I love Marriage of Convenience plotlines. Unlike Lisa Hughey, who discussed them in her excellent post I Was Told To Like You: Marriage of Convenience Plots, I enjoy them more in historicals than in contemporaries. To me, it's much more believable that a woman could be forced into marriage or that crazy will stipulations existed or that arranged dynastic marriages were commonplace in an historical setting than in present day. But while the MOC usually treads a well-worn path, I appreciate it when an author introduces some novelty to the process.
In Jo Beverley's Forbidden Magic, magic is what brings about the wedding. Meg Gillingham, eldest of five siblings, is at her wit's end. Left penniless by the sudden death of their parents, the family is down to their last, few coins, when their landlord offers to take care of the family if Meg's 15-year-old sister becomes his mistress. Desperate, Meg uses the Sheelagh-ma-gig, an ancient wishing stone statue handed down through the women in her family. A week later, she receives a marriage proposal from the earl of Saxonhurst. She marries him and the family is saved, but Meg suffers from tremendous guilt over having tricked Sax—a thoroughly delightful man—into marriage. Sax collects unwanted strays and so is quite contented with his bargain, finding his new wife and family enchanting. I think Meg should just shut up and enjoy her supremely yummy husband, but she's a romance heroine, and so has to fret...
But The Bargain, by Mary Jo Putney (recently reissued), may be my favorite twist on the old Marriage of Convenience plot. Many MOCs are contracted for a short-term gain, but Lady Jocelyn and Major David Lancaster are looking for a short-term duration. Lady Jocelyn is saddled with one of those “you must marry by 25 or lose the bulk of your inheritance” will stipulations. She finds David through a mutual friend and thinks he is the answer to her problem. David was horribly wounded at Waterloo and not expected to live more than a few days. They make a bargain to marry, enabling Jocelyn to gain her inheritance, a portion of which she will use to give David's governess sister an annuity so that she may live in comfort the rest of her life. The deed is done, but then David doesn't die. Now what?
Putney deals with the uncertainty of the moment, and the slow realization of what it means, beautifully, and out of that uncertainty and shared predicament, there develops camaraderie and deep friendship.
As with all MOC stories, we all know how these stories will end, but, as always, it is the journey that makes the trip worthwhile. What are your favorite historical MOC romances? Do any of them have unusual or different reasons for the MOC?
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com