Today we're pleased to welcome author Lily Everett to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Lily's new release, Shoreline Drive, is a modern-day marriage of convenience story, with a handsome, guarded veterinarian and an exuberant, cheerful new mom. Lily is here to talk about the marriage of convenience trope told by a variety of authors. Thanks, Lily!
Every romance reader has tropes she loves, and tropes she avoids like the plague. Side note: If you don’t know what tropes are, check out this great discussion led by Limecello! Basically when we’re talking about romance novels, we use trope to mean a plot device or story premise that appears over and over, throughout the genre. You say cliché? I say classic! Yes, I’m an apologist for tropes in general. They exist for a reason, which is that writers love to write them and readers love to read them. I don’t advocate using tropes as a lazy shortcut, but with the right twists, updating, and imagination, there’s nothing I love more than a great Secret Baby story, or a romance where the hero and heroine go from Friends to Lovers.
But if I had to choose a single favorite romance trope, it would probably be the Marriage of Convenience. Those stories where the hero and heroine each enter into a committed relationship for practical, unemotional reasons...and then they have to learn how to deal with each other. And of course, since this is romance we’re talking about, we get to see these two levelheaded pragmatists fall deeper into lust and love as they get to know each other better.
Most of my beloved Marriage of Convenience (MoC) faves have been historical romance—from Lisa Kleypas’s wonderfully emotional A Devil in Winter to LaVyrle Spencer’s unusual gem, Morning Glory, and Sarah MacLean’s deliciously dark A Rogue By Any Other Name—and it’s not hard to understand why. Arranged marriages and marriages of convenience were common in bygone days, even preferred. The characters’ motivations for entering into them, while varying widely from book to book with the authors’ amazing creativity, are clear. Titled gentlemen needed heirs to continue the family line; women needed husbands to gain independence from their families and protection from a society that regarded unattached females as either negligible at best, and at worst, as prey. It’s also a super efficient way of allowing proximity and intimacy between the hero and heroine in time periods when that sort of contact was strictly controlled.
But the author of a modern MoC story faces some challenges. After all, times have changed! Pre-marital sex isn’t just possible; it’s the norm. Continuation of the family line isn’t a huge motivator any longer, and most contemporary romance heroes have no title to pass down. Women can now own property, vote, get an education, and support themselves independently. Who actually finds marriage more convenient, these days?
I’m hardly the first contemporary romance author to grapple with the modern MoC. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is obviously the grande dame of the genre, with several titles that fit the mold. More recently, Jennifer Probst tore up the bestseller charts with The Marriage Bargain. So obviously I’m not the only writer (or reader!) who thinks an updated version of the classic Marriage of Convenience can work. Personally, I like my tropes with a bit of a twist; in my latest release, Shoreline Drive, rather than two people coming into the marriage for practicality’s sake, the hero actually proposes the idea of a marriage-in-name-only as a cover for how much he already adores the heroine and her infant son. He’s sure she can never love him back, but he wants to protect and care for them enough that he’s willing take whatever he can get. Luckily, that gruff, loner Ben vastly underestimates his own charm, and the MoC gives Merry a chance to see beneath his crusty exterior to the yearning devotion in his heart.
Historical or contemporary, MoC stories serve a special function in the romance genre. Through the magic of watching two people learn to make their partnership work, discovering each other and deepening their bond over time, we explore the essential nature of love. It takes commitment. It takes work. And the more you put into it, the stronger it gets. I think one of the reasons the MoC trope has endured so long and so well is that we love to be reminded that the curtain doesn’t come down after the “I do” moment. The last part of the wedding vow is not “And they lived happily ever after.” In a MoC story—as in life, if we’re fortunate!—the wedding isn’t the end of the romance…it’s just the beginning.
What’s your favorite Marriage of Convenience romance?
Learn more or order a copy of Shoreline Drive by Lily Everett, out now:
Lily Everett grew up in a small town in central Virginia, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Although she's lived many other places since, from college in Philadelphia to her first job in New York City and her current home in Austin, Texas, she never forgot the beauty and warmth of her little hometown. She is thrilled to be writing the Sanctuary Island series full time because it allows her to combine her longstanding love of romance with the memories of her childhood home.