Ten (fascinating) facts about Gretna Green!

Wedding bellsNicola here, talking today about elopement, Gretna Green and the difference between English and Scottish marriage laws in the Georgian and Regency period.

The Gretna Green marriage is something of a theme in historical romances. A couple from England, desperate to marry, perhaps under 21 years old and opposed by parents or guardians, make a dash for the border. The reason they needed to do this? Under the Marriage Act of 1753 (also known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act), clandestine or common-law marriages in England were made illegal. All marriages were required to have an official ceremony performed by a Church of England priest, unless the couple was Jewish or Quaker. The Act also required parental consent for parties under 21 years old and enforced the publication of Banns. This Act also applied in Wales and Ireland. However, it did not apply to Scotland as Scotland was under its own legal system.

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Blythe Gifford introduces The Brunson Clan in Return Of The Border Warrior

Blythe Gifford Photo copyNicola here. Last year I was fortunate enough to spend a holiday in the Scottish Borders. It's a stunningly beautiful part of the UK with dramatic scenery and a tumultuous history. I remember thinking that you could not get a better setting for a historical series packed full of passion and adventure.  Then I heard about Blythe Gifford's new trilogy, set in the Borders during the Tudor era and I could not wait to get her to visit the Wenches and tell us all about it! 

Now it's over to Blythe:

First, thanks for
having me back.  Many books by the Word
Wenches sit on my keeper shelf, and it’s always an honor to share your corner
of cyberspace.

The occasion is the
launch of my new trilogy in the US and the UK. 
RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR,
Cover_ROTBW_lg a November release from Harlequin
Historical, is the first of three about the Brunson Clan, a family of Reivers
on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era.

Stubborn and strong,
the Brunsons are the most feared family on the turbulent Scottish Borders:  The family that will kneel to no one!

In Historical
Romanceland, where I live and work, Scottish Highlanders get all the glory, but
I find the Borders much more interesting. 
Whether there was a formal war or an uneasy peace, the Borders were, in
effect, a war zone for 300 years.

Constant war, along
with a bleak, hilly terrain ill-suited to settled agriculture, and inheritance
laws that split land into smaller and smaller parcels all combined to make it
difficult to keep body and soul together. 
To survive, the Reivers, a term applicable to both English and Scottish
families, “made a living” by stealing from one another, or, alternately, by
collecting “blackmail” from those who could pay to be left alone.

Loyal to family
above king, these folks had feuds that rivaled the famous Hatfields and
McCoys  They were beyond the law of
either government, and usually even beyond the reach of the special Border Laws
that were developed in a joint Anglo-Scots effort to bring order from the
chaos.

Marches_mapThe term “Borders,”
refers to an area encompassing both sides of the formal demarcation line.  It operated in many ways like a third
country with its own governmental districts, called Marches.  Wardens, think of them as sheriffs or
governors, were appointed for each March and the wardens of the Western
Scottish March and the Western English March, for example, were supposed to
work together to keep the peace and punish those who broke it.  Their success was marginal at best.

This was, in part,
because the inhabitants, north and south of the demarcation line, had more in
Reivers_raid_on_Gilnockie_Tower
common with each other than with the rest of their respective countrymen.  They were just as likely to make war on an
enemy family on their own side of the border and to ally with one on the opposite
side.  Borderers were fierce fighters,
but they fought on their own terms and there was many a story of cross-border
families calling their own truce in the middle of the kings’ battles.  In a desperate effort to try to “keep the
players straight,” the Border Laws prohibited marriage across country lines.

It worked about as
well as you might expect.

All this offered
story possibilities that were irresistible. 
So I hope my new trilogy, will introduce readers to a setting that has
it all:  strong men, bold women, and a
code of honor and loyalty unmatched in the realm.

The first book is
the story of John, the youngest son, who returns home after years of serving as
a “big brother” to the young Scottish king. 
John is a man with something to prove, both to himself and to his family.  As the only blue-eyed Brunson, he’s always
felt as if he didn’t belong.  Now, he no
longer wants to.  As soon as he enforces
the king’s command for peace, he plans to return to his life at court and leave
the valley of his birth for the last time.

But first, he must persuade
Cate Gilnock to release his family from their promise to avenge her father’s
death.  Cate is a woman fierce as a
warrior, but behind her eyes John senses vulnerability and secrets she refuses
to share.  Bit by bit, he falls in love
with her, and with each step, he is drawn back into the life he thought he had
left behind forever.  Because of Cate,
he discovers he is more like the rest of his family than he thought until,
finally, he must decide:  Is he truly a
Brunson?  Or is he the King’s man after
all?

CAPTIVE OF THE
BORDER LORD, January 2013, will tell the story of John’s sister, Bessie Brunson
and finally, Black Rob Brunson, oldest son and leader of the family, meets his
match in TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013. 


Cover_ROTBW_lgBlythe is offering a
signed copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR to one lucky reader who comments on
today’s blog so don’t hesitate to post your questions, comments and thoughts!

Blythe’s website is
here and there is an extract from the book here. Thank you very much, Blythe, for visiting the Word Wenches today! 

Photo credits.  Cover used with permission.  Author photo by Jennifer Girard.