Tropes are defined as consistent and recurrent themes or motifs.
There are many tropes found in romance, whether historical or contemporary. Mindy Klasky provides a lovely (no pun intended) list HERE.
In my latest Austen-inspired piece, In Want a Wife, the book begins after Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are married. “Marriage Tropes” appear when the honeymoon is over. What happens next? TV Tropes says, “What happens when the newlyweds come home from the honeymoon and start living with each other? It’s simultaneously a milestone, a building block for a family, a way to join two older families, a social institution, a public declaration and a very private affair. Many of these tropes are meant to play out over years; others are about the social clout that married status confers; others are about power and in/equality, such as who holds the purse strings.”
TV Tropes also speak of a Marriage of Convenience: “Often, a marriage of convenience is a mutually beneficial agreement, with both parties profiting from the binding – it may even involve a contract – but not always. Sometimes, only one of the partners may be in it for something other than love.
“An expectation is that one or both of the people will fall in love with the other. It is also often a convention used to get two friends who are in love with each other to realise it. Then it may become a Perfectly Arranged Marriage.
“There are many reasons one may choose to Marry For Convenience, and any instance can be one or more of the following (and others):
- Social standing – differs from respect as it is typically someone upper class making a good match
- Respect – including when reputation is at stake
- Money – including bet winning and to get the partner’s money.
- Green card/citizenship
- Political marriage
- To play straight/gay
- Because the woman is pregnant – frequently “convenient” in the sense of not having that shotgun pointed at your back anymore.
- To help a single parent
- For practicalities – when only married couples are eligible for X, and/or to get out of marrying someone else.
- As a back-up plan
- To get close for ulterior motives
- To please parents – this may also be because of any of the above, too.
“The (creators of the) work may show a marriage of convenience in order to fit in with the period of the story being told or for other reasons – commonly characterisation or as a critique of the society which has forced such a marriage to happen, or as a cheap way to get two characters together without any of that dating and love nonsense.”
In my latest release, In Want of a Wife, Mr. Darcy assumes he has married for love, but he begins to question his wife’s motives ,for while recovering from a head injury, his dearest Elizabeth calls out for George Wickham. He fears he has misjudged her, and, like many women who have pursued him, married him only for his money.
In Want of a Wife: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen
Elizabeth Bennet Darcy wakes in an unfamiliar room, attended by a stranger, who claims she is his wife and saying she has suffered an injury to her head. He accuses her of pretending her memory loss, but to Elizabeth, the fear is real.
“Surely you know me,” he protested. His words sounded as if he held his emotions tightly in check. “I am William. Your husband.”
She thought to protest, but the darkness had caught her hand and was leading her away from him. With one final attempt to correct his declaration, her mind formed the words, but her lips would not cooperate. Her dissent died before she could tell him: I do not have a husband!
Fitzwilliam Darcy despises his new wife, for he fears she has faked her love for him, better to see her family well-settled, and if love is not powerful enough to change a life, what is?
“This is unacceptable. I realize I was never your first choice as a husband, but it is too late to change your mind. The vows have been spoken. The registry signed. You cannot deny your pledge with this ploy. I will not have it. No matter how often you call out George Wickham’s name, he will never be your husband. I will never release you.”
Darcy noted a flicker of uncertainty crossing her features before she hid her thoughts behind a weak smile, plainly meant to pacify him. “Even with my loss of memory?” she asked.
“My affection would remain even if your ‘loss of memory’ was meant to temper my desire for you,” he said softly.
“This is not a farce I practice,” she hissed.
Before he responded, with a flick of his wrist, Darcy gestured his servants from the room. When they were alone, he said, “My remark was not meant as an accusation, rather, as assurance in my belief that we can face any obstacle as long as we are together.” He paused to study her expression. “I feared my previous ardor, when we were alone together at Bath, might have frightened you. I should have had better control of my actions.”
“Would you not have known whether such was true or not?” she instantly protested.
“When we first came together, you appeared to return my desires. I had hoped for a loving relationship,” he admitted. In fact, the night before her accident, Elizabeth had initiated their coming together, tantalizing him with a satin nightgown that left little to the imagination. It was only the next morning while they shared their breakfast and in the carriage to London that she had appeared distracted. At the time, he had thought she had been embarrassed by her boldness in the bedchamber, but since her accident, he had learned of a letter delivered to his wife while he was seeing to their account and checking on the coach’s readiness. Hannah had privately reported that her mistress appeared quite upset by the contents of the letter and had burned it after reading it. Now, he was left to wonder over what it entailed.
She took a second sip of her wine, evidently to provide herself time to formulate a response. “In truth, I possess no means of knowing anything of my previous actions to our intimacies, but I have no reason not to believe you when you describe our devotion to each other. Moreover, in my estimation, I do not think of myself as the timid sort. I believe the manner in which I clung to you after our kiss should be proof of my need for you in my life.”
Darcy wished he could completely ignore his doubts and accept her words for what they were, but there was a part of him that would always doubt that anyone could love him as he needed to be loved. Over more years than he cared to admit, he prayed each day for someone to fill the loneliness that plagued his days. The problem remained: His head told him never to trust anyone. He had trusted George Wickham, and his former friend had betrayed him time and time again. Meanwhile, his heart demanded he simply cherish Elizabeth and ignore her calling Wickham’s name in the mix of her delusions. Which emotion would win out only God knew for certain. “Despite your lack of indifference, I would prefer to be more to you than simply the man who offers his name and his protection.”
It bothered him when she flinched, although the movement was barely perceptible. The action indicated what could only be her vulnerability, which had him again questioning his instincts. When it came to Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, all he would ever want was to is claim all of her as his.
“I wish I could promise you more of myself than I have.” She reached for his hand, interlacing their fingers. He noted the nervousness lurking behind the fine eyes, which had long ago bewitched him body and soul.
Darcy easily recalled his first sight of her. He had been knocked sideways by her exuberance—his initial reaction an unusual stirring of desire. He had thought his response was only one of a male to the sight of a beautiful woman. In hindsight, he wondered why it was Elizabeth Bennet who created such a response in him, for neither her sister nor Miss Bingley, both beautiful women, brought forth a desire to claim them intimately. Yet, even now, after knowing her as his wife, he could not explain why the sight of her had been so thoroughly branded upon his soul, never to be erased.
“Does this sudden hesitation have something to do with my promise to wait to claim you until we reached Pemberley? Did you think it would take longer to be at our home?” Darcy attempted to keep an accusatory tone from coloring his words.
Wariness marked the lines around Elizabeth’s mouth, and she withdrew her hand from his. “I do not fear you, William,” she said softly. Although she held his steady gaze, she stiffened. Something resembling dread crossed her expression.
“Then it is my touch you avoid,” he corrected. He could not name what it was about him that prompted him to provoke her. Darcy suspected it was jealousy. Perhaps it was the continued look of unguarded peril found within her eyes. Or perhaps his negotiation skills had found a point of weakness, and he meant to exploit it. Perhaps he simply needed to learn whether or not her memory loss was an act. Likely, it was only the lust that had marked his days since claiming Elizabeth Bennet’s acquaintance.
“Most women know qualms at the prospect of sharing intimacies for the first time,” she argued in halting tones.
“However, it would not be your first time,” he countered.
She placed her linen serviette upon the table. “I suppose I should ask your pardon for my leaving the table early so I might prepare for your company later.” Outrage laced her tone.
He leaned toward her and noted the quick hitch of her breathing. That damnable inner voice announced she was not immune to him. “I would welcome your agreement. However, I do not want you to lie upon the bed and permit what you name as my ardor. I want the Elizabeth who welcomed me with her encouragements.”
“That woman no longer exists,” she protested.
The unanticipated silence between them was marred by her shoving her chair backward. Her gaze locked with his—her brilliant hazel eyes turning a dark gray. Quickly, she reclaimed her evident indifference to him. “I am your wife, and I will perform my duties to you as the mistress of your house, as well as in the marriage bed.”
Defiantly, he rose and extended his hand to her. She had dared him, what else could he do, but respond, thusly? “An excellent choice.”
Elizabeth placed her fingers into his open palm and stood. He ushered her from the room, instructing Mr. Nathan to have a tray with the remaining courses sent to their joint sitting room. They climbed the stairs in silence. Darcy noted how Elizabeth held herself quite royally, in the likes of Anne Boleyn climbing the stairs to the executioner’s block. Whatever existed between them simmered beneath the surface. Even if his wife’s memory loss was true, she could not deny the awareness they shared of each other.
Reaching the door to her quarters, he paused. She turned to look up at him, confusion skittering across her features. Darcy could not explain what happened next. The voice in his head demanded he reclaim this woman as his wife—as his lover. Surely, she could not forget the perfection of their coming together. Then again, maybe he simply surrendered to the temptation she presented. Mayhap her denials spurred him on. Or, perhaps, some Norman ancestor, whose blood ran through him, demanded that Darcy take control of his household and his marriage—announcing that Darcy had presented this woman too much power over him. Whatever the reason, he pulled her into his embrace and lowered his head to take her mouth in a kiss of absolute demand.
The spark of recognition he had felt their wedding night reared its head again. He had not mistaken her previous surrender. Knowledge of their rightness flickered briefly and then sank quickly into his gut, growing hotter by the second. The control for which he was well known melted away before it had a chance to offer an objection. Did he possess her, or did she possess him? Did it matter? As long as they remained together.