I’ve always enjoyed reading a marriage of convenience romance. This type of book is familiar and comforting and popular with readers like me. Since I snap up books using this premise, a marriage of convenience plot was the obvious choice when I decided to write my own historical romances. I’ve written two so far—The Spurned Viscountess and Mistress of Merrivale, which both feature this trope.
So what is a marriage of convenience? What are the characteristics of this type of plot?
In times past, love didn’t come into the marriage equation. Parents arranged marriages for their offspring, searching for the links that would bring land, finance and added prestige into the family. Marriage was all about connections and improving your lot in life.
For the romance writer, this is conflict served up on a platter. The hero and heroine start their marriage knowing little about each other, yet since they’re married there is no barrier to those hot sex scenes. The layers of the characters are peeled away as they struggle to find their place in the relationship and, because this is a romance, love.
Modern day marriage of convenience stories are harder to pull off, mainly because times have changed and sex before marriage is common. The modern way is to marry for love, and we generally choose our partners, rather than letting our parents do it for us.
The modern-day couple might marry for more practical reasons such as sealing a contract, securing an inheritance or to perpetrate a pretense of some sort.
If a child is involved, two people might marry to provide that child with a home and safety. Sometimes money comes into the decision, but immigration to allow one half of a couple to enter the country is a modern twist. The need for protection or the insistent tick-tock of a biological clock might persuade a heroine into marriage or even the modern version of mail-order—meeting someone on the internet.
These stories bring inherent conflict because the characters aren’t in love and they don’t have to pretend they’re head over heels for each other. The getting-to-know each other stage of the relationship becomes the conflict. Sexual relations are sometimes part of the deal and sometimes not, and the greater intimacy comes with time.
In Mistress of Merrivale, Jocelyn Townsend is a mistress to a titled man. When her protector no longer requires her services, she is desperate to find a replacement in order to keep her mother safe. Leo Sherbourne requires a wife to warm his bed, keep his house in order and to look after his young daughter. They agree that a marriage of convenience will work well between and that—in the spirit of a good romance—is when all their problems begin.
Here’s the blurb:
A marriage of convenience…full of inconvenient secrets.
Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.
Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.
Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.
As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…
Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?
What do you think of the marriage of convenience trope?