Dec 9 2013 3:30pm

The Arranged Trope: The Convenience of a Marriage of Convenience

Today we're joined by author Dani Collins, whose More Than a Convenient Marriage? and No Longer Forbidden? have been released in a special two-for-one package this month. Dani is a long-time fan of marriage of convenience, and is here to talk about one of romance's most universal tropes. Thanks for being here, Dani!

As a reader, it was love at first sight with me and the Marriage of Convenience trope. When I first started reading romance at thirteen, category was still closing the door on sex. In the rare cases that the heroine wasn’t a virgin until she married, she had miscarried her secret baby after her affair with the hero five years ago. She, of course, was too heartbroken to give herself to anyone else until he rolled back into her life.

As an author, I can appreciate how the Marriage of Convenience was a godsend to the romance writer of the day. Today it’s hard to keep the hero and heroine out of bed until page fifty, but back then you couldn’t get them into it without a ring and how do you maintain conflict after they’ve declared their love and walked down the aisle? Enter the provisions of a will, the decree of a king, or the desperate and pregnant widow.

I still remember the pitty-pat of my heart when I might, just might, have a story in my hands that at least hinted at consummation. That’s the reason it worked for readers of any age, but this particular trope also worked because it’s real and relatable. Kings did force alliances. Marriages are still arranged. People still tie the knot out of practicality.

And when all these things happen, you wind up with two people who are virtual strangers thrown into close proximity, even a bed. At least, you did with historical romance. While category was still demurring, historical romance was using this trope to advance a woman’s right to enjoy conjugal relations—or simply to secure her future.

For instance, in Lavyrle Spencer’s Morning Glory, the proposal came about when Elly asks Will to midwife for her. He refuses with, “it’s a little personal, wouldn’t you say?” She argues that her first husband did it “…twice.”

“That was different. He was your husband.”

Still scrubbing, she said, “You could be, too.”

A page later, ‘Just like that—no harp music swelling out of the heavens’ they agree that they “…ought to do it.” They negotiate that he will share her bed and agree on a time to leave for the courthouse in the morning. ‘For a moment they studied each other, realizing to what they’d just agreed. How awkward. How incredible.’

Of course, trust is always a big part of winning over the new spouse. Meg, from Elizabeth Lowell’s Untamed, fails to warn her groom, Dominic, about a planned ambush at the church.

“You think badly of me,” Meg said.

“I think like a husband who doesn’t know his bride. If I am to change my thinking, then I will have to know you better, won’t I?”

Pillow talk is a delightful way for that to happen, but our heroes rarely trampled straight for the downy thicket at the top of their virgin bride’s thighs. In Dominic’s case above, he made himself wait until he knew she wasn’t pregnant with his enemy’s bairn.

When they finally do deflower the heroine, like in Julie Garwood’s The Prize, it’s with appropriate tenderness and regard.

Royce didn’t know how much longer he could maintain his control. The sweet torture of holding still inside her made him throb with pain. He wanted to slam into her tight sheath again and again until he found his release and spilled his seed into her.

He wanted her to want that as much as he did though. Her pleasure was far more important to him than his own.

The occasional hero jumped the gun and had to marry. Poor Samuel loses any chance with Kai in Laura Kinsale’s The Shadow and The Star when he sleeps with prim Leda. Even she is prepared to make do with a letter of character, if not for certain other consequences:

“It is so humiliating! Everyone looks at me! Must we marry, when you’ll dislike me for it so? Lady Tess says that is how—that is—babies, you know. And I must wait several weeks to be sure!”

These forced marriages can become gloriously inconvenient, too, as in Judith McNaught’s Paradise, where Meredith demonstrates that it’s not cheating if it’s with your husband. She goes to ask Matt for a divorce because she’s engaged to someone else and oops.

“This is wrong—” she whispered when he leaned over her, his chest and arms bare and bronze.

“This is right,” he said fiercely and his lips covered hers, parting them with familiar, insistent skill.

Meredith closed her eyes and let the dream begin.

Sooo convenient. And the trope is as popular as ever. I just used it myself in More Than A Convenient Marriage, when I wanted my characters to know each other without really knowing each other. Do you enjoy that dynamic? What was your first Marriage of Convenience?

Learn more or order a copy of More Than a Convenient Marriage? and No Longer Forbidden? by Dani Collins, out now:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Dani Collins spent twenty-five years dreaming of writing full time and finally made her first sale to Harlequin Mills & Boon in May of 2012. She’s still dreaming of making Romance Author her day job, but for now she writes around work, family, and enough exercise to keep her out of traction. For more information about Dani, you can visit her website at, listen to her interview with Nice Girls Reading Naughty Books, or watch her interview on GFTV.

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1. carmenlire
Great post! IT was interesting, and provided reasons that I'd never thought of on how/why the MoC trope began
Jennifer Proffitt
2. JenniferProffitt
Marriage of Convenience is one of my favorite tropes in the genre--if not my top trope. I love it when a couple that otherwise wouldn't have gotten together is forced to. Of course this genre started in historicals when marriages of convenience were actually quite common, but I've grown to love them in moder settings as well. One of my favorite series is Jennifer Probst's Married to the Billionaire series, where every story starts out as a marriage of convenience--sometimes throwing in a friends to lovers for good measure, and making it extra tropalicious.

I recently bought a boxed set of Marriage of Convenience books and it was actually surprising to me that I liked the books that were set in modern times more than the more traditional historicals. Great post, gives me a lot to read!
Julia Broadbooks
3. juliabroadbooks
I love a marraige of convenience story. I think that is a good part of my love for Regencies - it's a trope that is lot easier to believe in a historical! But when a MoC works in a contempoary it is so much fun. Probst knew what she was doing!
Dani Collins
4. DaniCollins
First off: new word. 'Tropalicious.' adj. When a trope works deliciously :) love it.

I agree, Julia. I fell deeply in love with Regencies after being forced to marry them--I was running out of contemporaries and they were eligible even if they seemed too old for me at the time. (sigh of nostalgia)

Thanks Carmen, I'm glad you enjoyed it.
linda brooks
5. LDBreads
A Matter of Class by the incomparable Mary Balogh is one of my favourite books. It's short (a novella?) that I read some time ago. It has twists & turns, poignancy, belly laughs, and demonstrations of the different forms love can take. It took me until almost the end to realize what & why the ending would be (usually we know what within the first 2 or 3 chapters, right?). It's romantic, tender & sensual. It's, quite simply the best in its Class.
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