Times are difficult, scary even, for all of us — especially the older or vulnerable ones — so I thought I’d add a bit of light-hearted distraction. To wit: earwigging.
I do it. Don’t you?
An Earwigging tale
I was in a pub, on my own, having a quiet meal. There were four elderly gents — nattily dressed, clearly ex-military — sitting across the way, drinking various beverages and gossiping. They were not trying to keep their voices down, though they must have known other drinkers could hear every word.
One of them was even louder than the others, very keen to be heard. All The Time. And even when the others were trying to hold a conversation about something else.
I remember watching the last Royal Wedding on television (well, bits of it) in April 2011. To be honest, I was surprised at how moved I was.
There is something heroic about that promise, “Until Death us do Part.” Especially so, when the two people making it have actually chosen each other.
After all, in the past, many royal weddings took place between people who were not much more than pieces on someone else’s chess board.
In 1922 my grandmother went to see the procession for the wedding of the Queen’s aunt to Viscount Lascelles. She came home, shocked, and told her sister that the young princess’s eyes were red with crying. Princess Mary was 24, her bridegroom 39. He looks grim in the wedding photograph. Continue reading →
Love match weddings, achieved after much conflict and tribulation, have been a staple of popular novels ever since Pamela. These days it is a given in western society that young people make their own marital choices — in theory, every wedding should be a love match.
So it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always so, especially among the gentry and aristocracy about whom Joanna and our guest bloggers Anne Gracie, Louise Allen and Nicola Cornick write so delightfully. The grim evidence of bullying, family interests and the protection of property at all costs, is set out in historian Lawrence Stone’s masterly account of courtship, marriage and divorce in England before the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, which reformed the law on divorce.
Yet those Georgian and Regency writers do have some historical justification for their True Love and Happy Ever After stories. And that’s all we readers need, right? It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes love triumphed in real life. Continue reading →
Often when we think about weddings — or write them into our books — we imagine the full works with floaty white dress, olde worlde church bedecked with flowers, rosy-cheeked clergyman, uplifting organ music, smiling friends and family.
But it wasn’t always so.
Weddings: not IN church, but AT the church door
Strange though it seems, in medieval times, weddings didn’t take place inside a church. In fact, many weddings didn’t involve a priest at all. Even if a priest was there, his job was only to bless the couple. In 1215, the Church decreed that a contract of marriage was to be “in the approved manner at the church door“. The priest was to be at the church door too, but in order to oversee the wedding, not to do the marrying — that was done by the consent of the couple themselves.
The Catholic Church decreed in 1563 that marriage required mutual consent plus joining by a priest. Since the Reformation was in progress, however, that didn’t apply everywhere.
Closest marriage house to the border. Yes, it’s a pub! In Springfield near Gretna
In Scotland, even into the 20th century, a couple could marry by simply exchanging consent in front of witnesses. Think of all those romantic Gretna Green weddings. The runaway couple might have assumed that the strange Scotsman in the Marriage House was doing the marrying, but in fact they were doing it themselves, by declaration before witnesses. Continue reading →
At some point every romantic novelist faces the Wedding Dilemma.
If they do — how, when and where?
On the page?
On the last page?
Of course, the purist’s answer is: whatever is right for the characters. But, just as organising a real-life wedding needs to take account of friends and family, the end of a story — perhaps more than any other part of the book — is there to satisfy Readers. To provide emotional closure.
Do Readers want, need a wedding to achieve that? Even if the characters don’t? Continue reading →
Re-reading some of my favourite Georgette Heyer novels recently — Dame Isadora snagged me as the minion to do the research for her blogs because she, being a Very Important Personage, had Better Things To Do — I was struck by how often Heyer brings her lovers together at the very end of her novels, sometimes on the very last page.
Heyer might give us a chaste embrace. She might even give us a fierce kiss or two. And she often adds a shared joke.
But that’s about it.
What we don’t get in Heyer is a lovers’ wallow.
What’s a wallow?
I’d describe the wallow as a shortish section at the end of a love story where the reader sees the lovers together and passionately in love — both of them trusting and relaxed and happy. Sometimes the lovers are married, sometimes they have had children, sometimes they are simply enjoying each other.
It’s the Happy Ever After ending shown right there on the page for the reader to savour.
Some readers love a wallow. Some readers even feel shortchanged if a novel doesn’t have one at the end. But readers still love all those Heyer novels that don’t have the merest hint of a wallow. So…