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:


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…


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

Valerie lives in Jacksonville, FL with her rascally dog, Roo. You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter.

Buy Links for Secrets of a Wedding Night: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million

  1. Awesome post, Valerie, and thanks to Madeline for hosting! I’ve read a lot of historical romance through the years and especially love stories with a Gretna Green aspect. Lovers will face trecherous roads, thieves and stormy weather to make it across the border in order to make their comittment to each other legal. Their hurry, usually, is to stay ahead of disapproving parents and sometimes to avoid an unwanted arranged marriage. I especially enjoyed learning how the Gretna Green law came into effect. We Americans have our own version of this. A marriage in Las Vegas is legal throughout the whole world…and I have a marriage certificate to prove it. Lalala!!!

  2. I’m sure I’ve read a ton of novels that feature Gretna Green, but the only one that comes to mind right now is Pride and Prejudice (Lydia and Wickham), even though they don’t make it there.

    And I suppose if I was young and in love and my parents were being SO UNFAIR and THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND, that I’d run to Gretna Green, treacherous roads and the unknown be damned!

  3. You know, I never knew Gretna Green was in Scotland. I always just sort of assumed it was the Las Vegas of England, the place to go for quickie weddings. Live and learn. Thanks for a great post. I love it when I learn something new. Not sure if I would have ever gone the GG route of marriage. I always wanted to have the traditional wedding with family and friends all around. But when you’re that young and in love, who knows?

  4. How fascinating! Thanks for sharing this bit of history, Valerie and thanks to Madeline for hosting. Seems like young lovebirds in any age will do what it takes to get married!

  5. Given that our families approved of the marriage and we were both over 21 at the time, I would not have had to run off to Gretna Green to marry my husband. I guess I’m boring. Ironically enough, my debut features a couple who run off, and they deliberately chose not to take the road to Scotland. But then my heroine is trying to get out of a marriage, not necessarily into one.

  6. Thanks Maddie, for hosting Valierie and her excellent history of the original quickie (not really–that coach ride was gruesome!) marriage. Lord Hardwicke opened up a whole can of worms didn’t he? But we can thank him now for giving us all that fodder for stories and so much potential for conflict, suspense and tension.

  7. I love Gretna Green novels–especially the ones where the couple actually makes it and the dramatic ceremony is described, complete with evil guardians that arrive moments too late *grin*

  8. Thanks for commenting, everyone. Hope I shed a bit o’ light on the subject. Clandestine trips to Gretna are featured in my first two Secret Brides novels so it’s near and dear to my heart. : )

    • It was such a fun subject and I never even knew anything about it until now. Thank you so much for dropping by my blog to share this wonderful historical tidbit 🙂 And thank you so much to everyone who stopped by. Don’t forget to grab your copy of Secrets of a Wedding Night (you know…another copy!) 🙂

  9. Good heavens, no. After 2 failed marriages, I’d sooner run off to Las Vegas to stuff singles down the g-string of a hot male stripper. I’m done with all the rest of that gambling. 🙂

    I do want to see England and Scotland some time, though, if only to get a feel for the place and imagine what it must’ve been like, so deeply in love that you were willing to turn your back on your family’s honor. I hope more of those marriages lasted than the ones of modern days.

    Best wishes and many sales to you, Queen Valerie!

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