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One of the things that I love most as a reader (and sometimes writer)
of historical romance is the opportunity to spend a few hours back in the day without having to actually live back in the day (one of the big disadvantages to time travel, should it actually ever be invented). I like running water. Hot running water. Sometimes, readers, reviewers, or critics will make a disparaging comment about the way historical romance novels are peopled with more dukes than have ever been created in England's rather lengthy history. As someone who has studied that history, I know the critics are right. But I don't care. Sure, if my research tells me that there weren't many unmarried dukes who qualified for the lead role of hero in a romance I have to admit I'm taking liberties. But so are my heroes, so I just have to hope that readers forgive me. There are many aspects of Victorian England that interest me. Victoria, for one. Became Queen because her uncles were not that good at passing on the genes, married a man she loved, had nine children, worn mourning for the rest of her life after her husband died at a relatively young age. Reputedly loved her stable master in her later years. But the other thing that has always fascinated me about Victorian England was the idea that an Earl, or a Duke, or a Marquess, inherits a heavy mantle of duty, responsibility and history with each successive generation. What does that do to a person, to know that you're "it"? You represent the family motto, every ancestor in the portrait gallery, and your people in the House of Lords. Sure, it comes with power, but it also comes with responsibility (if you're the hero). Of the seven books in my Once Upon a Wedding series, half have peers for heroes (despite my agreement with the critics that I'm stretching history almost to the breaking point). The Fairy Tale Bride has the upright Duke of Kerstone who doesn't think he is a worthy living representation of his family motto. The Star-Crossed Bride has Valentine the penniless Baron who really should marry for money not love. The Next Best Bride has an earl in line to inherit a marquisate, but with no money of his own unless he can marry and produce an heir to satisfy his grandfather the current marquess. The Twelfth Night Bride has an Irish peer -- a conundrum in its own right -- who hasn't got a lot of use for the English, though he does have a seat in Parliament. Each of these heroes fascinates me, and each represents one way I think a person might react to inheriting such weighty responsibility: the Duke of Kerstone is impeccably proper and ready to die to keep the dukely bloodline true; Valentine has six sisters to marry off, but he still finds time to rescue his lady love, even though she isn't going to bring any funds with her to the marriage; the unrepentantly rakish earl is planning to gamble and drink himself into an early grave to avoid the responsibilities of his title; the Irish peer is determined to use his title to get a little justice. Everyone reacts differently to power, but most people don't inherit it, they earn it, or are given it by people who trust them whether they deserve it or not. Not the dukes and marquesses and earls in historical romances. They get the weight on their shoulders from birth (except the ones who get it dropped on them unexpectedly when they didn't really think they'd inherit…kind of like Victoria herself, come to think of it). They don't get to do a thing without knowing that it will reflect on their family honor and legacy. It was fun to think about what that must feel like (without having to actually having to live with that kind of weight, of course). And, since my novels are historical romances, there are the women who would marry men with such heavy responsibilities on their shoulders. I wouldn't do it myself. To have to behave impeccably because I'd tarnish my husband's 400 year old family reputation? No thank you. But it was fun to imagine what kind of woman could love these men, and bring them a measure of happiness amidst all the responsibility (not to mention straighten out their thinking where the weight of the title had warped it a bit). And then, of course, I got to escape all that with the other three books -- sending one heroine off to Boston and another onto the Oregon Trail. And sending one haring off across England in search of Malory's Morte d'Artur with her scholarly hero. My own family can trace our roots back to Ireland, but there aren't any queens or kings, or even knights in the family line. Just people who worked the land for the dukes and earls and barons. (History tidbit: earls and barons are the oldest titles, dukes were almost exclusively royal for a long time after they were created, and marquesses and viscounts were added for gradation purposes). I know some writers like the power part of the title. Me, I like to flip over the power side and see what's underneath. If I had to choose, I'd be a Duchess. A boring, and very responsible duchess, who made everyone call her Your Grace, even the Duke.
Kelly McClymer's The Fairy Tale Bride is on sale for 99 cents until
July ends to help raise funds for her daughter's wedding (a weighty
responsibility she tried not to shoulder -- but when push came to
shove, elopement just didn't seem like as good an idea in practice asit sounded in theory).