I’m participating in a multi-author BookFunnel promotion this month, featuring heartwarming historical romances. You’ll find a number of multi-author boxed sets on the landing page, like Rogues Ladies and Mistletoe, as well as my own Brides of North Barrows bundle. You can choose your sales portal for each book. This promotion continues for the month of January.
Some years fly by in a hurry and some move a little more slowly. 2022 seemed like a slow-mover to me, but maybe I was the one moving slowly. Covid really gave me a kick in January and it took me a while to get back to my regular speed. I took the month of May off, choosing to spend it in my garden and rethink my work schedule. That was great and I may make a habit of it. After that, I decided to concentrate on my historical romances for the rest of the year.
The Hunter & the Heiress was a surprise addition to the Blood Brothers series – I hadn’t originally expected Amaury to need his own book, but I was happily mistaken in that. The Dragon & the Damsel was just as much fun to write as I’d anticipated as Rafael and Ceara were a great match for each other. Both of these books were also published in large print hardcover editions, like The Wolf & the Witch, and The Hunter & the Heiress is also available in audio.
I also returned to the Regency era and that interesting courtesan Esmeralda Ballantyne. She inspired a new series called The Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction. I published the first two works in that series, both of which were longer than I’d originally expected. I had this notion that they would be novellas of 25K words or so. Nope. The Christmas Conquest is 40K words and The Masquerade of the Marchioness is close to 70K. I need to block out more time to write these because they are longer, but they are a lot of fun to write.
This year was enormously busy for translations of my historical romances. As you can see below, there were thirty-two of them altogether. While it’s fun to see my books in other languages, I’ve dialed it back twice already because the formatting and uploading is just too much work. I’d rather be writing new stories.
I did have most of my books in Kindle Unlimited for about a year, but decided this past fall that it wasn’t working out for me. They’re available at all portals again – although my Apple links have changed – and the reloading is a job I’m glad to have done. Some of my translations are still enrolled in KU and we’ll see how that goes in 2023. My newsletter moved to a new service, as well.
Coming in 2023:
I have several pre-orders already listed for the year ahead. First, there will be the next book in the Regency series, The Widow’s Wager, which features the younger sister of the Duke of Haynesdale and her secret crush, her brother’s best friend. The Scot and the Sorceress will be next – that’s Murdoch and Nyssa’s story and the finale of the Blood Brothers series. After that, I’m returning to the Rogues & Angels series with One Knight’s Desire, a tale of disguise and unexpected love. It’s pretty clear what I’ll be doing for the first six months of the year!
This time of year, it’s always fun to indulge in Christmas romances. Here are a few suggestions of mine for your reading list! (In compiling this list, I realized that many of my holiday romances are second chances at love, too – but then second chance romances are my favorites.)
I also am participating in some holiday romance anthologies – the first three are English, then there are Spanish and German collections, too.
Yesterday, in response to a question from a reader on my ARC team, I added an author’s note to The Masquerade of the Marchioness. If you pre-ordered the book, you’ll probably get the version without the Author’s Note, so you can read it in this blog post.
The question was about the legality of Garrett marrying Penelope, the sister of his dead wife. This is against ecclesiastical law and always has been – marrying the sibling of a dead spouse, or the spouse of a dead sibling (remember Henry VIII) was considered to be consanguinity, even though technically, the couple were not blood relations themselves. It is, however, a tidy solution, when women were more likely to die in childbirth – marrying the dead wife’s sister would provide care for the existing children and some familiarity. The sister couldn’t live respectably in the house of a widower (even her dead sister’s husband) but it was likely that the children already knew her.
There were two hurdles to doing this, however: first, the would-be groom had to find a minister to perform the religious ceremony. Second, the marriage could be challenged by any “interested party” so long as both wife and husband were alive, in which case, it could be annulled or voided. Annulling the match would make their children illegitimate, which could deprive those children from inheriting.
Let’s create an example from Jane Austen’s own work. At one point, Elizabeth says to Jane: “I am determined that only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony. So, I shall end an old maid, and teach your ten children to embroider cushions and play their instruments very ill.” Let’s imagine that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy never worked out their differences, and this scenario happened instead.
Now, some math. 🙂 If Jane married at 22 – she might have been 23 by the time of the actual marriage, but let’s go with 22 and skew younger – it would take her probably 15 years to have 10 children. It might take closer to 20, but again, we’ll skew younger. So, if she died in childbirth delivering that 10th child, she’d be at least 37. Elizabeth, if unwed, might have come to live with her and Bingley at some point during those 15 years – likely when their father died and Longbourn passed to Mr. Collins. (“Turned out in the hedgerows” as anticipated by Mrs. Bennet, any surviving sisters who were not yet married might also have joined the Bingley household. Alternatively, they and Mrs. Bennett could move in with Mrs. Bennet’s remaining family, either Mrs. Phillips in Meritton or Mr. Gardiner in Gracechurch Street in London. But Elizabeth, certainly, would have gone to Jane and been welcomed.) So, if Jane passed when she was 37, Elizabeth would have been two years younger, 35, and quite unlikely to marry at that point. Mr. Bingley might have married her to provide a maternal influence (and an organizational force) in his household. This purely practical arrangement might have suited both of them well. It might not even have been a consummated match in the end, but it’s a very plausible solution to the dilemma of those ten children being motherless and Bingley, having lost the love of his life, being disinclined to seek another bride who would never hold his heart. He might, quite reasonably, invest his emotional energy in his children by Jane. He might also want to ensure Elizabeth’s financial security as he would be fond of her—if he didn’t make this choice, she would have been looking for somewhere to live, possibly with one of the Gardiner’s children, her nieces and nephews. Remember that Elizabeth’s income after her parents’ death was estimated to be £50 a year, which isn’t much.
There are three well-known examples from the Regency era of men doing this (see my Author’s Note), but there must have been more. The 1835 Marriage Act validates any existing such marriages but forbids them in future. But why was there a marriage act at all?
In one of my first medieval history courses at university, one of our assigned books to read was a law code. (It was the Lex Burgundionum from about 500 AD – that’s a Wiki link) Oh, how dull! I think everyone groaned simultaneously in the lecture hall – until the prof pointed out that law codes aren’t so much about what people should do. They are often a response to what people are already doing. So, why did British parliament debate the question of a man marrying his dead wife’s sister? I suggest that it’s because many men were doing it, and those who believed it to be wrong wanted to see the practice stopped. Parlaiment wouldn’t have reviewed and debated a law to address three instances.
The fact remains that Garrett and Penelope could have married. Who could have challenged the match as an interested party? Although this reader suggested that Penelope’s family might do as much, maybe to make trouble, I think this unlikely. If the match was annulled, they would lose all association with the marquis and his father the duke, and thus sacrifice any perks resulting from that connection. The most likely person to challenge the match for personal gain would be Christopher or Anthony, Garrett’s younger brothers, who might wish to take the place of Garrett’s sons in the line of inheritance of the duchy. But Garrett’s sons (his heir and spare) are by Philomena, so their inheritance would be unaffected by the dissolution of his marriage to Penelope. It seems unlikely to me that Christopher or Caroline, given their affection for Garrett and Penelope, would even think of doing this.
So, I don’t see this detail as a challenge to Garrett and Penelope’s HEA, but it is interesting to explore. (You know me – any excuse to dig into the research books!) Thanks to Rebecca for raising the question in the first place. 🙂
Here’s the new Author’s Note at the end of the book:
Author’s Note for The Masquerade of the Marchioness
Could a man marry his dead wife’s sister in the Regency? Technically, he could, although the marriage could be challenged as being within the prohibited degrees i.e. because the couple were too closely related, according to ecclesiastical law. If the marriage was challenged by an interested party, it could be voided or annulled, so long as either husband or wife were still living. This could cast the inheritance of any children into question.
All the same, men did marry the sisters of their dead wives without those matches being challenged. Examples include Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Matthew Boulton and Rear Admiral Charles Austen. Charles was Jane Austen’s brother: he married Frances Palmer in 1807 and Frances’ sister Harriet in 1820 after Frances had died.
Given the nature of Penelope’s blood family, I think it unlikely that they would challenge Penelope’s marriage to Garrett, as that would end their relationship with both the marquis and the duke, and any benefits resulting from that association. Theoretically, Christopher or Anthony could challenge the match in the hope of securing more favor for their own children, but Garrett has an heir and a spare by his first marriage whose claims are beyond dispute. I think we can be confident in Penelope and Garrett’s HEA.
The 1835 Marriage Act made all such existing marriages legal and any subsequent marriages of this type void. It ultimately became legal for a man to marry his dead wife’s sister in 1907, and for a woman to marry her dead husband’s brother in 1921.
My thanks to author Rachel Knowles for her research and blog post on this very subject.
The Masquerade of the Marchioness, book two of the Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction series of Regency romances, is available today!
She’s not the woman he married…
Philomena Wright, Marchioness of Arlingview, is universally admired for her intellect, good sense and charitable efforts on behalf of widows and orphans. A woman with every advantage, she also has a guilty secret: in truth, she is Philomena’s twin sister, Penelope. Dreading spinsterhood, she attends a masquerade ball in the hope of finding a suitor before admitting the truth—only to encounter a gentleman who stirs her like no other…
Garrett Wright misses the purpose—and the peril—of his work as a spy during the war and is bored with his disguise as a reckless rake. When he agrees to help unveil a jewel thief preying upon London society, he is beguiled by a beauty who awakens a dream—and becomes determined to unveil the truth, whatever the cost.
When he finds stolen gems in her possession, Garrett fears his lady has a more dangerous secret than her identity. Forced to choose between honor and unexpected love, how will he both fulfill his duty and secure a happy future with the woman who has captured his heart forever?
The Masquerade of the Marchioness is also available in mass market paperback: