(Note: The winners of the contest are GLORIA D’ALFONSO and ANNE HOILE. Congratulations to them and thank you to all who took the time to leave a comment.)
“No one does a marriage of convenience like Balogh.”
This is what Publishers Weekly says of Only a Promise (June 2, 2015). I was a bit surprised (as well as gratified) as I hadn’t realized that I had used the theme enough to have earned such a comment. But actually I have. I used it in The Temporary Wife when the hero needed a wife to annoy his father, who was pressing someone else upon him, and the heroine needed money to help support her younger siblings. I used it in Slightly Married, the first of the Bedwyn series, when Aidan Bedwyn needs to fulfil a promise to a dying fellow officer to protect his sister and the sister needs a husband in a hurry so that she will not lose her inheritance and find herself unable to support her adopted children. I used it in First Comes Marriage, the first of the Huxtable series, when Nessie desperately wants to save her eldest sister from having to marry the hero and so offers herself instead. I used it in… Well, perhaps you will think of a few more to mention in the comments below. There are several!
Now that I know I use the theme, I ask myself why. There are a few definite reasons. First, it is a way to get the characters married early in the book so that the rest of the story can contain all the intimacies of a growing relationship. I don’t have to contrive to bring the characters together in almost every scene, They live together! My books are almost all set during the Regency era of the early 19th century, when young ladies in particular did not have the freedom of movement and the privacy that we expect today. Finding realistic reasons for them to be alone with their heroes, especially in sexual ways, is not easy. But if the couple is married, then the problem goes away.
Another reason is that the marriage of convenience is contracted for other reasons than love or even affection. The couple has agreed to marry, but they have low expectations of finding emotional satisfaction with each other. That is not why they married. Sometimes they do not even like each other particularly well. Occasionally they actively dislike each other (A Christmas Promise is a good example of that). Almost always they do not know each other at all well and are not planning to share themselves with each other except in essentials. However, these are marriages and in most cases, unless there is a good reason, they do not exclude sex. As a writer, then, I have all the ingredients in the particular set-up I have planned to set the couple in close proximity to each other and in conflict with each other. Gradually they get to know each other, to solve their own problems and somehow to enable the other to solve her/his problems. Liking and respect usually come first as a result–remember that I write love stories and it is not likely the differences will prevail and the story will end up as a continued marriage of convenience! And then at last, by the end of the book, the couple is in love and–beyond the passion and euphoria of that state–truly love each other.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, this approach to writing a story gives me all the opportunity I need to delve deeply into character and to explore a growing love relationship in all its facets. And this is what I love doing more than anything in my writing.
To two people who leave a comment below before the end of Friday, May 1, I will send signed Advance Reading copies of ONLY A PROMISE, though those copies do not have the pretty cover shown above.