Jul 7 2015 10:00am

Reluctantly Man and Wife: Forced Marriage in Romance from MacLean, Ashley, and More!

Duchess in Love by Eloisa James

As I finished my post on historical romance stories featuring bachelors making wagers to remain single, it got me thinking about forced marriage and how ubiquitous a theme it is. Taking a step back, this trope is prevalent not just in historical romance but in other subgenres. While I don’t purposively seek out books that feature this trope, I’ve read quite a few. I’m not sure why I seem to be attracted to it like a moth to a light bulb, seeing as how I love my free will. Maybe it’s because the two leads are forced to communicate through the initial misunderstandings and less than ideal circumstances dealt them, healing from old and fresh wounds, that ultimately leads to their HEA. Or maybe there really is something to be said about the power of fate and the role it plays in our society, whether we believe in the magic of it or not. Without further ado, I give you a list of some goodies that feature forced marriage.


Duchess in Love (Duchess Quartet #1) by Eloisa James

The first in the Duchess Quartet series, Gina is forced to marry Camden, the Duke of Girton when she is far too young. Over ten years later with the marriage still unconsummated, Gina is set on an annulment while Cam finds himself falling in love.

Hellions of Halstead Hall by Sabrina Jeffries

In this series by Jeffries, the five Sharpe children are given an ultimatum by their grandmother: marry by the year’s end or lose their inheritance. With each book, the Sharpe siblings go through great lengths to either sidestep the ultimatum or settle into a relationship with the least amount of complication. A continuing storyline to understand the mystery behind their parents' death occurs but each one can be a stand alone. Needless to say, in historical romance love conquers all, and how fun it is to fall in love with this set of siblings.

Devil in Winter (Wallflowers #3) by Lisa Kleypas

Duchess in Love by Eloisa James

Shy and stammering Evie Jenner hears of her cousins’ plans to force a marriage in order to keep the money in the family and exploit her wealth. So Evie decides to take matters into her own hands and decides that if she must marry, she will choose. Enter Sebastian, Viscount St. Vincent. The rake knows he has no other choice than to wed for money because his father has squandered away their wealth. What we have is a recipe for one of the most romantic love stories between two polar opposites in a forced situation.

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

I’m not sure I can get away with making a list of historical romance books without including Sarah MacLean. The first in the Rules of Scoundrels Series, Michael Lawler, the Marquess of Bourne, traps Lady Penelope Marbury into marriage in order to gain her dowry which includes his ancestral lands that he foolishly gambled away when he was younger. Friends as children yet estranged as adults, can Penny forgive Michael? And can Michael allow himself to love?


Fated mates seem to be the running theme for our paranormal forced marriages, where one or both of the leads are bound by fate to be with each other. Here are a few of my favorite series:

Immortals After Dark Series by Kresley Cole

Immortals walk among the humans in this series where inter-immortal are fated to mate with one another. That’s right, we’ll see every possible matching between the fae, werewolves, Valkyrie, vampires, ghosts, phantoms, demons, witches, sorcerers, humans, etc. You get the picture. Each book is a standalone but there is a continuing storyline from one book to the next.

Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian

Blackdagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward

This brotherhood of elite vampires are the only ones that can protect the vampires from the evil lessers (slayers). Each book features the continuing storyline about their battle to destroy the lessers while focusing on the fated union of one of the brotherhood. These novels will have you reaching for a fan if you like your paranormals showcasing extreme alphas with heart-wrenching pasts.

Midnight Breed Series by Lara Adrian

Adrian’s group of vampires are out of this world. Literally. Well, at least the first generation. Now most of the Breed are at least half human. Still retaining all the super human strength and speed of their alien forefathers yet possessing more of the compassion and control of humans. These set of breed warriors form an alliance to protect other vampires and humans from rogue vampires. Like the other two series mentioned above, there is a driving story line throughout the series yet each book can be a stand-alone featuring a Breed warrior who learns of their fated mate by a distinct marking on the female’s skin.


Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This modern day arranged marriage features Daisy Devereaux in so much debt that she must wed a stranger that her father chooses before she can cash out her trust fund and evade jail. Alex Markov is the battered hero that she must marry who believes he is incapable of being loved. Put the pair together for six months at the circus and you have pure genius by Phillips.

Bound by Honor by Cora Reilly

Bound by Honor by Cora Reilly

This mafia based series begins with the forced marriage of Aria Scuderi, daughter of the Outfit’s consigliere (advisor to the boss), with the oldest son and future Capo dei Capi (leader), Luca Vitiello, of the Familia mafia in New York. With increasing pressure from Russian and Taiwanese gangs, the two largest Italian mafia gangs must put aside their differences to fight off the encroaching pressure and form an alliance with their union. We ride the roller coaster with Aria as she gets drawn into New York’s gangster scene and learns to fall in love with the cold and intimidating Luca in this, I pulled an all-nighter, read.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A list of books about forced marriage would not be complete without Diana Gabaldon’s tour de force, Outlander. For those making like a groundhog, this historical fiction/romance/sci-fi/fantasy time traveling novel follows a married English woman named Claire Randall from the year 1945 as she unexpectedly time travels back to 1743 Scotland, where she is forced to marry a Scots warrior, Jamie Fraser.

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland #1) by Kristen Ashley

What can I say? This book made me laugh out loud, and get butterflies, and laugh again. Finnie learns of a parallel world where she can swap places with her “twin” and see her parents (well her parallel world parents) who had died after their plane crashed in her current world. However, Finnie’s twin, Princess Sjofn fails to let Finnie know that she must wed a man known as Drakkar within minutes of them switching places. I love the inner musings of Finnie and the juxtaposition of a modern day young woman in a technologically simplified parallel fantasy world.


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

Duchess in Love by Eloisa James  
The Truth About Lord Stoneville by Sabrina Jeffries  
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas  
A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean  
A Hunger like No Other by Kresley Cole  
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward  
Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian  
Kiss an Angel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips  
Bound by Honor by Cora Reilly  
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon  
Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley  














Tanya is a fanatic of all things romance. You can follow her on twitter @tamushamu

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Caz
I admit this is one of my favourite tropes in the genre :) I'd add Sherry Thomas' Ravishing the Heiress to the list of historicals, and Kristen Callihan's Firelight to the list of Fantasy/PNR examples.
Laura Jardine
3. LauraJardine
I'm reading Devil in Winter right now and really enjoying it. I also liked Mary Balogh's A Christmas Promise.
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