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Anne Gracie | A Marriage Of Convenience

January 10, 2012

Anne GracieBRIDE BY MISTAKEI’m a sucker for a marriage of convenience story. I love everything about them.

I’ve written quite a few of them and read heaps, and one thing I love is that no two stories are the same. It all boils down to who the bride and groom are, under what conditions have they married and what expectations do they have about each other — and the marriage.

Also, since I mostly write historicals set in the Regency, it’s very suitable to have MofC stories, as they were so common then. Marriages then were less about love and romance — they were practical arrangements, made to protect property, to consolidate wealth, to make alliances, to maintain class barriers, or to achieve a rise in class.

It wasn’t always the upper classes who made convenient marriages, either. Poor people and those of the middle classes married for security, or to improve family status, too, Even a milkmaid had to have some sort of a dowry to attract a good match. And a good match meant security.

But for me as a romance writer, marriages of convenience are glorious opportunities for fun. I love it when the expectations of the bride and groom are mismatched, where one or both of the participants fight against the growing intimacy, fearing love, fearing the vulnerability it brings, and the loss of control or power, but undermined by unexpected and inconvenient lust — because sex inevitably comes into it. It’s a marriage and it has to be consummated, regardless of how well they know each other.

So it’s like those old science class experiments — place your hero and your heroine together in a glass beaker, then add heat. . .

I love seeing a hero wriggling frantically on the hook, hopelessly lust-ridden by a bride who’s apparently oblivious, or being slowly reeled in as they gradually get to know each other and love grows, sure and strong.

My new book, BRIDE BY MISTAKE, is a marriage of convenience story, with a slight difference. The marriage was made in the middle of the war (Napoleon) when my nineteen year old soldier hero Luke rescued a thirteen year old Spanish girl who was being attacked. She was orphaned and fleeing a hateful forced marriage so to protect her, he married her himself. For her own safety he left her in a convent school. He didn’t expect to survive the war.

But survive it he did, though not unscathed. Now eight years after the marriage, his application for an annulment is refused. He must collect Isabella, his virtual stranger bride. At least, having been raised in a convent, she’ll be docile and obedient.

Reader, she isn’t.

Here’s an excerpt of when they first meet.

This, then was her husband. Isabella tried not to stare.

He was even more beautiful than she remembered. Eight years ago she’d seen him with a child’s eye but she was a child no longer and he was… he was breathtaking. Tall, dark, his skin burnished with the sun, a rich dark-gold flush along his cheekbones and such fine cheekbones they were. His nose was a strong, straight blade, his mouth, severe and beautiful. And his eyes, dark, so dark they looked black, but she knew from before they were the darkest blue she had ever seen. There was no sign of blue now.

All those nights dreaming of him… and now. He was not the same.

She remembered him as very tall and strong with a loose, elegance of movement. Now he seemed bigger, more… solid, his shoulders broader, his chest deeper. A man, rather than a boy, with a soldier’s bearing—no, a hunter’s bearing. Alert, tense, wary.

She could see other changes in him, now she looked. The brightness, the resilience of youth had been burned away, leaving the hardness of bone and bitter experience behind. And cynicism, she thought, looking at the hard, chiseled mouth.

The war had left none of them untouched.

Lieutenant Ripton might be as beautiful as an angel — a stern one, as Sister Josefina had said, but there was a darkness in those eyes of his that had nothing to do with any angel. Even a broken one.

His eyes, the eyes that had danced in her memory, now watched her with a flat, assessing look.

She swallowed and held her head higher, knowing what he would see in her, knowing they were ill-matched. The girls had done their best to make her look as beautiful as they could. It wasn’t their fault she looked as she did. She knew she’d never make a beauty. She desperately wished she looked pretty for him.

But she could see in his eyes she didn’t.

Dear God but it was Mama and Papa again, Papa the handsome eagle soaring high and Mama the plain, dowdy little pigeon, bleeding with love for a husband who never looked twice at her.

Mama’s words rose unbidden to her mind. Guard your heart, my little one, for love is pain. Love is nothing but pain.

BRIDE BY MISTAKE is a convenient/inconvenient marriage story, but it’s also a road trip, an adventure and a story above all, about facing the past, and about love and redemption. I loved writing Luke and Bella’s story and I hope you enjoy reading it.

What about you — do you enjoy Marriage of Convenience stories or not? If you could have an arranged marriage with anyone — dead or alive, real or fictional — who would you choose? I’ll give a copy of BRIDE BY MISTAKE to someone who leaves a comment.

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