I am a Regency romance author but I’m visiting Maddie’s blog and she loves all things Scottish, so I thought I’d combine the two and give a little insight into a location that plays a large and varied role in my Regency romance debut, Secrets of a Wedding Night. That place is the infamous, Gretna Green, Scotland.
It all started with Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754. When the English parliament passed that act, it prohibited several things. Before the act went into effect, in England young men and women over the age of 16 (but younger than 21) were able to merely declare themselves married in front of witnesses. After the act was passed by Parliament, couples in the throes of a passionate love affair had to hightail it to Scotland to have their quick (and unapproved) weddings. You see, in Scotland, a boy age 14 and a girl age 12 could marry. (As opposed to the legal age of 21 in England and Wales.) And again, all they had to do was declared themselves married in front of witnesses…and then get to the business of consummation, of course.
It turns out, Scotland has a long and storied history of being quite protective of love and marriage (I can see why Maddie loves it so). When the English outlawed the practice, Scotland did not follow suit and it naturally became the closest place for the young lovebirds to marry quickly and (most importantly) without their parents’ permission. As a result, the small Scottish town of Gretna Green became synonymous with eloping couples.
But of all places in Scotland, why Gretna Green?
Well, back in the day, Gretna just happened to be the first posting stop across the Scottish border for the coaches traveling between London and Edinburgh. They merely needed to get across the border and to a reliable witness.
Legend has it that the local blacksmith (and only because his shop was the first that a visitor came to in town) became the “anvil priest.” Scottish law allowed for an irregular marriage that basically stated that anyone could witness a wedding for it to be declared valid.
The romance and scandal of Gretna Green play a large part in my Secret Brides trilogy. In the first story, Secrets of a Wedding Night, there are two foiled attempts at a trip to Gretna. And in the second, Secrets of a Runaway Bride, guess what? Yes, another trip to Gretna Green!
I love the concept of an illicit marriage over the anvil in Gretna. There are just so many possibilities. The road was treacherous, the consequences were dire, and the scandal of it all could bring many a young lady to ruin. All the makings of a wonderful romance novel plot, no?
So tell me, if you had lived back in the days when Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act had made it impossible to be married in London, would you have been scandalous enough to run off to Gretna Green? What are your favorite romance novels featuring a trip to Gretna?
Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Publishers Weekly calls Secrets of a Wedding Night, an “enchanting, engaging debut that will have readers seeking future installments” and Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “This fast-paced, charming debut, sparkling with witty dialogue and engaging characters, marks Bowman for stardom.” Booklist gave it a starred review!
Want a little taste of what you’ll find in Secrets of a Wedding Night? Here ya go:
HOW TO STOP A WEDDING
Young, widowed, and penniless, Lily Andrews, the Countess of Merrill, has strong opinions on marriage. When she spots a certain engagement announcement in The Times, she decides to take action. She will not allow another hapless girl to fall prey to a man—particularly the scoundrel who broke her heart five years ago. Anonymously she writes and distributes a pamphlet entitled “Secrets of a Wedding Night,” knowing it will find its way into his intended’s innocent hands…
HOW TO SEDUCE A WIDOW
Devon Morgan, the Marquis of Colton, desires a good wife and mother to his son—someone completely unlike Lily Andrews, the heartless beauty who led him on a merry chase five years ago only to reject him. When Devon’s new fiancée cries off after reading a certain scandalous pamphlet, he vows to track down the author and make her pay. But when he learns it’s his former fiancée Lily, he issues a challenge: write a retraction—or prepare to be seduced—to find out how wonderful a wedding night can be…
“Secrets of a Wedding Night
is the most charming and clever debut I’ve read in years! ”
—New York Times bestselling author Lisa Kleypas