, he’s my father.”

“What? Quinten doesn’t have any children.” Reid scoffed, but there was something sincere in Amy’s tone.

“Helen Miller was my mother.” Amy dropped the actresses’ name like it was a grenade, because it was.

“Quinten and Helen…”

“They were together for two years, yes. I’m the result.”

“What’s the other kicker?” Reid asked, it was better to get it all on the table.

“Quinten is going to be a grandfather.”

“You? Is it mine?”

“Don’t be crazy, of course not.” But Amy wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Love it when a heroine can’t lie convincingly. Nice setup….and extra points for a double secret baby. You could call it “The Secret Daughter’s Secret Baby”. Just putting it out there ;).

Nicely done, Yvonne. You bring us right into the scene and interaction between the hero and heroine. And you present the double-secret-baby predicament in such a clever way. I wondered why the heroine was so angry, so perhaps that will be clarified. Is it because she thinks the hero is intervening in some way? You do a good job of showing us the characters and creating the tension between them. Looking forward to seeing what happens next. Well done!

Thank you Patience,

Amy is angry because Reid off handedly said he’d recommend her consulting services to his boss. She never took him seriously, until she got the call to come in and set up a contract. Which was after their weekend st a conference…and the test results.

So now she has to deal with a father she had been avoiding her whole adult life. She’s not even sure he knows about her.

Gorgeous, Corrine Delaney is happy studying psychology at university. She meets a student with a stack of computer manuals and a book of poetry by Lorna Crozier. Intrigued, they fall in love.
The mood on campus turns somber after a series of assaults, but Corrine is not worried because her boyfriend walks her to her door. Trouble starts when he walks to his place across the campus late at night.
Tyler falls under suspicion when he is unable to deny being near the assaults on the nights they happened. Corrine tries to believe in him, but the rumor mill heats up and people wonder if she is covering for him.
Suspicion forces Tyler to leave school. Meanwhile, Corrine finds she is pregnant and determines to keep their baby. She doesn’t know that the police have told Tyler he can’t go on the campus and thinks he has left her or worse.
Working as a bar tender at a local bar, Tyler picks up some evidence about the crimes, but he is unable to convince the police to follow it up. Tyler uses his tech skills to anonymously start a web site to tell the story of what happened with an animated map of the campus. He asks followers to comment if they remember anything that didn’t share with the police and build a composite picture.
If the truth comes out, can she overcome the complications of love to welcome him back into her life and the life of a child who is undoubtedly his own, and can Tyler forgive her?

Kathryn, this is an interesting twist with lots of directions to go. Important for a good story…and so hard to do sometimes. Conflict is great.

Kathryn, centering your story around campus assault is very timely, and you have an interesting setup. I think what I would want to understand here is what’s keeping Corrine and Tyler apart, beyond the police ban on Tyler’s presence on campus. Very intriguing and contemporary setup!

Thank you to Deidre, SYTYCW editor and all of you for your comments. I really appreciate them. Best wishes to everyone, these were so much fun to read.

Scene opens with again off again lovers in the emergency room with the heroine experiencing an eptopic pregnancy and needing immediate surgery. Next scene is H/H in the hospital room and features H\H discussing what has happened. The heroine agrees with the hero that they probably weren’t ready and to protect her heart gives him that out. They agree to part ways again and the heroine ( a registered nurse) plans to spend some time with her family and then take a nursing travel assignment. Hero leaves room and the heroine is left to her emotions and lamenting and realizing how much she wanted the baby. Her OBGYN comes into the room and apologizes he got held up in surgery. After a brief assessment he assures her everything is going to fine the ectopic pregnancy was caught in time and will have no effect on her carrying the uterine pregnancy to full term. Heroine ask doctor to repeat that and the doctor States you were pregnant with twins one in the fallopian tube, the other in the uterus there was no way to save the ectopic pregnancy but he is confident the rest of the pregnancy will be uneventful and you’ll have a normal pregnancy and a healthy baby.

Original idea, Lori! And some good motivation for the heroine keeping the pregnancy a secret and the hero having no idea about the baby.

Thanks for contributing, everyone! We’ll have another SYTYCW #WritingChallenge soon!

If we didn’t get a response on our setup does that mean it’s one Harlequin isn’t interested in? There were four of us who didn’t receive a response. Just curious??

A Blast from the Past
Anna was a nerd who liked hanging out in the library. It was her private world, the only place where no one criticized her looks or clothes. She wasn’t ugly, but she never gave much importance to her looks. Coming from a family of meager means, it wasn’t really surprising. Her studies became her life and the only interaction she had with her classmates was when they asked for her help in assignments and projects. She would never have minded not having any friends, if not for Drake, the bane of her existence.
Drake was a spoiled, arrogant, rich kid. And he had somehow made it his life’s mission to make Anna’s life miserable. But unbeknownst to all, Drake did not really hate her, what he hated was always coming in second to her. No matter what he did, he could never top Anna. To compensate for that, he would make fun of her and ridicule her in front of the class. He did everything to distract Anna from her studies, but to no avail, of course. Intrigued, Drake started hanging out in the library clandestinely observing his nemesis. He discovered a lot of amazing things about Anna and soon enough, he was falling for her. But being the arrogant fool that he was, he couldn’t let Anna know that. He kept on with his pretense of ‘hating’ Anna up until Graduation Day. He knew that he would be sent abroad for his Masters, and it would probably be the last time that he would see Anna. He realized that he just couldn’t let this night pass without being with her.
During the Graduation Ball, Drake approached Anna to congratulate her for beating him again. It was an awkward moment, made even more so because of Anna’s natural suspicion regarding Drake’s motives. But our hero, being such a charming devil, was able to make her comfortable after a few dances. They talked, laughed, danced and drank a lot. So, to cut a long story short, they ended up sleeping together. When Anna woke up the next day, she was horrified by what she had done. Filled with shame and self-loathing, she bolted from the room without even leaving a note. Drake was disappointed when he woke up without Anna. But he reasoned that it probably was for the best since he wasn’t sure if he could face her after what happened between them. Besides, he would be leaving for London in a couple of weeks and he’d rather not have any teary goodbyes with her.
Fast forward to five years after that event. Anna walks into the Board Room of the Company she was working for as Marketing Manager. And who does she see? Drake! As it turned out, he was the new CEO who everyone was talking about. Anna needed the job, so she had no other choice but to work with him. She was just thankful that he never talked about what happened between them five years ago. And since Anna thought that it was just a one-night-stand gone awry, she did not see the need to inform Drake of the consequences of that night. She and her son had survived for four years without him, they would survive the next coming years.
Things were quite civil between them; they even worked together quite well. Until Drake found out about Anna’s four-year-old son, Jason. He had a strong suspicion that the child was his, but Anna told him that Jason’s father was someone she met right after graduation. Although he did not believe it, Drake had to make her think that he bought it. He feared that she would disappear again if he forced her to reveal the child’s paternity. He had already accepted that he still had feelings for Anna, but he was now engaged to the daughter of his father’s best friend. Even though it was just an arranged marriage, he didn’t want the scandal that would erupt should he break it off. He now had to make a choice between family honor and love. And only two things could make him turn his back on his family – if Anna would acknowledge him as Jason’s father and if she would give the chance to win her heart.

Harmony could not believe what she just been told. How could an act this careless go unnoticed?
What were you thinking? Harmony asked the lab assistant. My husband will be coming home soon from the marines and you tell me this? What am I going to do!
The lab assistant Constance was sorely sorry for the mix up. She knew she’ d be fired if word got out bout the mix up so she told the only person she trusted most, her sister, Harmony. From the way things are looking right now, Constance will be fired from her job and possibly as a sister.
It was an accident! The viles just slipped through my fingers and I didn’t know what else to do! I felt you needed to know.
Harmony was feeling dizzy so she sat down on the examine table. Of all things that could’ve happened, this was the worst. How was she to tell her husband that his sperm had gotten contaminated when her clumsy sister dropped his viles of sperm on the lab floor and replaced by another man’s? Not just any man but her best friend’s husband, who is a fertility doctor? Harmony wasn’t sure how she going to tell her husband she’s not the mother of his children but another man’s. She could see the conversation now:
Honey, I fixed your favorite meal: fried chicken smothered with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts fried with bacon, and chocolate triple layer cake. A glass of champagne. Once her husband finishes his meal and she looks him in the eyes and grasps his strong, warm, hands in hers and says, you know I love you right? His answer: of course I do. Well, you won’t after I tell you this.
What’s going on baby? You leaving me?
No, but you might leave me and I hope not.
Get on with it then. You know I love you. He says.
Harmony breathes deeply then exhales. I’m pregnant.
That’s awesome! He hugs her. Why you shaking?
Its…. Its not yours.
Harmony watches her husband calmly scoot away from her and out the front door. His car speeding off into the distance.

A first timer to your site. Your secret baby gave me an idea for a slant to a story I already have, in first draft. Brother 1 gives AIDS to Shelia. Brother 2 rescues her for personal reasons and marries her (to give the child a name) Shila is afraid to have intercourse because she wants brother 2 to live to take care of her baby if she comes down with AIDS. The lie is to brother 1 who suspects, but hell, he doesn’t really care in the end. Brother 2 and girlfriend live happily ever after.

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