My Favorite Tropes: Marriage of Convenience

Guest blog by Carla F.

Merriam-Webster defines a trope as “a common or overused theme or device”. However, it seems to me that it can only be “overused” if it brings nothing new to distinguish itself from all the others. The one thing more satisfying than reading a romance is reading one that has your favorite plot. It is like when you slip on that old, ratty, soft sweatshirt that is still in your closet after all these years and laze around at home all day.

Marriage of convenience (MOC) plots were my first love (and I have never forgotten them ). In a MOC the couple decides to marry for financial and/or matter-of-fact reasons. My love of this type of plot started in the days when in romance novels, the woman didn’t lose her virginity until her wedding night. The only way to read more sexually explicit love scenes was in a MOC. It might be days or sometimes even years, but you know the couple will have sex as surely as they will fall in love. “Harlequin Presents” had a lot of these back then. I remember books by Anne Mather and Charlotte Lamb in particular. The woman would have a brother/step-brother/father who was about to bring the family firm/family to financial ruin, and she would have to marry the millionaire/playboy/tycoon to save it/them. (Of course the added bonus with these types of marriages is that you got to live the life of the stinking rich, but of course the woman didn’t care about any of that.) Nowadays you don’t see that many MOC plots in “Harlequin Presents” because the woman has to become the rich man’s mistress in order to save the day! The times have changed.

There are many reasons for a MOC besides saving the family business, and these are reflected in some of my favorites:

  • The Admiral’s Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly – (Regency) – Sally Paul was set to be a companion to an old lady, but the lady dies right before Sally shows up. With no money left, her only choice seems to be the workhouse. Lucky for her she goes to spend her last money on a cup of tea and encounters Sir Charles Bright who can tell that Sally is in trouble. He offers to marry her because he feels sorry for her, and he needs to marry anyway.
  • The Stranger I Married by Sylvia Day (Regency) – In this one Gerard Faulkner, Marquess of Grayson, wants to embarrass his mother and have her stop hounding him to get married by asking the scandalous Lady Isabel Pelham, who is the lover of one of his friends, to be his wife. Pel has just turned down her lover’s marriage proposal because she doesn’t want to marry again with love involved. She does accept Grayson’s proposal of a MOC. The couple settles down in friendship, but continues their romances outside the marriage. Gerald leaves their home when a tragedy strikes. When he returns years later, he wants a real marriage with Pel.
  • A Daring Proposition by Jennifer Green (Contemporary) – Leigh Sexton desperately wants a baby, but not marriage. No way is Brian Hathaway going to just make a deposit at a sperm bank. He wants to be involved in his child’s life so he wants marriage.
  • Miss Winthorpe’s Elopement by Christine Merrill (Regency) – Her brother is a bully and wants to continue to control her money. Bluestocking Penny Winthorpe has had enough, so she climbs into a carriage to go get a man to marry her. She finds one when her carriage almost runs over the drunken Adam Felkirk, Duke of Bellston, who because of severe investment losses is trying to kill himself.
  • To Tempt a Saint by Kate Moore (Regency) – This is another one were the woman wants to gain control of her money. In this book, Cleo’s evil uncle leaves her and younger brother just barely scraping by on a farm. Alexander Jones who saved the prince’s life needs Cleo’s money so that he can invest in a gasworks that will light up the streets of the horrible London slum, St. Giles. (Well-lighted streets will help him find his missing brother.)

A MOC plot that didn’t work for me was Bought for Marriage by Margaret Mayo (Contemporary) this “Harlequin Presents” was like the ones that I used to read. Dutiful daughter is sent by ailing father to go to his enemy (say what?) to save the family business. Greek tycoon demands marriage.

Seems like I read that one before.

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What are some of your favorite books with this type of plot?

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  1. Carla this is one of my favorite tropes too! I adore MOC and will read/buy/beg/borrow/steal new ones that I find all the time. I love it as much as I love my wounded (blind!!!!!) heroes! I told you about By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter when you sent this post in and I know you’ve had a chance to read it. That’s a MOC that has stuck with me (even if some plot points got fuzzy) since like 2000 or whenever it published. 🙂 I’m going to add some of yours to my TBR ASAP!

  2. I love marriage of convenience stories. Some of my favorites include Lisa Kleypas’ “Worthy Any Price” and Julie Garwood’s “Castles.”

  3. Susan S.

    Carla, I have to tell you, you did a great job with this post. I really enjoyed it! Thank you for explaining the MOC trope. I hope I can find the time to do a similar post in the future. My favorite trope is the reformed rake. Oohhh yeah! If I had to pick a 2nd, I think it might be the friends-to-lovers.

  4. @Susan – You totally should do both! I despise friends-to-lovers, I will read them, but I’d prefer to avoid them! Enemies-to-lovers or strangers-to-lovers are so much more my thing.

  5. Carla F.

    @Keira – Wounded hero hmmm. I guess I should tell you that in the Admiral’s Penniless Bride, the hero lost a hand in the war and now has a hook. ha! Double trope!

    @Jane – I have read Worth Any Price and enjoyed it. (Well I don’t think I have met a Kleypas Regency that I didn’t like.) I will have to check out Castles. Thanks!

    @Susan – Thank you so much. Ah Reformed Rakes…. You should do a post on those guys.

  6. minniechung

    Hmm, not particularly fond of this one, perhaps becaus e they are so dominant in the historical romance genre. It appears to me that every duke or earl is seeking a practical marriage in order to claim his inheritance. And it is usually tied with the reformed rake steroype, well, I loathe this, Handsome, rich, powerful PERFECT dude being tamed by sweetie, pure heroine is way too over the top.

    My pick is secret baby, but not those with daddies in the dark. I like my heroes to be in a situation that makes him unable to do the right thing, and struggle all the while. And the heroines bravely brings up the child alone. Love plenty of pain and anguish.

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