Next Friday, July 31 (where on earth has July gone?) Book 2 of the House of Pleasure series, Only Marriage Will Do, will release as an indie title! I’m really stoked about having this first of my Georgian series out with the new covers and a few changes here and there. I’m really enjoying revisiting the characters and story lines too. I hope those of my readers who haven’t sampled this steamy series will give it a try.
To get everyone primed and ready for the release, I’ll be posting a series of articles on my blog here with little tidbits of trivia regarding my research for Only Marriage Will Do along with short excerpts from the novel to whet your appetite.
One of the major parts of the storyline for Only Marriage Will Do is the question of Lady Juliet Ferrers marital status. From the beginning, we find a Frenchman who insists she was married to him via a proxy marriage over a year previously. The question then becomes is he telling the truth and if so, is the marriage legal in England.
Proxy marriages have been around for centuries, often utilized by royalty to bind monarchs and princes in matrimony across great distances when an alliance is needed but the logistics of a conventional wedding in person is impossible. A substitute then is found for the bride or groom, legal documents attesting to the marriage are signed and witnessed, and the marriage is considered as legal as any other performed with bride and groom in the church.
However, in 1753, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was signed into law in England in order to prevent clandestine marriages. It stipulated that the couple must be married in an Anglican church either after the banns had been read or a marriage license had been obtained and consent of parents for parties under the age of twenty-one. (There were other stipulations of the Act as well, but these are the significant ones for the story.)
The stipulation that both bride and groom must meet in person should make a proxy marriage invalid. However, as the act doesn’t specifically address the validity of a proxy marriage, and the laws of France do accept such a marriage ceremony, there is enough of a legal argument to make Juliet’s marital status very sketchy indeed. And as she is terrified of the Frenchman who claims to be her husband, and she meets and falls in love with Captain Amiable Dawson, thereby hangs the tale. Is she bound to the cruel foreigner or can she marry her knight in shining armor?
Here’s a short excerpt that gives you a taste of this predicament:
“Do you know why the count is trying to perpetrate this fraud on you, my lady?”
“No, I don’t know. Even if such a marriage took place in France, in England it is invalid. I made that perfectly clear to Philippe.”
“Are you sure, Lady Juliet?” He had little knowledge of the laws concerning such things, but it made no sense to go to the trouble and expense of a marriage by proxy if it did not bind the parties by law.
“Yes, my brother explained it to me. The Hardwicke Act made such marriages invalid in England. The proxy ceremony in France, on the other hand, would bind Philippe to me until he returned to England for it to be performed legally.” She turned back to gaze out the window. “By the time my brother sent the proxy to France I didn’t even want to marry Philippe, but I feared telling Duncan. Vicious rumors about me had besieged us for months and he wanted to make the marriage work for my sake.”
“Rumors about you, my lady?”
She hung her head. “Surely you heard them. The gossips of Society could talk of nothing else last year.”
“I am but lately come from the colonies. We hear very little of London’s scandals there.” He should not distress her more. “If you would rather not speak of it—”
“No, I don’t mind. Everyone else knows.” She sighed and ran her hand along the back of the sofa, then dropped into a rose-colored companion chair and motioned for him to take a seat opposite her. “Over a year and a half ago, Earl Ferrers shot and killed a man. He was arrested and charged with murder. Our family name is the same as his title, although we are connected only through marriage. The earl pled insanity, although it did not save him, despite several genuinely mad family members.”
She stared at him intently then continued. “Several rumors surfaced that I had inherited the Ferrers insanity. My brother called out the man who started them and killed him in a duel. He…” She swallowed hard. “He killed two men for my honor and dueled with others as well. Duncan also suffered horrible allegations.” She shifted in her seat and tried to smile. “So you see, the Ferrers family was hardly a bargain in the marriage mart last year. My brother thought he was acting in my best interest, sending the proxy for our marriage.”
“Did you not wish to marry the viscount?”
She tensed and avoided his eyes. “At that point, no, I didn’t. We had quarreled bitterly just before he left London.” Her voice softened until he had to lean toward her to hear. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she turned her head away. “And he was not always kind.”
Amiable stood it for about five seconds. “My dear.” He rose, gathered her into his arms, and settled her head against his chest again. “I demand the right of a temporary husband to comfort you,” he murmured in her ear. “Stay still with your head just there.”
Given her choices, I think I’d opt for Amiable Dawson as well, wouldn’t you?