Jan 31 2014 11:15am

Conveniently Married: Marriage of Convenience Romance Novels

Shoreline Drive by Lily EverettToday 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:

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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.

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1. Cate
I love Mary Jo Putney's The Bargain..... Heroine marrys hero because he's on his deathbed, and she needs to be wed to access/keep her fortune. He then has the cheek to recover from his injuries.... Such a satisfying book on so many levels.
2. Donna Alward
I LOVE Morning Glory! I agree with the challenges for modern MoC hooks...which might be why I haven't written many! LOL. Really looking forward to this story, Lily!
Heather Waters
3. HeatherWaters
Great post! I adore the marriage of convenience trope. Molly O'Keefe's His Wife for One Night is another one that comes to mind.
Lily Everett
4. LilyEverett
Cate - I don't know if I've read that! And I thought I'd read everything MJP ever wrote. Maybe it's just been a while. Thanks for reminding me!

Donna - Morning Glory is probably one of my all-time favorite romances. So unusual, and SO good.

Redline - I love Molly O'Keefe's writing! I'll have to check that one out.
5. Rhonda B
Lorelei James All Jacked Up. PS this is my favorite trope !
Mary Lynne Nielsen
6. emmel
@Cate @LilyEverett You should also check out The Would-Be Widow by Putney. This is the original version of the story, written as a trad Regency. I actually prefer that.

Agree with Morning Glory, which is an amazing book. One of my favorite Debbie Macomber books is Morning Comes Softly, which is a modern (well, it was modern in the 80s) MoC tale.

My all-time fave MoC, indeed my all-time fave romance novel, is The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh. Simply one of the best.

There are a wide array of excellent MoC stories in Regency-era books, as well as Westerns. More Balogh, Ashford, and Heath come to mind.

I've also seen some wonderful tales in series. An oldie but goodie is A Practical Marriage by Dallas Schulze.

If you'd like a good listing, check
7. Kahintenn
MoC is one of my favorites, and Mary Balogh's A Christmas Promise is one of the best. Not only is the couple forced to marry, they each have good reasons for disliking/not respecting each other in the extreme. They really earn their HEA.
Lily Everett
8. LilyEverett
Rhonda B - Good one!

Emmel - Thanks for posting that listing on AAR--what a great resource for those of us who love MoC!

Kahintenn - Yet another Mary Balogh rec! I clearly need to look into her. She must be the Queen of MoC.
Julia Broadbooks
9. juliabroadbooks
I love this trope and there are so many books here I haven't read yet! O happy day!!!
Sugar Jamison
10. SugarJamison
This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips is kind of a MoC story. And so is Nobody's Baby but Mine. In both stories they get married because the heroine gets pregnant. I love those books.
11. kreads4fun
Mary Balogh is absolutely the queen of the historical MoC trope. I also loved LaVyrle Spencer's Seperate Beds, although it is sadly out of date today. And underneath the whole massive tale, Outlander starts with a MoC.
12. romance reader123
For A Lifetime by Dallacey E Green would be my pick. Anthony is this sexy Alpha male, while Sapphire is a strong determined young innocent.
Sapphire has experienced a lot of financial difficulties and she feels
as though she will not be able to support her mother or her younger
brother Jimmy. When all hope seems lost she is offered a job as a nanny from a rich and successful owner of a photography magazine, AnthonyBlack.
Sapphire should be excited, only she has never really liked
Anthony, they have never truly gotten along and she had always been in love with Anthony’s twin brother Andre. So why instead of making her his nanny, had Anthony asked Sapphire for her hand in marriage, a
marriage for a lifetime?
Great read!!!!
13. Kareni
Ah, just re-read LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory. What a wonderful book!
14. WolframWM
I love Sarah's Child by Linda Howard - it's got the marriage of convenience, secret unrequited love, and a surprise baby. One of my favorite re-reads of hers.
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