I’ve always hesitated to write a hero and heroine who can’t marry at the end. Could it be a satisfying HEA in a historical romance? And yet I’d love to write a heroine who’s separated from her husband, without having to kill the husband off. This, from Unquiet Lives, is making me rethink some assumptions:
In 1771 the Newcastle Courant lamented the death of Mrs. Grizzel Ross. Stating that she was 100 years old, and born of noble parents, it commented matter-of-factly that she had ‘eloped from her husband about 45 years ago,’ and settled at Hepple, Northumberland, where she ‘gained the love and esteem of all her neighbors.’
Of course, it sounds like Mrs. Grizzel Ross lived alone (in this period “eloped” was used when women left their husbands even if they weren’t eloping with anyone), but I’ve got some examples of socially accepted bigamy coming up, too! The Regency was probably more sexually conservative than the 1770s as it transitioned towards Victorian mores, but I need to keep reminding myself that even then, there was a much broader range of behavior available to people than is portrayed in Dickens novels, just as not everyone in American in the 1940s lived their lives by the Hays Code.
What do you think? Could you believe in a historical HEA where the hero and heroine couldn’t marry?