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49 Wives, 139 Daughters, 188 Reasons to Call Your Book Something Else

Medical Daughters

I can only assume that the bloodletter’s daughter and the bonesetter’s daughter opened up a practice together.

A few months ago, I reviewed The California Wife and, immediately after that, Absalom’s Daughters. Reading these two in a row—and seeing others like them appear on my desk day after day—made me wonder why this type of title was so popular. Curious, I scoured our archives for books with “wife” or “daughter” in the title. When the results proved too expansive, I narrowed my search to books formatted as “The ___’s Wife” or “The ___’s Daughter” (adjectives were allowed, as in The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter). This instantly gave way to 49 Wife titles and an impressive 139 Daughter titles. Yet, the list, which is included below, is far from comprehensive. But what dictates this trend?

Although some critics might (justifiably) protest that these titles reduce the leading female to a subsidiary role, they can also contextualize a book’s setting or conflict. Historical fiction titles, for example, can ground you in a specific era in only a few words. The Samurai’s Wife, for instance, takes place in seventeenth-century Japan, and the The Heretic’s Daughter is about the Salem Witch Trials.


A graph representing the escalating popularity of the Wife / Daughter Continuum.

Other titles push that idea a step further by emphasizing an unfavorable identity that the main character has inherited from her family. In The Traitor’s Wife, Eleanor le Despenser’s reputation suffers because of the decisions her husband makes, and in The Concubine’s Daughter, Li-Xia follows her mother’s dreams—instead of her footsteps—by becoming a scholar. Both of these titles broadcast the novels’ core conflicts, a tendency that transfers to the mysteries on our list—most obviously, The Killer’s Wife. We know someone married a killer, and we can assume that will lead to a lot of problems. Boom—conflict! The thrillers on this list, however, are the most glaring exception this trend. Instead of being the protagonists, the titular women in crime fiction are sometimes relegated to victim roles, such as when Captain Ann Campbell is murdered in The General’s Daughter.

Overall, these titles show how society can brand a woman.

Although some of the youth titles follow a young woman as she hurdles obstacles and breaks down barriers, others simply imply that the daughter will inherit one of her parent’s jobs. For example, in The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Lila, as the title suggests, creates her own spectacular fireworks after learning the craft from her father.

Overall, these titles show how society can brand a woman. They also seem to make a promise that the novels will show how one woman will transcend that role. Yet, after sifting through 188 titles written with this formula in mind, I can’t help but wonder if it’s time these books overcame their own labels. Some of these are bestselling novels, but that doesn’t mean we should take the easy way out by mimicking them. Why not try something with “girl” in the title instead? We sure don’t have enough of those!


We begin our survey in 1991, when Amy Tan kicked off the trend with The Kitchen God’s Wife. (20 years later, in 2011, she would publish The Bonesetter’s Daughter, making her the only author with a title in both categories.) The following year, two more wife books followed. But it wasn’t until 1998 that the trend went into high gear, when three “The _____’s Wife” books came. Since then, at least one book with the”The _____’s Wife” construction has been published every year—most years see two or three, and many have four wife titles each.

But 2016 is truly the year of the wife book with six of these titles, two to be published in August.

Wife Books By Year


The Ambassador’s Wife, by Jennifer Steil (2015)

The Artisan’s Wife, by Judith Miller (2016)

The Artist’s Wife, by Max Phillips (2001)

The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin (2013)

The Bad Boy’s Wife, by Karen Shepard (2004)

The Bishop’s Wife, by Mette Ivie Harrison (2014)

TheThe Tea Planter's Wife Boss’s Wifeby S. L. Stebel (1992)

The Bursar’s Wifeby E. G. Rodford (2016)

The Candidate’s Wifeby Patricia O’Brien (1992)

The Captain’s Wifeby Douglas Kelley (2001)

The Consul’s Wifeby W. T. Tyler (1998)

The Dead Man’s Wifeby Solomon Jones (2012)

The Diplomat’s Wifeby Pam Jenoff (2008)

The Doctor’s Wifeby Elizabeth Brundage (2004)

The Earl’s Wifeby Amy Lake (2001)

The Emancipator’s Wife, by Barbara Hambly (2005)

The Fireman’s Wifeby Jack Riggs (2008)

The Governor’s Wife, by Mark Gimenez (2011)

The Governor’s Wifeby Michael Harvey (2015)

The Headmaster’s Wifeby Thomas Christopher Greene (2014)

The Headmaster’s Wifeby Richard Hawley (2000)

The Killer’s Wifeby Bill Floyd (2008)

The Kitchen God’s Wifeby Amy Tan (1991)

The Liar’s Wifeby Mary Gordon (2014)

The Lightkeeper’s Wifeby Karen Viggers (2011)

The Magician’s Wifeby Brian Moore (1998)

The Pilot’s Wifeby Anita Shreve (1999)

The Poets’ Wivesby David Park (2014)

The Prisoner’s Wifeby Asha Bandele (1999)

The Prisoner’s Wifeby Gerard Macdonald (2012)

The Railwayman’s Wifeby Ashley Hay (2016)

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, by Elizabeth Laban (2016)

The Ringmaster’s Wife, by Kristy Cambron (2016)

The Saddlemaker’s Wifeby Earlene Fowler (2006)

The Samurai’s Wifeby Laura Joh Rowland (2000)

The Sea Captain’s Wifeby Beth Powning (2010)

The Senator’s Wifeby Sue Miller (2008)

The Shoemaker’s Wifeby Adriana Trigiani (2012)

The Shopkeeper’s Wifeby Noelle Sickels (1998)

The Soldier’s Wifeby Margaret Leroy (2011)

The Soldier’s Wifeby Joanna Trollope (2012)

The Sniper’s Wifeby Archer Mayor (2002)

The Tea Planter’s Wife, by Dinah Jefferies (2016)

The Tiger’s Wifeby Téa Obreht (2011)

The Time Traveler’s Wifeby Audrey Niffenegger (2003)

The Traitor’s Wifeby Susan Higginbotham (2007)

The Widower’s Wife, by Cate Holahan (2016)

The Witch Doctor’s Wifeby Tamar Myers (2009)

The Zookeeper’s Wifeby Diane Ackerman (2007)



The daughter trend has continued along the same trajectory as its wifely counterpart, but on a much larger scale. Since 1991, at least two daughter books have come out every year (with the exception of 1998, which only saw one daughter book, and 1996, which had none), but most years have seen upwards of five. 

Nine daughter books came out in 1997, 2007, and 2014. Eleven were published in 2008. But 2011 was the banner year for daughter books, with 14 titles. The trend shows no sign of slowing: six daughter books were released in 2016 alone. 

Daughter Books By Year


The Abortionist’s Daughter, by Elisabeth Hyde (2006)

The Activist’s Daughter, by Ellyn Bache (1997)

The Admiral’s Daughter, by Sandra Madden (2003)

The Advocate’s Daughter, by Anthony Franze (2016)

The Alchemist’s Daughter, by Katharine McMahon (2006)

The Ambassador’s Daughter, by Pam Jenoff (2012)

The Apothecary’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen (2009)

The Astrologer’s Daughter, by Rebecca Lim (2014)

The Bean King’s Daughter, by Jennifer J. Stewart (2002)

The Beekeeper’s Daughter, by Santa Montefiore (2014)

The The Sin Eater's DaughterBlind Astronomer’s Daughter, by John Pipkin (2016)

The Bloodletter’s Daughter, by Linda Lafferty (2012)

The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Amy Tan (2001)

The Bookmaker’s Daughter, by Shirley Abbott (1991)

The Bookseller’s Daughter, by Pam Rosenthal (2004)

The Butterfly’s Daughter, by Mary Alice Monroe (2011)

The Calligrapher’s Daughter, by Eugenia Kim (2009)

The Colonel’s Daughter, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (2005)

The Communist’s Daughter, by Dennis Bock (2007)

The Concubine’s Daughter, by Pai Kit Fai (2009)

The Courtesan’s Daughter, by Claudia Dain (2007)

The Courtesan’s Daughter, by Priscilla Galloway (2002)

The Coven’s Daughter, by Lucy Jago (2011)

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter, by Jana Oliver (2011)

The Demon’s Daughter, by Emma Holly (2004)

The Diplomat’s Daughter, by William Kinsolving (1993)

The Doctor’s Daughter, by Donna MacQuigg (2007)

The Doctor’s Daughter, by Hilma Wolitzer (2006)

The Dreamthief’s Daughter, by Michael Moorcock (2001)

The Eagle’s Daughter, by Judith Tarr (1995)

The Executioner’s Daughter, by Jane Hardstaff (2014)

The Executioner’s Daughter, by Laura Williams (2000)

The Farmer’s Daughter, by Jim Harrison (2009)

The Fat Man’s Daughter, by Caroline Petit (2005)

The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, by Philip Pullman (1995)

The Florist’s Daughter, by Patricia Hampl (2007)

The Fortune Teller’s Daughter, by Lila Shaara (2008)

The Fortune Teller’s Daughter, by Susan Wilson (2002)

The General’s Daughter, by Nelson DeMille (1992)

The Glass Maker’s Daughter, by V. Briceland (2009)

The Gold Miner’s Daughter, by Jackie Mims Hopkins (2006)

The Goldsmith’s Daughter, by Tanya Landman (2008)

The Goldsmith’s Daughter, by Kate Sedley (2002)

The Gravedigger’s Daughter, by Joyce Carol Oates (2007)

The Gun Runner’s Daughter, by Neil Gordon (1998)

The Gurkha’s Daughter, by Prajwal Parajuly (2014)

The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter, by Sharyn McCrumb (1992)

The Hangman’s Daughter, by Oliver Potzsch (2008)

The Headhunter’s Daughter, by Tamar Myers (2011)

The Heretic’s Daughter, by Kathleen Kent (2008)

The Housemaid’s Daughter, by Barbara Mutch (2013)

The Inventor’s Daughter, by M.A. Bronson (2016)

The Khan’s Daughter, by Laurence Yep (1997)

The Kingmaker’s Daughter, by Philippa Gregory (2012)

The King’s Daughters, by Nathalie Mallet (2008)

The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, by O.R. Melling (2001)

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter, by Iain Lawrence (2002)

The Lord-Protector’s Daughter, by L.E. Modesitt (2008)

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, by Cassandra Rose Clarke (2016)

The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd (2013)

The Major’s Daughter, by J.P. Francis (2014)

The Mapmaker’s Daughter, by Laurel Corona (2014)

The Mapmaker’s Daughter, by John Pilkington (2005)

The Martian General’s Daughter, by Theodore Judson (2008)

The Mayor’s Daughter, by James Hoggard (2011)

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards (2005)

The Merchant’s Daughter, by Melanie Dickerson (2011)

The Miner’s Daughter, by Gretchen Moran Laskas (2007)

The Minister’s Daughter, by Julie Hearn (2005)

The Mistress’s Daughter, by A.M. Homes (2007)

The Moneylender’s Daughter, by V.A. Richardson (2006)

The Mortician’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Bloom (2006)

Murderers DaughtersThe Murderer’s Daughter, by Jonathan Kellerman (2015)

The Murderer’s Daughters, by Randy Susan Meyers (2010)

The Musician’s Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap (2008)

The Naqib’s Daughter, by Samia Serageldin (2010)

The Narcissist’s Daughter, by Craig Holden (2005)

The Painter’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen (2015)

The Painter’s Daughter, by Carolyn Street LaFond (2015)

The Piano Man’s Daughter, by Timothy Findley (1995)

The Pirate Captain’s Daughter, by Eve Bunting (2011)

The Poacher’s Daughter, by Michael Zimmer (2014)

The President’s Daughter, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2004)

The President’s Daughter, by William Wells Brown (1853)

The President’s Daughter, by Barbara Chase-Riboud (1994)

The President’s Daughter, by Jack Higgins (1997)

The President’s Daughter, by Mariah Stewart (2002)

The President’s Daughter, by Ellen Emerson White (2008)

The Printmaker’s Daughter, by Katherine Govier (2011)

The Producer’s Daughter, by Lindsay Marcott (2015)

The Professor’s Daughter, by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert (2006)

The Professor’s Daughter, by Emily Raboteau (2005)

The Queen’s Daughter, by Susan Coventry (2010)

The Rats’ Daughter, by Joel Cook (1993)

The Red Queen’s Daughter, by Jacqueline Kolosov (2007)

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter, by John Smolens (2011)

The Sailmaker’s Daughter, by Stephanie Johnson (2003)

The Salt God’s Daughter, by Ilie Ruby (2012)

The Samurai’s Daughter, by Sujata Massey (2003)

The Samurai’s Daughter, by Robert D. San Souci (1992)

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters, by Lisa Wingate (2015)

The Seadragon’s Daughter, by Alan F. Troop (2004)

The Senator’s Daughter, by Christine Carroll (2008)

The Senator’s Daughter, by Victoria Gotti (1997)

The Senator’s Other Daughter, by Stephen Bly (2001)

The Serial Killer’s Daughter, by Heywood Gould (2011)

The Serpent’s Daughter, by Suzanne Arruda (2008)

The Shamer’s Daughter, by Lene Kaaberbøl (2004)

The Shogun’s Daughter, by Laura Joh Rowland (2013)

The Snake Catcher’s Daughter, by Michael Pearce (2003)

The Sin Eater’s Daughter, by Melinda Salisbury (2015)

The Spinner’s Daughter, by Amy Littlesugar (1994)

The Stationmaster’s Daughter, by Harriet Hudson (2005)

The Stonecutter’s Daughter, by Janet Woods (2005)

The Storyteller’s Daughter, by Saira Shah (2003)

The Storyteller’s Daughterby Jean Thesman (1997)

The Sun’s Daughter, by Pat Sherman (2005)

The Tailor’s Daughter, by Maggie Bennett (2006)

The Tailor’s Daughter, by Janice Graham (2006)

The Taxidermist’s Daughter, by Kate Mosse (2016)

The Thief Queen’s Daughter, by Elizabeth Haydon (2007)

The Tinker’s Daughter, by Shelia Hayes (1995)

The Towman’s Daughters, by David J. Walker (2011)

Traitor's DaughterThe Traitor’s Daughter, by Paula Brandon (2011)

The Traitor’s Daughter, by Anna Lorme (1993)

The Tutor’s Daughter, by Julie Klassen (2013)

The Tyrant’s Daughter, by J.C. Carleson (2014)

The Twin’s Daughter, Lauren Baratz-Logsted (2010)

The Victim’s Daughter, by Robley Wilson (1991)

The Vintner’s Daughter, by Kristen Harnisch (2014)

The Virgin Queen’s Daughter, by Ella March Chase (audio link) (2008)

The Warden’s Daughter, by Anne Douglas (2011)

The Watchmaker’s Daughter, by Sonia Taitz (2012)

The Weatherman’s Daughter, by Richard Hoyt (2003)

The Widow’s Daughter, by Nicholas Edlin (2012)

The Winemaker’s Daughter, by Timothy Egan (2004)

The Witch’s Daughter, by Paula Brackston (2011)

The Woodsman’s Daughter, by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (2005)

About the Author:

Biz Hyzy works as an editorial assistant for Booklist's Adult Books department, where she pilfers the most appealing ARCs before anyone else gets the chance. Besides reading, she enjoys swing dancing and ninja training (though, in her case, both include a lot of bumbling around).

4 Comments on "49 Wives, 139 Daughters, 188 Reasons to Call Your Book Something Else"

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  1.' Debra says:

    Don’t forget to use TRAIN in your title. 🙂

    this is very interesting. I’ve noticed this trend but it’s incredible to see your lists!

  2.' Val says:

    Fantastic list! This came up on a Google search, as I was interested in doing a library display along the same lines. It’s a trend that’s been of interest to me as well. I’d love to use some of the data and lists you’ve used, with credit to you. If there are any issues with that, email me at the email attached to this comment. Thanks for sharing!

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