by Fresh Fiction Senior Reviewer Miranda Owen
“I’ve never been the one. Not for anybody.”
He closed the distance between them.
“You’ll get used to it.” He tipped her face up to his, kissed her.
“Why? Why am I the one?”
“Because my life opened up, and it flooded with color when you walked back into it.”
–Nora Roberts, VISION IN WHITE
Weddings are a common occurrence in romance novels, whether they are contemporary, historical, or paranormal. More often than not, they happen near the end of a story as a happy conclusion. While I adore a happy ending just as much as any romance fan, I find stories more interesting when the wedding takes place near the opening of a story. I prefer to think of a wedding as a point in a discussion rather than the conclusion to an exercise. One of my favorite authors is Mary Balogh. In a Mary Balogh novel, there are joyous endings, but no “happily ever afters.” Happiness is something that is an ongoing process that evolves over time and is something that you must work at. In this article, I discuss weddings in some recent romance novels, along with some of my favorites. Each wedding, marriage, and couple’s happiness is unique and worth checking out.
“Either you go to America with Mrs. Van Hopper or you come home to Manderley with me.”
“Do you mean you want a secretary or something?”
“No, I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”
–Daphne du Maurier, REBECCA
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
–Jane Austen, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
The “marriage of convenience” trope is one of my favorites. Specifically, I’ve enjoyed reading many stories in which a wealthy man or woman trades on that wealth in order to obtain the bride or groom of their choosing. A lot of the time when the “marriage of convenience” trope is combined with the “billionaire” trope, the billionaire in question (usually male) tends to be arrogant and generally insufferable to a certain degree. It takes a very talented author in order to have a hero who is flawed but who you still root for to work everything out with the heroine. In THE BILLIONAIRE’S BIDDING by Barbara Dunlop, Alex Garrison cold-bloodedly proposes marriage as a business merger. The sparks of attraction that happen between them catch both he and potential bride Emma McKinley completely by surprise. Part of what makes THE BILLIONAIRE’S BIDDING so entertaining, and a re-read for me, is the way alpha hero Alex is knocked for a loop by his sudden feelings for Emma. Likewise, in BETRAYING THE BILLIONAIRE by Victoria Davies, businessman superstar Julian Worth is caught off guard by his attraction and eventual deeper feelings for Holly Abbott. Julian is initially led to believe that he is wooing and making plans to marry Holly’s sister Lillian. Lillian Abbott is the heir to the influential Abbott family’s financial empire. In this case, it’s the billionaire who is the one being deceived. The real relationship that blossoms on the bed of lies perpetrated by Holly’s father is nothing short of miraculous, but Julian eventually marries the right Abbott sister.
“I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.”
–L.M. Montgomery, ANNE OF THE ISLAND
“To care passionately for another human creature brings always more sorrow than joy; but at the same time, Elinor, one would not be without experience. Anyone who has never really loved has never really lived. . .”
–Agatha Christie, SAD CYPRESS
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Gothic romance junkie. A lot of times the couple in a Gothic romance marries under less than ideal circumstances. Often, it’s the heroine who seems pressured to wed the hero for a variety of reasons. I like that the heroine usually comes out stronger by the end of the tale, and the hero and heroine usually (in the best novels) end up working together to defeat a mutual foe. In WITH THIS KISS by Victoria Lynne, Julia Prentisse offers marriage to Morgan St. James in exchange for helping him catch the arsonist who plagues both of them. The arsonist is obsessed with her and he caused Morgan’s burns. Both characters are realistically flawed but learn to work together to solve the mystery of the mad arsonist. The physical intimacy in their marriage increases as they get to know each other better and grow to like each other.
In THE RELUCTANT DUCHESS by Jane Goodger, the aristocratic and reclusive hero marries the heroine by proxy and has her brought to his creepy mansion. This start to their marriage is so far removed from anything we could imagine today, but Jane Goodger sets this couple on the right path when she has Oliver and Rebecca communicate and begin to develop a friendship.
In Christine Feehan’s paranormal historical novel THE SCARLETTI CURSE, Nicoletta runs from everything and everyone when the possibility of being chosen as the Scarletti bride becomes a very real possibility. In addition to the powerful Scarletti family having an ominous vibe surrounding them, the danger for a woman in that time and place being shackled to the wrong men is a very real danger for Nicoletta. Trust plays a huge role in their marriage being ultimately successful.
Blackmail (although not employed as a tactic by the hero) and fear for her friends motivate the heroine in HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS by Kerrigan Byrne to marry the hero, Piers, in haste. Although Alexandra was hurt in the past, she feels unusually safe being around this hero. Unfortunately for Piers, Alexandra doesn’t confide in him about her past ordeal which makes it difficult to understand her perspective. Like Alexandra in HOW TO LOVE A DUKE IN TEN DAYS, Lady Caroline Ware in JUST ONE TOUCH by Debra Mullins finds trust difficult due to a traumatic past. Like Piers in Kerrigan Byrne’s book, Rogan Hunt exhibits patience when it comes to horses as well as a lady in need of empathy and a gentle touch. Rogan is given Caroline’s painful history before he marries her. That knowledge helps him to a certain degree and allows them to fight her demons together, but in the end, it’s up to Caroline whether she decides to fully trust her new husband.
“And your will shall decide your destiny,” he said: “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my possessions… My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you marry me?”
–Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
Some of my favorite stories about brides are those about women who decide to make a profound change in their lives and choose to be an active participant in their lives, rather than have things happen to them. In SOMEONE TO HONOR by the always amazing Mary Balogh, Abigail Westcott gets off to a rocky beginning with Gilbert Bennington. There are more than a few ruffled feathers, but they eventually grow to like one another. By the time Abigail’s brother suggests they marry, neither of them is that resistant to the idea. Some people react to news of the engagement with worry that Abby has been pushed into the arrangement as something that will primarily benefit Gil, but they are underestimating Abby. Rather than agree to marriage out of any feeling of desperation or resignation, what ultimately moves Abby is a sense of purpose. In the past, Abby never quite knew what she wanted to do with her life, after getting to know Gil and having circumstance align, she gets the sense of purpose she felt she lacked.
In TO SEDUCE A SINNER by Elizabeth Hoyt, another heroine goes after what she wants and takes advantage of the opportunity to marry the man she’s always wanted, while the bridegroom remains largely oblivious. Melisande Fleming is one of my all-time favorite heroines. In her quiet way, she picks up the groom she wants when he’s been jilted, runs rings around him, molds him into the kind of husband she wants. The ending confrontation between husband and wife is so cathartic.
Another mild-mannered bride who is underestimated by most, and who ends up going after the man she desires is Maryanne Hamilton in Sharon Page’s delightfully naughty historical erotic romance BLACK SILK. Both hero and heroine are something of a surprise in this novel and therefore make an interesting bride and groom. After a night of sin and adventure, Maryanne winds up pregnant with family friend Dash Swansborough’s baby. Since Dash is not quite as bad as some people would believe him to be, he does the honorable thing and marries Maryanne. Whether married or not, these two surprise themselves with their spicy yet sweet escapades. In the end, the genuine love and trust they have for each other make their marriage strong.
“I ask you to pass through life at my side – to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
–Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
“I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest – blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine… We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character – perfect concord is the result.”
–Charlotte Bronte, JANE EYRE
In addition to writing some of my favorite heroines, Stephanie Laurens writes some of the most well-suited couples. When people ask me what I love about a Stephanie Laurens heroine, I say that it’s their intelligence, strength, and self-possession. What I love most about her heroes is the way they unconditionally respect and adore the women they love. In DEVIL’S BRIDE, Devil Cynster, the Duke of St. Ives and generally a yummy specimen of masculinity, meets his match in Honoria Wetherby. Nothing will do, except for locking that down and marrying her as soon as he can get her to agree. In her newest book, THE BEGUILEMENT OF LADY EUSTACIA CAVANAUGH, Staci is just as determined as Honoria was to never marry. Like Devil before him, when Frederick, Marquess of Albury is struck by Staci’s intelligence, beauty, and appreciation for music, he pulls out all the stops in persuading her to marry him. Rather than just be a prize, these men recognize the long-term benefits of having a life full of love with such a rare woman. These guys play the long game. Sigh.
BOOKS MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:
Scrambling to save her family’s company, Emma McKinley was shocked when billionaire hotel magnate Alex Garrison tossed her a lifeline— baited with an heirloom engagement ring and a pre-nup an inch thick. It was a textbook marriage of convenience: he calls off her creditors; she gives him half her company. But the elaborate game of make-believe soon became more intoxicating than either of them expected. Could a marriage built on a lie withstand the test of true passion?
Julian Worth isn’t a man with time to spare. Ruling his billion-dollar empire with an iron fist, work is the true love of his life. Which is why when it comes to marriage, a strategic alliance matters more than love. Julian is more than ready to sign on for a little superficial dating and a marriage of convenience if it allows him to take his company to the next level. What he wasn’t ready for was the woman who shows up as his prospective bride.
Holly Abbott has spent her whole life coming in second. Being born four minutes behind her twin sister has defined her life. But when her headstrong sister refuses to go along with their father’s plan to marry her off into a cold business arrangement, Holly has to step up. Knowing the infamous Julian Worth will only entertain marrying the Abbott heir, Holly sets her identity aside to transform into her sister. It’s an easy enough plan. A few dates with a man who isn’t hers won’t hurt anyone.
Except Julian is nothing like the ruthless tycoon she expected. Soon she’s left to wonder, what will happen when her sister comes back and worse, how will she ever be able to give up a man who doesn’t even know her real name?
The Beauty All eyes feasted on the beautiful flame-haired
gambler in London’s most infamous club. But Julia
Prentisse was interested only in the rake-turned-recluse
whom they now called ‘The Beast.’ She lured him out of
the crowded gaming hell to a deserted warehouse, where
she made her scandalous offer: If he married her and
protected her from her uncle, she would help him capture
the arsonist who had ruined his life.
The Beast An act of heroism left Morgan St.James scarred
for life, but Julia’s bold gaze lit fires he had long
suppressed. And now this glorious stranger was his bride.
But when he tried to claim his husbandly rights, she
demanded three months grace—three months to know his
mind, to touch his soul, to win his heart
Romance Historical [Self Published, On Sale: June 30, 2010, e-Book, ISBN: 9780440223344 / ]
The Brides of St. Ives #4
The charming seaside town of St. Ives is hard to leave—but to save her family from ruin, one young woman must face a frightening unknown. . .
Orphaned young, Oliver Sterling, eleventh duke of Kendal, lives in seclusion in his massive home, Horncliffe Manor. Convinced since childhood that he is monstrous, his only company is his guardian, Mr. Winters—a man who perpetuates Oliver’s self-loathing. Still, Oliver is only human. One day, he sees a beautiful young woman in a painting titled “St. Ives Girl.” Captivated, he asks Mr. Winters to find her, marry her by proxy, and bring her back as his bride . . .
Rebecca Kane is shocked that her squire father has agreed to marry her off to a duke in exchange for payment of his gambling debts. But with no option, she submits. Rebecca fears this husband she has never seen in the light of day—yet in the marriage bed, her husband is kind and gentle. And though they remain in darkness, she detects nothing odd about him. She wonders what he is hiding and soon finds there are more mysteries to uncover—about the unsettling noises coming from deep within the manor, about Mr. Winters, and about love—of oneself and one’s beloved. . .
The Beast…The Bride…The Bargain
A New York Times Bestselling Author
Strange, twisted carvings and hideous gargoyles adorned the palazzo
of the great Scarletti family. But a still more fearful secret lurked within its storm-tossed turrets. For every bride who entered its forbidding walls was doomed to leave in a casket. . . .
Mystical and unfettered, Nicoletta had no terror of ancient curses and no fear of being chosen as Don Scarletti’s bride – until she looked into his dark, mesmerizing eyes.
Romance Paranormal [Leisure Books, On Sale: December 29, 2009, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book (reprint), ISBN: 9780843963748 / eISBN: 9780062016515]
The first book in a new and stunning historical romance series by USA Today bestseller Kerrigan Byrne!
These men are dark, bold, and brave. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…
Famed and brilliant, Lady Alexandra Lane has always known how to look out for to herself. But nobody would ever expect that she has darkness in her past—one that she pays a blackmailer to keep buried. Now, with her family nearing bankruptcy, Alexandra strikes upon a solution: Get married to one of the empire’s most wealthy eligible
bachelors. Even if he does have the reputation of a devil.
LOVE TAKES NO PRISONERS
Piers Gedrick Atherton, the Duke of Redmayne, is seeking revenge
and the first step is securing a bride. Winning a lady’s hand is not so easy, however, for a man known as the Terror of Torcliff. Then, Alexandra enters his life like a bolt of lightning. When she proposes marriage, Piers knows that, like him, trouble haunts her footsteps. But her gentleness, sharp wit, independent nature, and incredible
beauty awakens every fierce desire within him. He will do whatever it takes to keep her safe in his arms.
Romance Historical [St. Martin’s Paperbacks, On Sale: August 27, 2019, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250318848 / eISBN: 9781250318855]
Rogan Hunt would like to forget his disreputable history and rebuild his family’s ruined estate in peace and solitude. But when a damsel in distress requires rescuing from highwaymen, he dares not turn away — especially when she is Lady Caroline Ware, the enchantress he has admired for years from afar. Yet when her father offers Rogan her hand in gratitude, the reformed rogue is taken aback, for he never believed this treasure could truly be his. . .
A marriage to the notorious Rogan Hunt? The handsome scoundrel puzzles her, terrifies her. But in the night, his words are kind and caring, his touch tender and patient, arousing a desire she never thought she could feel for any man. But there is danger in his seduction — for surrendering to Rogan’s love could court a peril that waits in the shadows of her past. . . and destroy a remarkable passion before it takes wing.
Romance Historical [Avon, , Paperback, / ]
Abigail Westcott’s dreams for her future were lost when her father died and she discovered her parents were not legally married. But now, six years later, she enjoys the independence a life without expectation provides a wealthy single woman. Indeed, she’s grown confident enough to scold the careless servant chopping wood outside without his shirt on in the proximity of ladies.
But the man is not a servant. He is Gilbert Bennington, the lieutenant colonel and superior officer who has escorted her wounded brother, Harry, home from the wars with Napoleon. Gil has come to help his friend and junior officer recover, and he doesn’t take lightly to being
condescended to–secretly because of his own humble beginnings.
If at first Gil and Abigail seem to embody what the other most despises, each will soon discover how wrong first impressions can be. For behind the appearances of the once-grand lady and the once-humble man are two people who share an understanding of what true honor means, and how only with it can one find love.
Romance Historical [Berkley, On Sale: July 2, 2019, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781984802378 / eISBN: 9781984802385]
Legend of the Four Soldiers #2
Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, has a problem: he needs to
marry and produce an heir to the title. All Jasper wants is
to find a lady who will put up with him long enough to wed
so he can retreat to his life of debauchery–a life that
keeps the haunting memories of his past at bay. Knowing that
Jasper is under pressure to marry, Melisande Flemming grasps
her fate with both hands and volunteers to wed him. Although
Jasper is initially only interested in producing an heir, he
soon becomes entranced by his wife–prim and proper by day,
wanton by night– and vows to learn her secrets.
Melissande, however, is determined to keep her
husband at a distance. She has loved, and lost, before, and
will do anything to keep him from learning her terrible
weakness: she’s secretly been in love with him for years.
But to her chagrin, her husband pursues her, wooing her as
if she were a paramour, not his lady wife. As Melissande and
Jasper embark on a passionate game of cat and mouse, secrets
from the past begin to resurface. . . threatening to tear
Romance Historical [Forever, On Sale: October 28, 2008, Mass Market Paperback, ISBN: 9780446406925 / ]
Maryanne Hamilton had expected to be shocked, but the wanton orgy she finds in Mrs. Master’s salon makes her wonder if she has walked into hell.
Desperate to escape, she comes upon the master of sin
himself-Lord Swansborough. Fascinated by his nakedness, she longs to touch every inch of his long, hard body. And when he bids her come near, she quickly surrenders to his wicked promises of carnal pleasure and sensual ecstasy.
Erotica Historical [Aphrodisia, On Sale: April 1, 2008, Paperback, ISBN: 9780758214713 / ]
When Devil, the most infamous member of the Cynster family,
is caught in a compromising position with plucky governess
Honoria Wetherby, he astonishes the entire tom by offering
his hand in marriage. No one dreamed this scandalous rake
would ever take a bride. And as society mamas swooned at the
loss of England’s most eligible bachelor, Devil’s infamous
Cynster cousins began to place wagers on the wedding date.
But Honoria wasn’t about to bend society’s demands and marry
a man “just” because they’d been found together virtually
unchaperoned. No, she craved adventure, and while solving
the murder of a young Cynster cousin fit he ill for a while,
she decided that once the crime was solved she’d go off to
see the world. But the scalding heat of her unsated desire
for Devil soon had Honoria craving a very different sort of
excitement. Could her passion for Devil cause her to embrace
the enchanting peril of a lifelong adventure of the heart?
Romance Historical [Avon, On Sale: March 1, 1998, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780380794560 / ]
#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens continues the bold tales of the Cavanaugh siblings as the sole Cavanaugh sister discovers that love truly does conquer all. A lady with a passion for music and the maestro she challenges in pursuit of a worthy cause find themselves battling villains both past and present as they fight to secure life’s greatest rewards–love, marriage, and family.
Stacie–Lady Eustacia Cavanaugh–is adamant marriage is not for her. Haunted by her parents’ unhappy union, Stacie believes that, for her, marriage is an unacceptable risk. Wealthy and well-born, she needs for nothing, and with marriage off the table, to give her life purpose, she embarks on a plan to further the careers of emerging local musicians by introducing them to the ton via a series of musical evenings.
Yet despite her noble status, Stacie requires a musical lure to tempt the haut ton to her events, and in the elevated circles she inhabits, only one musician commands sufficient cachet–the reclusive and notoriously reluctant Marquess of Albury.
Frederick, Marquess of Albury, has fashioned a life for himself as a musical scholar, one he pursues largely out of sight of the ton. He might be renowned as a virtuoso on the pianoforte, yet he sees no reason to endure the smothering over-attentiveness of society. Then his mother inveigles him into meeting Stacie, and the challenge she lays before him is…tempting. On a number of fronts. Enough for him not to immediately refuse her.
A dance of subtle persuasion ensues, and step by step, Frederick finds himself convinced that Stacie’s plan has real merit and that it behooves him to support her. At least for one event.
Stacie’s first musical evening, featuring Frederick as the principal performer, is a massive success–until Fate takes a hand and lands them in a situation that forces them both to reassess.
Does Frederick want more than the sterile, academic life he’d thought was for him?
Can Stacie overcome her deepest fears and own to and reach for her girlhood dreams?
Impulsive, arrogant, and used to getting his own way, Frederick finds his answer easily enough, but his new direction puts him on a collision course with Stacie’s fears. Luckily, he thrives on challenges—which is just as well, because in addition to convincing Stacie that love can, indeed, conquer all, he and she must unravel the mystery of who is behind a spate of murderous attacks before the villain succeeds in eliminating all hope of a happy ending.
Romance Historical [Savdek Management, On Sale: July 18, 2019, e-Book, ISBN: 9781925559187 / eISBN: 9781925559194]