You haven't said just what it is about Carol that's turning you off, aside from the way it sounds with Ruby. Perhaps it's the rhythm: Your ear craves another syllable after "Carol," but you've already said you don't care for Caroline or Carolyn.
Or maybe the pairing of two word names is causing your discomfort. In either of those cases, a second middle name, either before or after Carol, could help. How about a trio like Ruby Elizabeth Carol or Ruby Carol Jane?
Many parents who are drawn to this style of name run into this problem. Today's fashionable surnames for boys almost all end in –n and –r. That gets repetitive as your family grows. And then you have the added complication of a surname starting with R.
To preserve the style of Easton but break out of the ends-with-N pattern, there are a couple of other groups of surname-style names with different ending sounds to try.
–Ready for a Change
I wish I could start by giving you a hug! I also wish I knew if you have a particular reason to believe your parents would get mad at this request. Are they prone to anger? Or is it possible that you are torturing yourself unnecessarily by imagining the worst? Could your anxiety be playing a role?
Many kids your age are hesitant to talk honestly with their parents. And yes, some parents fly off the handle easily, or are too controlling. But many would love to help if their kids would confide in them. They are well-meaning and want you to be happy.
–Still Love Eleanor
Sure, you could use Laney as a nickname for Eleanor! Parents have lots of leeway when it comes to pairing up names and nicknames. I think a lot of people will really like the combination of old-fashioned Eleanor with more contemporary Laney.
You could consider Elle or Ella as nicknames for Eleanor, but those might be too close to Ellie. Or you could use the full Eleanor and skip the nicknames altogether.
It makes perfect sense that parents who love Freya would also be drawn to Thora—and not, as you point out, just because they face the twilight of the gods together. Both names are short and impactful, clearly feminine but full of brisk, strong sounds, and contain a mix of soft and harsh elements. They fit together beautifully without rhyming or obvious repetition. Their shared Scandinavian heritage is a point of obvious union, but no more remarkable than a pair of sisters named Francesca and Gabriella or Bernadette and Jacqueline.
While it's tricky to pin down, "Leena" (as in Lena Horne or Lena Dunham) is much more frequently used in the U.S. and Canada, while "Layna" is standard in Europe and Australia. So if you live in North America, you could use the "more common here" argument to break the tie in your favor.
I do think it's a problem. A cultural connotation that links a pair of names is hard to shake, even decades after the fact. "Amos 'n' Andy" went off the air in 1960—likely well before you were born—yet you know about it, and it comes to mind right away when you hear the similar-sounding combo of Amos and Annie. Each name is just fine on its own, but put them together and you have an issue.
In the United States today, Fox would be a bold choice. It would come across as a bit uncommon, as you prefer, but also as appealing to many with its confident sound and origin in a nature word. Short, brisk word names are on the rise, and Fox fits right in with them.
For me, the symbolism of naming our girls after our mothers is more important than loving the name itself, but my husband feels the opposite: Why give your child a name that you don't like, even if it is your mom's name? Do I try to convince him, or do we start over and give up using my mom's name?
–Mom in a Middle-Name Muddle
Your question made me think of President George W. Bush’s twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, each named after a grandmother (they even got the grandmothers' surnames, Welch and Pierce, as middle names). Stylistically, the names are quite different, but as you point out, their symbolism can outweigh the style difference and make them a cohesive set.
But your husband has a point too. He doesn't want to feel locked into a name choice because of the symbolism. I don't believe either of you should try to badger the other into making a choice you don't feel good about.
–Mama Needs Advice
By "two-vowel," do you mean starts and ends with a vowel, like Enzo does? If so, that's a fun challenge for us to take on. Enzo is an Italian name (a shortening of Lorenzo) that has actually topped the charts in France, giving it a strong European vibe.