Another Wedding of the Century

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo

No, the title of this blog has nothing to do with that fancy shindig at Westminster Abbey last month.  I blush to admit that it’s still another release with my name on it. 

I’ve never had a busier publishing spring:

March—Dark Mirror, a new YA paranormal
April—The Bargain, a reissued Regency historical
May—Nowhere Near Respectable, a new Regency historical

And now for June:

The Wedding of the Century.

Wedding of the Century 2011 My story is called “The Wedding of the Century,” and that was picked up as the title for this anthology, the third time the novella has been released. 

It’s a long novella written almost twenty years ago for a Harlequin historical anthology.  I was vastly flattered to be asked since I was the first non-Harlequin author to receive such an invitation.  The theme was weddings, which is pretty much a no-brainer for a romance author. <G>

WOTC is set in the Gilded Age with a vastly wealthy American girl marrying an English duke.  My story is loosely inspired by the famous marriage of Consuelo Vanderbilt and the Duke of Marlborough, but with a happier ending.  (The real people ended up getting divorced.) 

To Marry an English Lord To Marry An English Lord. Or, How Anglomania Really Got Started

I don’t remember what gave me the idea for the story, though I do remember that these characters spoke in my mind more clearly than just about any other couple I’ve ever written.  Plot inspiration probably came from came from the fabulous book To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. 

This book is sadly out of print now, but used copies are available for as little as $.21 + shipping, and if you like rollicking social history, this book is for you.  Lots of stories of the men and women involved in this transatlantic marriage mart and the delicious details of the lives they lived. (Here’s a picture of the famous designer Charles Frederick Worth Worth, an Englishman who worked in Paris and was the very height of fashion for the period.)

It’s something of a mystery how Americans, who famously tossed out the King of England and banned all inherited titles, nonetheless adore royalty and lords and ladies.  (I don’t precisely adore them, but I do enjoy writing about them!)

Lady Randolph Churchill It was a perfect meeting of needs: rich Americans in search of old titles, and English aristocrats in dire need of money.  Of course, human nature and hormones being what they are, the couplings weren’t usually that cold blooded.  The dazzling Jennie Jerome, daughter of a New York financier and sportsman, met Lord Randolph Churchill, a brilliant younger son of the 8th Duke of Marlborough, at a ball held on a cruiser moored at the Isle of Wight.  (I. e., it was all insanely fashionable.) 

Lord Randolph proposed and was accepted three days later,  Neither set of parents approved—the Marlboroughs thought the connection vulgar, and Jenny Jerome’s mother wasn’t impressed by the fact that Lord Randolph was a younger son, but the Prince of Wales endorsed the match. 

Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, John Singer Sargent The financial negotiations were very difficult, since Lord Randolph didn’t have much money.  Leonard Jerome settled 50,000 pounds on the couple for an income of two thousand pounds a year, but insisted on giving Jennie a separate income of a thousand pounds a year. 

This outraged the Marlborough lawyers: an American girl lost her American citizenship when she married an Englishman, and English law gave all the wifely property to the husband.  Leonard Jerome didn’t think it wise that a wife should be so completely dependent, a sentiment I can heartily agree with.  (The family portrait is Consuelo Vanderbilt and family, and hangs at Blenheim Palance.  It's huge!)

The marriage had its ups and downs, but must be considered a success if only because it produced Winston Churchill.  (He was born less than eight months after the marriage, which suggests that not all Victorians were straight-laced.  <G>) 

Blenheim Palance 
Winston was born at Blenheim Palace, the wildly overdone seat of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was first cousin of 9th duke.  (The one who married Consuelo Vanderbilt.)  Winston had a fascinating and very colorful career (did you know that he won the Nobel prize for literature) before becoming perhaps the most respected Englishman of the 20th century. 

My Wedding of the Century

My novella protagonists are very different from the glitterati since I was intrigued by the idea of two basically nice, down to earth people trying to find each other and a real marriage in the midst of all the fashion and drama of high society.  (Consuelo Vanderbilt’s autobiography is called The Glitter and the Gold, which captures the essence of that.)

The heroine, Sunny Vangelder, is a warm, laughing young lady who wants to marry for love rather than to fulfill the social climbing ambitions of her mother.  The hero is Lord Justin Aubrey, a quiet, introverted second son when he meets and is instantly drawn to Sunny.  She doesn’t even notice him that day at the garden party, where she is busy falling love with a charming snake.

The Breakers, Newport Then Justin unexpectedly inherits his brother’s dukedom, debts, and a very large house with a badly leaking roof.  He needs to marry an heiress, but he truly wants Sunny.  Forced into the marriage by her mother, Sunny can’t believe that love has anything to do with it.  (The picture is of The Breakers, the famous Vanderbilt mansion in Newport, RI. Some of the novella takes place in Newport.)

Naturally Justin and Sunny work things out, but in romance, the journey to the ending is the whole point.  I had a lovely time researching and writing this story (which is about twice the length of the average novella), and I’m delighted that it’s once more available.

I’ll be giving away a free signed copy of The Wedding of the Century to one person who comments on this post between now and Tuesday midnight. 

And before I sign off on this Memorial Day–a moment of silence for all those military men and women who have served this country since the beginning.

Worth gown--Empress Elizabeth of Austria Mary Jo , adding a picture of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria wearing a Worth gown