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Improbable Marriages #1: The Earls of Stamford

These are the kinds of stories that get my imagination going and inspire my fiction writing! (And here’s a teeny tiny spoiler about the House of Trent series–a Gypsy link is discovered in Sam’s story, book 3, The Scoundrel’s Seduction…)

The year: 1855
The hero: George, the Seventh Earl of Stamford. Stamford had already been married once–when he was a student at Cambridge, he married the daughter of his servant.
The heroine: Kitty Cocks, a circus performer with Gypsy blood
Their happily ever after: When they returned to Stamford’s seat in Cheshire, the people cut the new countess and treated her horrifically, so the earl moved his wife away from the mockery and scorn. The couple lived in exile in Staffordshire. Stamford left his estates to his wife when he died (in an accident) in 1883.

The year: 1880
The hero: Harry, the Eighth Earl of Stamford. In his 20’s, the earl was sent to live in South Africa to cure his drinking and gambling problems.
The heroine: Martha Soloman, the daughter of a slave
Their happily ever after: Martha was the nurse of Harry’s children. Their relationship began when Harry’s wife died, and they had two children before they married in 1880. They remained together for the rest of Harry’s life and when Harry inherited the earldom, they chose to remain in South Africa. Their son, who was born before their marriage, did not inherit the earldom per the laws of the United Kingdom (he was born before the marriage so technically wasn’t considered legitimate), and when Harry died, the earldom was passed to a cousin.

For more on these two couples, see:
Historical Honey
Article in The Messenger
History Hoydens

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Win a Copy of The Duchess Hunt

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore

The Duchess Hunt

by Jennifer Haymore

Giveaway ends August 29, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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Royals Marrying Commoners

As promised in my blog about Improbable (or Impossible?) Historical Relationships, I’m going to talk about royalty marrying into common blood in history. In the next few posts, I’ll talk about others who married people of a “lower station,” and how/if things are changing in modern times.

There has been much talk about Prince William and Catherine Middleton, who is the great-granddaughter of a coal miner and the daughter of a pilot and flight attendant (who now run a successful party-planning business). But this princes-marrying-commoners thing–is it purely a modern construct? Or did it happen in history as well?

It’s true that the British monarchy has married into other royal families for much of its most recent history. Even Prince Charles’ marriage to Lady Diana Spencer was somewhat scandalous, because though she was the daughter of an earl, it was the first time since James II that a future king would marry an English-born wife.

But royals marrying commoners has happened in history, certainly, in several different countries. Here are some of the unions I found from England:

-Several of Henry VIII’s wives were commoners (although descended from noble families).

-Edward IV married commoner Elizabeth Woodville (this relationship is beautifully rendered in The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman–one of my favorite historical fiction novels!).

-James II married commoner Anne Hyde.

-Queen Catherine of Valois (Henry V’s wife) married Owen Tudor, a commoner–and the ultimate father of the Tudor line of monarchs

-Edward VIII married American divorcee Wallis Simpson in the 1930s (but he had to abdicate the throne in order to do so)

-John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, married Katherine Swynford after she was his long-term mistress & bore him four children (This love affair is portrayed brilliantly in Anya Seton’s novel Katherine–I definitely recommend!)

Do any of these ring a bell for you? Can you think of any other royals (English or otherwise) who married commoners?

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Improbable (Impossible?) Relationships in Historical Romance

I’ve heard a lot of critical murmurings about historical romances (The Duchess Hunt included) that dismiss the theme of dukes (and other lords and ladies) marrying far below their station. While many readers seem to adore the Cinderella trope, to some readers, it is unrealistic to the point of being annoying. Even ridiculous.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot (mostly at about 3 am in the morning!). To me Cinderella romances hold a strong appeal (both as a reader and a writer). But, truly, is it unrealistic for a duke to marry the gardener’s daughter? Is it impossible?

I’m the first to admit that in my writing I add a very healthy dose of fantasy to my history. I have a deep-rooted mad love for the fairy-tale fantasy—I have ever since I was a little girl (Have I told you how many times I was a princess for Halloween? My mom was so tired of my endless crowns and pink dresses!).

I also love the themes and conflicts of people marrying people who are different than they are…whether it’s a difference in race, religion, or class. I love exploring what can happen when two such people meet and fall in love and the struggles they face in their search for a happily ever after. I think one of the reasons I love these themes is because I myself married someone of a different race, class, and religion. It is a fascinating conflict to me, because it is so very personal to me.

Obviously, this is also a huge theme and conflict in The Duchess Hunt. The Duke of Trent is looking for the woman who will be his duchess. It doesn’t even cross his mind that Sarah, the gardener’s daughter, might be a candidate for such a position. Why? Because even though the duke is a man of high moral standards who always strives to do what’s right, he’s also a man of his time. In the Duke of Trent’s world, men don’t marry servants. It’s not even within the realm of possibility. It’s not something he’d even consider. Ever.

Through the course of the book, however, the duke changes. He learns that not only is Sarah a potential candidate for his duchess, but a candidate who far exceeds the qualities of any of the candidates society deems worthy of him. This is the duke’s character arc—how he changes in the course of the book. He starts off the book, very subtly, as a classist, someone who—very subtly—considers himself superior to people in Sarah’s position. He is never cruel to Sarah. He never openly demeans her and always respects her. But since birth, it has been ingrained in him that people of her ilk are not worthy of lifelong relationships with people of his. They are not worthy of marriage to someone like him. That ingrained classist in him is slowly desiccated as he learns how perfect for him Sarah is. And when the light bulb goes off, completely burning away the rest of his prejudice, then we get to see a duke who has finally risen above the inherent classism of the society he was born into. A duke who actually deserves Sarah.

Improbable? Yes, definitely. Unfortunately, most people—most dukes—of the time were far too prejudiced and entrenched in their classist society to even consider a person like Sarah as a lifelong partner. But I’m okay with that. I write fiction, after all, and writing the improbable is my job. I love realistic historicals—I love history books—but I write the fairy tales.

So a duke/servant marriage is surely improbable. But impossible? Nah. As I’ve pointed out often on this blog over the years, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Last night, in the middle of the night, I started thinking of all the true historical relationships I’ve read about that break the mold. Stay tuned, because over the next few days, I’m going to try to share some of them here.

So what do you think? Do improbable duke/servant relationships (and the like) in romances rub you the wrong way, or do you love the fairy tale aspect of these relationships? And this not only applies to historical romance but romance in general. (Think of all the popular stories out right now about 20-something self-made billionaires out there with all kinds of time to woo the simple, middle-class girl next door. I admit I love these stories too!)

And can you think of any real-life historical relationships that broke the mold?

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Kindle Fire Winner

Congratulations to Sandy X, who won a Kindle Fire in my THE DUCHESS HUNT release contest! Sandy, enjoy your new Kindle! :)

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The Duchess Hunt is almost here!

And to celebrate, I’m giving away a Kindle Fire! (Contest ends in July because I’m going to be exploring New York, Greece, and the UK until then!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Winner! & A New Cover

Congratulations to Heather E, the winner of a $25 gift card and the James Trilogy.

And I have a new cover to share with you–it’s the UK edition of THE DEVIL’S PEARL! Isn’t it pretty?

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Goodreads Giveaway

Win a copy of THE DUCHESS HUNT!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Duchess Hunt by Jennifer Haymore

The Duchess Hunt

by Jennifer Haymore

Giveaway ends June 19, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

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No More June Gloom

The Duchess Hunt releases soon! You know what this means–I’m in the mood to give stuff away! This time it’s signed copies of my first series (The James Series) and a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Hurry! Contest ends on June 17!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Vicky Dreiling Interview and Giveaway!

Blog Tour BannerI’m so thrilled to have Vicky Dreiling here today!

Triple RITA finalist Vicky Dreiling is a confirmed historical romance junkie and Anglophile. Frequent business trips to the UK allowed her to indulge her passion for all things Regency England. Bath, Stonehenge, and Spencer House are among her favorite places. She is, however, truly sorry for accidentally setting off a security alarm in Windsor Castle. That unfortunate incident led her British colleagues to nickname her “Trouble.” Vicky is a native Texan and holds degrees in English literature and marketing.


• So Vicky, I heard that you like to find role models for your heroes. Who did you choose to be the role model for Andrew Carrington, the Earl of Bellingham?

Hi Jennifer. I do indeed choose hunky actors as models for my heroes. It’s a tough job, but I’m willing to ogle numerous photos of hot guys for the sake of my writing career. When I first saw a photo of Ian Somerhalder, I was sold! He is the perfect role model for Bellingham. But just in case, I gathered many photos of Ian. You can see them on my Pinterest Page: http://pinterest.com/vickydreiling/

• Who did you choose as a role model for your heroine Laura Davenport?

I looked for an actress with blonde hair and a sweet smile as a counterpoint to dark-haired, rake Bellingham. Rachel McAdams was the perfect role model for Laura. There are photos of her on my Pinterest page as well.

• You apparently really love Pinterest. What else do you post there (beside hunky actors)?

I’m so glad you asked. I have numerous photos of gowns, men’s clothing in the Regency era, billiard tables, carriages, historical houses, theaters, castles,etc. I use Pinterest like a collage. It helps me visualize the places where my characters interact.

• What is one of your favorite scenes in WHAT A WICKED EARL WANTS?

That’s a tough question, but there is an early scene in the book that propels the characters into action. In this scene, Laura is on the verge of dismissing Bellingham who arrives to bring her a flask of liquor, one that her rebellious stepson left behind at a ball. She doesn’t care much for Bellingham, but when her stepson’s rude guardian threatens to take her stepson away, Laura tells an outrageous lie to keep her son. Now Bellingham finds himself roped into a faux engagement!

• What is next in The Sinful Scoundrel Series?

WHAT A RECKLESS ROGUE NEEDS is the story of Colin Brockhurst, Earl of Ravenshire, who is forced to meet up with his childhood friend Lady Angeline Brenham. There friendship fell apart after she overheard a chance, unflattering remark, and they have been estranged for many years. But after a year in Paris and a failed betrothal, Angeline is no longer the seemingly confident young woman, and the reunion with Colin only makes her yearn for him to notice her – the girl beneath his nose.

Andrew Carrington, Earl of Bellingham, believes in being a gentleman, whether it’s fishing a soggy stranger out of the Thames or assisting a fetching lady into his bed. If the stranger becomes a friend and the lady a mistress, all the better. He certainly welcomes the opportunity to help Laura Davenport, a dazzling young widow with a rebellious stepson. Her gratitude, he hopes, will take an amorous form. But from the moment he sets foot in her drawing room, he gets far more than he bargained for …
It was a moment of desperation. On the brink of losing her stepson, Laura turned to the notorious Lord Bellingham for help. Suddenly she, a vicar’s daughter, is in the precarious position of resisting his tantalizing advances. How Bell earned his wicked reputation is clear; the surprise is how much more there is to him than the gossip sheets could possibly reveal. Now every moment with this dangerously desirable man puts Laura’s good name at risk-and promises pleasure unlike any she has ever known …

Read An Excerpt!

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite heroes/heroines, and the actors you think who’d best portray them on the big screen! Two lucky commenters will win a set of WHAT A WICKED EARL WANTS and THE DUCHESS HUNT. Giveaway open to US. Ends 6/4. Good luck!

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