by Mary Margret Daughtridge, guest blogger and author of SEALed with a Ring
Marriages of convenience—romance fans love ’em, but when I tell people who aren’t romance readers that SEALed with a Ring: Sometimes you get a lot more than you bargained for is a contemporary romance with a marriage of convenience plot, you’d be surprised how many ask, “What’s a marriage of convenience?”
Next thing you know, I’m explaining marriage plots. You have arranged marriage in which choice of spouse is dictated by parents. Hero or heroine acquiesces, more or less gracefully. Forced marriage is one in which one or both is trapped into marriage against their will. And finally there’s marriage of convenience where one party has a need to marry (that has little or nothing to do with love) and the other agrees—usually for financial gain.
All have built in conflict. All are beloved staples of the romance genre.
With women’s enfranchisement, all have become hard to pull off in a contemporary—a reason, I think, that these days you’ll find three or four times as many historicals as contemporaries.
Although in some cultures arranged marriage is still the norm, in the West the expectation is that people marry because they fall in love. Period. It’s hard to get a plot out of that.
Forced marriage (happily) has also gone by the wayside in mainstream society. No one thinks a marriage to save a reputation or because of unplanned pregnancy is anything but a terrible idea. Marrying a girl too young, or unable, to consent is a crime.
That only leaves marriage of convenience. Once it was perfectly acceptable as long as it was aboveboard and a fair exchange. No more. I suspect many marriages today are quid pro quo contracts (witness the rise of the pre-nup) but who’s going to admit it? Marrying for money is thought “crass,” and being married for one’s money is the mark of a loser.
It’s not easy…
But I love marriage of convenience plots and I refuse to give them up. Character-driven writer that I am, I realized the difficulty of motivating a loveless marriage in a contemporary setting could play to my advantage. A person’s reasons (good or bad) for going against society’s expectations reveal a lot about character.
For the M of C plot to succeed, hero or heroine must be motivated by altruism. From the beginning they are sympathetic characters, invested with a degree of nobility. Since their goal is larger than they are, I have more latitude to make them multi-dimensional, strong yet flawed, without losing the reader’s sympathy.
It feels like love…
I also like to explore relationships—I think most women do. Unblinded by love, the M of C characters confront the details of living together and meeting the world as a unit. They consciously assess the other’s strengths, learn to read emotions, see beneath the surface. Again, a boon to the writer of character-driven contemporaries. When the two finally fall in love, the reader was there for every step. It really feels like love.
And it’s magic…
Best of all, an M of C plot (where they don’t pretend, they really get married) has inherent alchemical magic. For better or worse, marriage changes people.
Sharing is no longer optional. One’s destiny is irrevocably tied to the consequences of another person’s good judgment and luck—or lack thereof. And suddenly, there’s little real choice about how and with whom to spend holidays. Sublime or silly, sharing can be soul shaking. For the writer, it’s another chance to delve into character. For the reader, it’s fun. The plot can take a twist at any moment.
I liked putting a contemporary spin on an old plot so much, I think I’ll do it again sometime.
SEALed WITH A RING BY MARY MARGRET DAUGHTRIDGE—IN STORES MARCH 2010
She’s got it all…except the one thing she needs most
Smart, successful businesswoman JJ Caruthers has a year to land a husband or lose the empire she’s worked so hard to build. With time running out, romance is not an option, and a military husband who is always on the road begins to look like the perfect solution…
He’s a wounded hero with an agenda of his own
Even with the scars of battle, Navy SEAL medic Davy Graziano is gorgeous enough to land any woman he wants, and he’s never wanted to be tied down. Now Davy has ulterior motives for accepting JJ’s outrageous proposal of marriage, but he only has so long to figure out what JJ doesn’t want him to know…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Margret Daughtridge has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. She is a member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, and is a sought-after judge in writing contests. She resides in Greensboro, North Carolina. For more information, please visit http://marymargretdaughtridge.com/.