In many historical romances, the plot involves the hero or heroine being “forced” to marry someone against their will. Though it is difficult to believe, this is not a made up story line, but one that actually occurred—especially among the upper classes—more times than we would probably believe.
Consuela Vanderbilt was forced by her social-climbing mother to marry the Duke of Marlborough. Poor Consuela was in love with another man and her mother locked her in her room in their Newport mansion and threatened to have the man killed. You may know that Consuelo did marry the duke, was completely miserable, and shocked the world in a few years’ time when she got a divorce.
How to Please a Lady is inspired by a story I read in an old 1880s Boston newspaper that I read years ago while doing research. Apparently a German princess was being forced to marry a man she loathed and she escaped Germany with a servant and came to America. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for our princess, for when they arrived, the servant stole all her money and jewels and abandoned her in New York City in the middle of a blizzard. That story stuck with me and I’ve thought about it over the years, always trying to figure out a happy ending for my heroine. And that’s how my book, How to Please a Lady got its start.
Having a wonderful mother, it is difficult for me to understand how a woman could force her daughter to marry someone she clearly didn’t love, or as is the case with Lady Rose, who she feared. I had her gather up her courage in this pivotal scene and confront her mother:
“I can’t marry the duke.” This she announced to her mother five minutes before they were scheduled to go down to dine. She might have said “the sky is blue” for the reaction her mother gave her. “Did you hear me, Mother?”
“I’m glad you stopped in before luncheon, dear. I wanted to talk to you about Mr. Avery.”
Her mother gave her a tight smile. “That’s what I want to talk to you about. He is a servant, not a friend. You are to call him either Mr. Avery or groom, certainly not by his given name. His Grace mentioned that he thought you were a bit too familiar with Mr. Avery and I can now understand his concern.”
“His concern?” Rose looked at her mother in utter confusion.
“He felt Mr. Avery was entirely too impertinent today and suggested I dismiss him immediately. Of course, I will not. That being said, however, I would have given it consideration if Mr. Avery wasn’t already leaving.”
“Mother, I’ve known Ch—Mr. Avery—since we were both children. I’ve always called him Charlie.”
“I call my maid by her given name.”
“That is entirely different. Certainly I don’t have to give you a lesson in how to treat servants. You are being purposely obtuse, Rose, and I don’t like it.”
Rose dipped her head slightly. “I apologize.”
“As for that ridiculous statement you greeted me with earlier, it doesn’t warrant discussion. Shall we go down to luncheon?”
Rose is not a weak woman, but she is young, only eighteen and took the commandment of honor thy mother and father quite seriously. In our modern society, it’s difficult to fathom how a girl could be forced into marriage, until we realize this practice (and worse) are happening even today in other cultures. The modern woman in me rebels, but the reality is, many young women of the day simply had no choice. Choice is a modern invention—and one that hasn’t even reached every country even in the 21st century.
How To Please A Lady
Lady Rose Dunford is shocked–and titillated–by the number of female visitors coming and going from her mysterious new neighbor’s Manhattan brownstone. Recently widowed by the death of her very sweet, but not very exciting husband, Rose finds it difficult to imagine just what the attraction could be.
And then she meets the bachelor in question. Not only is Charlie Avery dashing and outrageously good looking–she knows him! He is none other than the man who once helped her escape the dreary matchmaking plans of her father, the man she once dreamed she could love. Can Charlie’s presence next door be an accident? Or has he come to show her everything he has learned about…
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Jane Goodger lives in Rhode Island with her husband, three children, Chihuahua, one-eyed cat, and a ferret. She works full-time, and operates an editing service in between writing Victorian-set historical romances. In her free time (hahahaha), Jane watches HGTV and dreams of fixing up her 1940s colonial. A former journalist, Jane has lived in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Pozzuoli, Italy.