Jun 18 2014 4:00pm

Separated Spouses in Historicals from Balogh, Haymore, Guhrke, and More!

Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda NevilleToday we welcome author Miranda Neville to Heroes and Heartbreakers. Miranda's forthcoming release, Lady Windermere's Lover, has a married couple who've been apart for a year (his choice, not hers!), only to find that when they do reunite, each has changed in the course of those twelve months. Miranda offers her thoughts on this beloved separated spouses trope, with some excellent examples of historical authors that use it flawlessly. Thanks, Miranda!

Sooner or later, I am convinced, every romance writer gets to every common trope, at least once. For me, with Lady Windermere’s Lover, it’s time for separated spouses and what happens when they meet again. As a storyline, it’s connected to estranged spouses, but not identical. Couples can be separated for reasons that have nothing to do with quarrels, or can be estranged but living in the same house. Writers like Sherry Thomas have almost made a career out of unhappily married couples, starting with her brilliant debut Private Arrangements. Most recently Laura Lee Guhrke tackled the subject with the intense How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days.

The writer I most associate with the trope is Mary Balogh, who has treated the subject on numerous occasions in many different ways. Among my favorites are two of her traditional Regencies. A Counterfeit Betrothal is in theory about the daughter of the couple, Sophia, who sets up a fake engagement in order to force her parents, separated for fourteen years, to meet again to plan the wedding. My goodness, Balogh packs a lot of plot into one slim volume. As a fan of the original Parent Trap movie as well as the children’s book it was based on, I very much enjoy the interfering child(ren) as means of reconciliation plot line.

The First Snowdrop by Mary BaloghOlivia and Marcus had an idyllic youthful marriage, spoiled by one stupid act of Marcus’s. They’ve lived apart on different estates, communicating in a chilly but amicable manner about Sophia’s upbringing. It’s quite obvious that neither has ever fallen out of love, but there’s years of hurt and baggage to get over before they can come back together.

As usual, Balogh manages to pack one heck of a sexual wallop into her restrained story and she does so also with The First Snowdrop, a book that features one of the worst-behaved heroes I’ve ever read. I’m still not sure how I feel any sympathy for a man who doesn’t even have the decency to grovel properly, but it’s Balogh’s genius to make me care. Alexander, Viscount Merrick, heir to a dukedom, and Anne Parrish are accidently compromised and forced to marry. The marriage is consummated, but Alexander dumps her at his country estate and goes off to London where he lives the life of a bachelor (infidelity alert!) and intends never to see her again. Meanwhile, Anne gives herself and the estate a makeover, and is reasonably contented until summoned to a family house party at the ducal mansion of Alexander’s parents.

Alexander is impressed by Anne’s transformation from plain Jane to elegant lady and they resume a satisfactory sexual relationship, but he continues to treat her quite badly. There’s a lot of mistrust, misunderstanding, and patented Balogh angst to get through.

Eloisa James has also written several separated spouse stories. My favorite is Gemma and Beaumont from the Desperate Duchesses series, but since their story unwinds over several books I will pick the earlier Duchess in Love. Cam, Duke of Girton, was forced at the age of sixteen to marry the even younger Gina. He promptly took off for Greece and never returned. As she grows up, Gina takes over the running of the ducal estates. But she also wants a real marriage and becomes “engaged” to the Marquess of Bonnington. Cam returns to England to organize an amicable annulment and gets off to a good start when he doesn’t even recognize his own wife. He does, however, find her hot and soon there’s a real danger that their marriage will become a real and most inconvenient one.

“Mayn’t a wife kiss her husband?”

Her lips were full, cherry red, luscious.

Cam could feel a headache coming on.

“We have to stop this nonsense,” he said woodenly. “Enough. Another few moments and your marquess will find himself cheated.”

“He would be cheated if I lost my virginity,” Gina said. “But we’re nowhere near that point.”

“So you think!” he snapped.

Will Cam resist the lure of the Greek Isles and remain in England? Will he resist his wife? And will he win Gina away from Sebastian Bonnington? (The world’s hottest virgin, but that’s another story.)

Jennifer Haymore’s A Hint of Wicked features an apparently insoluble A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymoreconflict. Garrett, Duke of Calton, believed dead at Waterloo, in fact was suffering from amnesia and shows up eight years later. He finds his wife Sophie in bed with his cousin and heir, Tristan. Not only that, Tristan is now the duke and Sophie has married him. Oops. Sophie loved Garrett and she also loves Tristan. What on earth is she going to do? The novel is sexy, emotionally compelling and, that great rarity in romance, leaves the reader guessing about the outcome for a good portion of the book. Well played, Ms. Haymore.

All my examples are historicals. That’s what I write and what I know best, but separated spouses aren’t confined to the genre. There are many contemporaries when divorced couples get back together. As with marriage of convenience, I love the trope in historicals because of the inherent tension of a marriage that’s almost impossible to walk away from. In Lady Windermere’s Lover, Damian and Cynthia aren’t quite estranged, but they are very far from happy. Both married for convenient reasons, and, after a hideously awkward honeymoon, Damian grabs an excuse to go abroad for a year on a diplomatic mission. He returns with good intentions and immediately hits a quandary. His dowdy wife has bloomed into quite the beauty but she appears to be having an affair with his former best friend, the Duke of Denford. Damian can’t just beat the crap out of Denford and take Cynthia away because he’s been given a new mission that involves renewing his relationship with Denford. As for Cynthia, she always hoped to win her husband’s love but she has good reason to be angry with him. The path to reconciliation is, naturally, strewn with complications.

What are your favorite “separated spouses” books? I’d love to hear about some non-historical examples. Can you think of a separation book where the couple actually looks forward to coming back together?



Learn more or pre-order a copy of Lady Windermere's Lover by Miranda Neville, out June 24, 2014:

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Miranda Neville grew up in England before moving to New York City to work in Sotheby's rare books department. After many years as a journalist and editor, she decided writing fiction was more fun. She lives in Vermont.

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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
Great post, thank you! It's painful to see the hero and heroine separated but all the more powerful when they come back together.

The only contemporary example that comes to mind at the moment is one I read a long time ago--LaVyrle Spencer's Separate Beds.
Joanna Shupe
2. Joanna Shupe
Love this trope! I will definitely be adding these to the TBR shelf. Eloisa James' Gemma/Beaumont is my favorite!

Thanks for the recommendations!
Miranda Neville
3. Miranda Neville
@redline - I've never read LaVyrle Spencer and clearly I should. I've just been on a Woodiwiss binge so maybe I'll do Spencer next. I know she is one of the genre classics.

@ Joanna. LOVE Beaumont. Eloisa James did such a brilliant job of their reconciliation arc over several books.
4. bri_in_nj
I just finished Navy Rescue by Jeri Krotow and really liked it. It's the third in her Whidby Island series. The main couple, Drew and Gwen, have been divorced for five years when the book begins, and we find out that Gewn is MIA after the plan she is piloting for the Navy is forced to ditch. Obviously she survives, but it takes 6 months before anyone knows that. The book unfolds as she reacclimates to life at home, living with Drew because she can't be alone with the after effects of her fight for survival in the Philipines. (They stayed friends after the divorce)

There are two stories going on here - spearation by everyone believing she was dead and the separation by divorce, which was complicated for a number of reasons I don't want to give away. I liked the book a lot - the relation ship between Drew and Gwen as well as the other strorylines also playing out
5. Kareni
Another fine historical romance with this trope is Jennifer Ashley's
Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage.
6. Kareni
I thought of a contemporary romance with this theme: Rachel Gibson's
Any Man of Mine. (Hmm, or does this not count since they're divorced?)

Then there's Maya Banks' The Darkest Hour where the couple is separated due to circumstances beyond their control, and the husband believes his wife is dead.
Barbara Bauschka
7. njoireading
agree with @Kareni about Lady Isabell's Scandalous Marriage. My favorite is Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas though.
Miranda Neville
8. Miranda Neville
@Bri Thanks for your suggestion. Of course military service or action are excellent reasons for spouses to be parted.

@Kareni - Jennifer Ashley, Rachel Gibson, and Maya Banks are all awesome!

@ njoireading Great recommendations!
Joanna Shupe
9. Helena J
The best book I've read in this category is Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers (2013 Samhain). Really well-written, and it stayed with me.
Joanna Shupe
10. GrowlyCub
Almost all Paula Detmer Riggs' SIMs, SDs and single titles fall into that category. And I love them so much even though it's not something I'd ever consider in RL. My favorite even has kids in it (usually a ewww :) and a godawful title (Mommy by Surprise, SIM 794).
Miranda Neville
11. Miranda Neville
@ Helena - Joanna Chambers is a wonderful writer. I'll check out this title.

@Growly Cab - I seriously have to hunt down Mommy by Surprise since you recommend it!
Joanna Shupe
12. Alie
I'm a little late on this, but my favourite non-historical in this trope is Nora Roberts' Birthright. I love the way Roberts writes the tension between Callie and her ex.
Joanna Shupe
13. Bella RODNEY
I never believed in love spell but when it turned out that love spell was my last hope, I gave it a try because my lover stopped talking to me, after begging and pleading with him I realized that nothing was working out, he left me to meet another girl, i had no choice than to ordered a reunite love spell from robinsonbuckler to help me get my lover back, after the spell was cast, the Results was fantastic, I never expected what i saw, I'm so grateful i came across this spell caster, My love left his other girlfriend and we came back together have, call him"00919715126745"
Joanna Shupe
18. VickiW
Just read "Lady Windermere's Lover" over the weekend and loved it! You might also want to check out "The Elusive Wife" by Callie Hutton. The hero didn't want the marriage his father arranged before his death, so he was completely drunk during the ceremony. He took off as soon as he awoke the next morning and left his new wife at his house in the country. When the heroine's best friend finds out about the marriage and the way the hero treated his bride, she inivites the heroine to Town for the Season as her guest. The hero goes absolutely crazy for her, never knowing she is actually his wife. . . . she knows, but he has no idea. When he figures it out, sparks fly. A fun book. (I like the fact that she doesn't immediately forgive him. He has to work to get to know her and figure out how to be a husband.)
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