She gained the love and esteem of all her neighbors

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?

2 thoughts on “She gained the love and esteem of all her neighbors”

  1. I’ve read a couple of romances along these lines, in which the protagonists couldn’t marry and even at the end, they were not married. BELOVED LORD by Mallory Burgess and MADENSKY SQUARE by Eva Ibbotson. I thought BELOVED LORD was okay and loved MADENSKY SQUARE. Although I have to say, the romance was not my favorite part of the latter.
    In both books the hero was married but estranged from his wife. The heroine was essentially his mistress. MADENSKY SQUARE is well worth reading. I love the way Ibbotson brings to life a whole community as well as the setting (Vienna in 1911), and Susannah, the heroine, is a wonderful character.

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