Romance author Lillian Marek discusses Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage in today’s article. This Georgian romance was published in 1934, just one year before Regency Buck, the very first Regency novel. The Convenient Marriage is Heyer’s first romance which involves a marriage of convenience, though it would not be her last. Like Lillian, do you enjoy romances which revolve around a marriage of convenience?
Please feel free to share your opinions in comments to this article.
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The Convenient Marriage, published in 1934, is one of Georgette Heyer’s earliest books, with a Georgian rather than Regency setting. It employs my favorite trope—the marriage of convenience, as you might guess from the title. It is not, however, one of my favorite Heyer books.
The Earl of Rule has decided to marry one of the Winwood sister, making an appropriate family alliance, and plans to propose to Elizabeth, the eldest. She is resigned to accepting since her brother has, through gambling and other foolish behavior, pretty much impoverished the family. Her youngest sister, Horatia, knowing that Elizabeth is in love with a poor officer, goes to Rule and suggests that he marry her instead. And so he does.
Once married, the seventeen-year-old Horatia, known as Horry, has a lovely time spending money on grown-up clothes and gambling and flirting to such an extent that even her brother, Pelham, comments. Rule looks on and pays Pelham’s bills.
Enter Lord Lethbridge. He is an enemy of Rule’s and works his way into Horry’s friendship with the assistance of Lady Massey, Rule’s mistress. When Horry learns the reason for their enmity—Lethbridge tried to elope with Rule’s sister—she keeps her distance but Rule kidnaps her. She escapes by whacking him over the head with a poker and runs off, leaving behind a brooch that was torn off in the struggle. On her way home she encounters her brother and a friend of his, both of them quite drunk, and enlists their help in retrieving the brooch. They are unsuccessful but Rule’s jealous cousin, Drelincourt, picked it up and hopes to use it to drive a wedge between Rule and Horry.
Eventually, Rule retrieves the brooch, returns it to Horry, who discovers that he has known about her adventures all along and that he has broken with his mistress. They confess that they now love each other.
In addition to a wealth of detail about Georgian life and habits—gambling in particular—the book has a number of truly funny comic scenes, especially when Pelham and his equally foolish friend are attempting to retrieve the brooch.
I like almost everything about this book—except the hero and heroine.
My main problem is Horry. Yes, she is very young, and it is unreasonable to expect great maturity from a seventeen-year-old. But does she have to be quite so foolish? She is the grandmother of all those annoyingly feisty heroines who go charging ahead without bothering to figure out what’s going on. There are a number of nitwits like Horry in later Heyer books—Cherry in Charity Girl or Belinda in The Foundling—but they tend to be comic characters, not the heroine.
Then there is the age difference. Horry is seventeen and Rule is thirty-four. That is not in itself a problem. Heyer handles it very differently in Venetia. What bothers me here is their relationship which, even at the end, is more father-daughter than husband-wife. Instead of being in love with her, he seems amused by her the way one might be amused by a puppy.
But I do enjoy the marriage of convenience idea. I also liked it in Mary Balogh’s First Comes Marriage:
Hero plans to marry oldest sister to simplify life. Check.
Younger sister, knowing older one loves another, offers herself instead. Check.
Former friend of hero, now an enemy, tries to cause problems with assistance of hero’s mistress. Check
Hero refuses to explain reason for enmity. Check.
Heroine thinks hero is still in love with mistress. Check.
Isn’t it amazing that a similar plot can produce entirely different books in different hands?
Lillian Marek was born and raised in New York City. At one time or another she has had most of the interesting but underpaid jobs available to English majors. After a few too many years in journalism, she decided she prefers fiction, where the good guys win and the bad guys get what they deserve. The first book in her Victorian Adventures series, Lady Elinor’s Wicked Adventures, was published last November. The second, Lady Emily’s Exotic Journey,will come out on August 4.
You can find Lillian online at: