Mar 26 2013 1:00pm

Author Valerie Bowman on Eloping to Gretna Green!

Secrets of a Runaway Bride by Valerie BowmanToday we're pleased to welcome author Valerie Bowman, also an H&H contributor, whose forthcoming novel Secrets of a Runaway Bride is out today! She's here to talk Gretna Green, Scotland, and what, exactly, makes it such an intriguing location for romance readers and writers alike... Welcome, Valerie!

Today I thought I’d give a little insight into a certain location. A location that plays a large part in my latest historical romance novel, Secrets of a Runaway Bride. A location rife with scandal and the litter of ruined reputations. A location just over the Scottish border from England, full of possibilities and danger. What is that location? The infamous town of Gretna Green, Scotland.

So, how exactly did a tiny town in Scotland become the focus of so much intrigue?

It all began with Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754. When the English Parliament passed that act, it prohibited several things. Before the act went into effect, in England young men and women over the age of 16 (but younger than 21) were able to merely declare themselves married in front of witnesses. After the act was passed, couples in the throes of a passionate love affair had to hightail it to Scotland to have their quick (and unapproved) weddings. You see, in Scotland, a boy age 14 and a girl age 12 could marry (as opposed to the legal age of 21 in England and Wales). And again, all they had to do was declare themselves married in front of witnesses…and then get to the business of consummation, of course.

It turns out that Scotland has a long and storied history of being quite protective of love and marriage. When the English outlawed the practice of unapproved (by the bride and groom’s parents) marriages, Scotland did not follow suit. So, the sprawling country to the north naturally became the closest place for the young, English lovebirds to marry quickly and (most importantly) without their parents’ permission. As a result, the small Scottish town of Gretna Green became synonymous with eloping couples.

But of all places in Scotland, why Gretna Green?

Well, back in the day, Gretna just happened to be the first posting stop across the Scottish border for the coaches traveling between London and Edinburgh. The star-crossed lovers merely needed to get across the border and to a reliable witness.

Legend has it that the local blacksmith (and only because his shop was the first that a visitor came to in town) became the “anvil priest.” Scottish law allowed for an irregular marriage that basically stated that anyone could witness a wedding for it to be declared valid.

The romance and potential scandal of Gretna Green plays a large part in my Secret Brides book series. In the first story, Secrets of a Wedding Night, there are two foiled attempts at a trip to Gretna. And in the second, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, guess what? Yes, another attempted trip to Gretna Green! Annie Andrews is so ready to run away and marry the man of her (not her sister and guardian’s) choosing, that she quickly earns the nickname, The Runaway Bride. Given to her, of course, by the hero of the story and the man tasked with keeping an eye on the mischievous Miss Andrews, the Earl of Ashbourne, Jordan Holloway.

I love the concept of an illicit marriage over the anvil in Scotland. There are just so many possibilities. The road was treacherous, the consequences were dire, and the scandal of it all could bring many a young lady to ruin. All the makings of a wonderful romance novel plot, no?

So tell me, if you had lived back in the days when Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act had made it impossible to be married in London, would you have been scandalous enough to run off to Gretna Green? What are your favorite romance novels featuring a trip to Gretna?


Valerie Bowman is an award-winning author who writes Regency-set historical romance novels aka Racy Regency Romps! Secrets of a Runaway Bride has been named a 4.5 star TOP PICK! by RT Book Reviews. It's been called “Too Delightful Too Miss!” by New York Times bestselling author, Lisa Kleypas, and New York Times bestselling historical romance author Sarah MacLean says it's, “Everything a romance should be…once you start reading, you won't be able to stop!”

Valerie's debut, SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT, the first in the Secret Brides series from St. Martin's Press, was nominated by RT Book Reviews for Best Debut Historical for 2012!

Valerie has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in history from Smith College. By day, she is a technical editor at a computer software company. By night, she combines her love of writing, history, and romance to craft stories about people falling in love.

Originally from Rantoul, Illinois, Valerie lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with her rascally rescue dog, Roo. When she's not writing, she keeps busy reading, traveling, or watching Downton Abbey and Hoarders.

You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
Ella Quinn
1. Ella Quinn
Considering the social ruin that followed, I don't think I'd have done it, but that's me speaking with experience.
Ella Quinn
2. Cerian Halford
I actually only live about an hour or 2 away from Gretna Green lol I think it sounds great in theory, but that journey must have been killer, back then!
I love Devil In Winter by Lisa Kleypas, although when they actually get married it's not the most romantic of beginnings lol
Congrats on your book release today! I can't wait to read it :D
Valerie Bowman
3. ValerieBowman
Thanks, Ella!

Cerian, How neat that you live so near GG. I hear it still has quite a booming wedding business. And Devil in Winter is one of my all-time favorites as well.
Marcy Shuler
4. Marcy99
I don't think I would have been brave enough to elope. I'm not that daring. LOL I recently read LOVE IS BLIND by Lynsay Sands where a trip to Gretna Green was part of the h's backstory. Though that marriage was annulled the 'scandal' was part of her story with her H.
Janie McGaugh
6. jmcgaugh
I think I'd have been too scared to do so, especially if it was a long way to the border. Then again, as much in love as my husband and I were when we got married (and still are), I could see us eloping if we weren't allowed to get married.
Ella Quinn
7. NC Bookwoman
The most ridiculous use of Gretna Green that I've seen is in one of Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series when she has a couple elope to Gretna Green when they are *already in Scotland*. Might have been okay if it had been done with a wink and a nod, but it wasn't.
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