Anne here, and today I'm musing once more on tropes in romance novels. I say "once more", because some years ago I blogged about tropes here, and some years before that the wenches answered a reader question about the "chick in pants" trope, and had so much to say we had to split the post into two. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.
But today I'm talking about the marriage of convenience (MoC) trope. The first convenient marriage story I ever read was Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage, and I loved it to bits — and it started a lifetime fascination.
I've practically made a career out of it, though not all my book marriages were convenient: some were forced marriages, and others were . . . shall we say unexpected marriages. But what they almost all have in common is that the hero and heroine marry first as virtual strangers, and then get to know each other.
This situation fascinates me. For centuries, women were married off for a wide range of reasons, very few of them for love. They were married for their dowries — from farm girls to titled ladies, if a woman had no dowry the likelihood of her marrying was slim. Even women entering a convent were asked to provide a dowry.
These days divorce is easily obtained and if a marriage isn't working out, both parties are free to leave. But in the past, people had no choice, they had to make it work or be forever miserable. And in general, it was the women had to do the bending and compromising.
They were married for political reasons, for land, to make peace between feuding families or factions. Saxon ladies could be handed over to conquering Norman males as part of a land grab, "legitimizing" the claim, they could be kidnapped by marauding Vikings there were all sorts of reasons. They had no choice — it was often a forced marriage in the very worst sense. Women in the past were a commodity.
A close cousin to the convenient marriage trope is the mail-order bride. I confess, I cannot resist a mail-order bride story. I would happily write one, but alas, they're pretty much restricted to Western Historical romance.
So whenever I think of a convenient marriage story, I wonder how the relationship developed, and of course, being a romantic, I always want it to work out well for the couple concerned. But every relationship is different and that, for me, is why this trope is endlessly fascinating.
My first convenient marriage story was my second book, Tallie's Knight. In it, Tallie, a poor relation, is simply picked as a convenient bride by Magnus, the Earl of D'Arenville, a complete stranger. Her choice is to accept him or be thrown out of the home she's been given by her dreadful cousin. The story then became the journey they take, not just as they make the Grand Tour, but the journey from strangers to married couple to lovers.
Since then I have written a number of convenient marriage stories — I even wrote a whole series that my publisher named "The Marriage of Convenience" series.
One of my favorite Marriage of Convenience stories — though it was very much a marriage of inconvenience — was Bride By Mistake, where the hero, a young soldier at war in Spain, rescues a young girl from rape. Learning she was fleeing from a forced marriage to a hated relative who wanted her inheritance and land, he marries her himself, assuming the marriage could be annulled at a later date. He delivers her safely to her aunt in a convent.
Eight years later, when the war is over and Napoleon defeated, he discovers that no annulment is possible. He goes to Spain to fetch his bride, expecting to find a nice, meek, convent-trained bride. It's not what he gets.
Do you have favorite tropes that you love to read? Do you have a favorite marriage of convenience or mail-order-bride story? And do you think there is any way I could slide a mail-order bride into a regency?