Christmas Romances

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.)

The Rogue, #1 of the Rogues of Ravensmuir series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix
The Rogue
Merlyn and Ysabella’s marriage gets a second chance at the Yule
The Snow White Bride, #3 of the Jewels of Kinfairlie series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix
The Snow White Bride
Eleanor finds unexpected romance when she takes refuge at Kinfairlie at Christmas
The Mercenary's Bride, #1 of the Brides of Inverfyre series of medieval Scottish romances
The Mercenary’s Bride
Quentin finds love and a second chance when he returns to Inverfyre
A Most Inconvenient Earl, book four of the Brides of North Barrows series of Regency romance novellas by Claire Delacroix
A Most Inconvenient Earl
Sebastian takes Eurydice’s dare, only to find unexpected love
The Christmas Conquest, a Regency romance novella by Claire Delacroix
The Christmas Conquest
When Rhys tries to convince Catherine to remain his wife, she steals his heart away

I also am participating in some holiday romance anthologies – the first three are English, then there are Spanish and German collections, too.

Rogues, Ladies & Mistletoe: A Christmas Holiday Romance collection
Rogues, Ladies & Mistletoe
Twelve Lords for Yuletide, a multi-author collection of Christmas Regency romances
Twelve Lords for Yuletide
Twelve Lords for Christmas Regency romance anthology
Twelve Lords for Christmas
Damas, caballeros y muérdago: Colección de romance histórico navideño
Damas, caballeros y muérdago
Lords, Ladys und Mistelzweige Christmas anthology
Lords, Ladys und Mistelzweige

About Regency Marriages

The Masquerade of the Marchioness, a Regency romance by Claire Delacroix

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.

Read The Masquerade of the Marchioness Today!

The Masquerade of the Marchioness, book two of the Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction series of Regency romances, is available today!

Five star review for The Masquerade of the Marchioness, book two of The Ladies' Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction series of Regency romances by Claire Delacroix

The Masquerade of the Marchioness, a Regency romance by Claire Delacroix

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?

Five star review for The Masquerade of the Marchioness, book two of The Ladies' Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction series of Regency romances by Claire Delacroix

The Masquerade of the Marchioness is also available in mass market paperback:

Coming in March – The Widow’s Wager

The Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction continues with The Widow’s Wager, book three of the series, coming in March. Matters become complicated for Mrs. Oliver when the Duke of Haynesdale’s widowed sister seeks out the secrets of her notorious book-in-progress, and the protective duke takes an interest in his sister’s activities.

The Widow's Wager, a Regency romance by Claire Delacroix

She wed once for duty but will only wed again for love…

For as long as she can remember, Eliza North’s heart has been in the possession of her older brother’s friend, Nicholas Emerson. But Nicholas has always been oblivious to Eliza, and when he bought a commission and sailed to war, she wed sensibly instead. Returned to her brother’s house a widow, she meets Lieutenant Emerson again and realizes neither of their feelings have changed. She accepts his request to chaperone his younger sister, Helena, hoping she might win his attention yet, with the assistance of the mysterious Mrs. Oliver and her guide for seduction.

Nicholas Emerson could never aspire to wed the daughter of a duke, especially one so pragmatic as Eliza has always been. That she married for the whimsy love makes him wonder how well he knew Eliza after all. She is still the only woman who captures his attention, but he knows his injuries mean he can never marry. Still, he cannot resist the chance to request Eliza’s assistance with Helena’s second season, and the chance to share her company.

Neither of them anticipate Helena’s wild behavior or their necessary alliance to defend her reputation. Entrusted with the manuscript of Mrs. Oliver’s advice on the seductive arts, Eliza puts its counsel to use, much to Nicholas’ delighted astonishment. How can he refuse the woman he loves, even knowing that he can never ensure her happiness? Caught between honor and love, Nicholas must accept his legacy from the war for this pair to have a future—is Eliza the woman who can heal his wounds forever?

Coming March 21, 2023

Pre-order available at some portals.

Twelve Lords for Yuletide Today!

Twelve Lords for Yuletide, a multi-author collection of Christmas Regency romances

Twelve Lords for Yuletide is a multi-author anthology of holiday Regency romances.

This collection includes Christmas Regency romances by Deb Marlowe, Claire Delacroix, Anthea Lawson, Ava Stone, Jane Charles, Emanuelle de Maupassant, Larissa Lyons, Eve Pendle, Erica Ridley, Nadine Millard, Sadie Bosque and Nicole Zoltack.

Claire’s contribution is The Christmas Conquest, book one of her new Regency romance series The Ladies’ Essential Guide to the Art of Seduction.

Buy the ebook: