Twenty three years ago today I got married and the anniversary has made me think about love and marriage, an important issue in all of my books.
Inevitably it was in a castle. Dalhousie Castle on the Scottish Borders is a beautiful place, converted into a hotel with a small chapel which as far as I know still does weddings. Ours was a small affair with only close family and two or three friends. We went on honeymoon afterwards and then came back and had a huge party with all our friends to celebrate.
I write historical fiction with a strong element of romance so relationships and how they develop are of interest to me. I also spent years working as a relationship counsellor which meant I saw the ups and downs of more couples than I can remember. And I’ve been in a relationship now for around twenty seven years. Believe me, I’ve thought about love and marriage during all this.
It’s the aim of a writer of romance, even if the romance is only part of the theme of the book, to try to make it realistic while still retaining the magical element of falling in love. A lot of romantic novels end with wedding bells, or at least with the couple falling into each others arms and admitting that after all their trials and tribulations, they want to be together. There’s something very satisfying about reading the last page, closing the book, and knowing that the couple that you have become attached to (hopefully) have worked it out.
Of course they haven’t. They’ve just worked out the first bit. There’s a whole lot of work still to come which a lot of the time we don’t see. But because I do get attached to the characters I write about, I do wonder what happened to them next.
In historical fiction, the drama of divorce would have been less common. Certainly before the Victorian era when divorce became slightly more realistic, although still very difficult, only the very wealthy could afford divorce which had to be confirmed by an act of Parliament. And it was only available to men.
This didn’t mean that couples didn’t separate. For many it was a quiet affair, simply drifting apart and living separate lives. There was not always the same pressure for couples to spend all their time together as we have now. These days, if one partner takes a job which keeps them away for weeks, months or even years at a time, there is often an expectation that the marriage is going to fail. In the early nineteenth century, married officers and men in the British army might not see their wives or families for years. Some marriages did end during that time but a surprising number succeeded, helped along by endless letter writing and a determination to keep the relationship alive.
There was probably a different attitude to adultery in some quarters, for men at least. It was not considered so shocking for a man to have relations with a mistress as long as he was discreet. In an age where many marriages, particularly among the middle and upper classes, were arranged for reasons other than love, one wonders how often both partners were unfaithful at times. Some of these marriages worked very well. Others did not. There are examples of both of these in the books I’ve written.
I do wonder, though, if some couples pushed through their difficulties and came out stronger when divorce and separation were more difficult. Some, we know, lived in misery, and I wouldn’t go back to the days when divorce was seen as shocking. But relationships are tough at times and there’s a feeling of satisfaction in coming out the other side of a difficult patch and feeling close again.
I’ve been thinking about the couples in my books so far and wondering how they’d do. Jenny and Will from A Marcher Lord will do well, I suspect. Both had parents who made successes of their marriages; Will’s had an arranged marriage and Jenny’s was a runaway love match but both worked. Jenny and Will would have led a busy and active life keeping castle and estates running successfully and they have already proved they make a good working team. They’ll argue, but they have shared values and interests and I think they’ll be fine. I’m planning a second book featuring this couple some time next year and I’m looking forward to catching up with them.
Cordelia and Giles from The Reluctant Debutante come from different social backgrounds, but she’s already proved that she can make the shift into the Ton very well. I think both of them enjoy country life. They might argue about social obligations; she’s probably always going to be more social than he is, have better manners and be nicer to people. But they share a sense of humour and a love of the ridiculous and I think for Giles there will always be an enormous sense of gratitude to her. He was in bits after Waterloo and she’s a big part of his rehabilitation. There is a planned series of books set around the lives and loves of some of the men and women of the third brigade of the Light Division after the war, of which this is the second, so I think we will meet Cordelia and Giles again.
Kit and Philippa from A Respectable Woman are the most interesting in some ways. Somebody who has just finished the book and loved it asked about a sequel and it has made me think how this marriage is likely to work. Of all of them the gap between these two is the widest. Philippa has a lot to learn about how to be a Countess and for all his protestations that she can do as she likes, Kit is going to need to learn to let her be herself. I think the key to this one is going to be for both of them to find something to do outside of the marriage so that neither of them feel smothered. They’re both used to being busy and having a job to do. The big advantage that they have is Kit’s mother, a very wise and understanding woman who is going to be a big help to Philippa. I think they’ll be all right but I suspect there might be a few fireworks along the way.
Then we have Paul and Anne who began their journey in An Unconventional Officer. There is a lot about relationships in this and the subsequent novels in the Peninsular War saga. There’s no point in speculating about Paul and Anne because their story doesn’t end with the book, it continues through the series. We’re going to see how Paul and Anne and the other characters cope with trying to be together in the middle of a war and it’s not always likely to be easy.
I’ve been lucky enough to see an example of a very happy marriage with my parents. They’d been married for over fifty years when my Dad died and there were definitely ups and downs. But they stayed devoted to one another. Theirs is a story I’d like to write one day
In the meantime, Happy Anniversary to the man I married. 23 years and we’re still here. It feels like something to celebrate…
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