Class Warfare

Many of the Riskies–probably all, when I review all of our books–have had our heroes and heroines cross class lines to find love.

Right now, I am revising a manuscript where a genteel woman meets and falls in love with a member of the aristocracy. And I am reading Loretta Chase’s Silk Is For Seduction, where a dressmaker meets–and presumably falls in love with–a member of the aristocracy. A duke, no less.
Now, we’ve all discussed how dukes are very thick on the ground in our romances, and that it would be near impossible for a duke to actually marry someone who didn’t share some of his aristocratic blood lines. So just pretend the hero or heroine is a member of the aristocracy, but not as high as a duke; can you suspend disbelief enough to think they’d fall in love? I know it happened in real life, if rarely, and could those couples look forward to a married life of ostracism from the ton? How different would their worlds be?
In my heroine’s case, she’s never left the small village where she grew up, and now she is heading for London, where she will be introduced as the hero’s wife. I’m wrestling with how much she would know already, in terms of polite behavior, and if she would be absolutely freaked out upon encountering London. She does take things in stride, generally, but it would still be a shock.
Last question, do you like reading romances where the couples cross class lines? Which are your favorite?
Thanks!
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8 Responses to Class Warfare

  1. Megan, I like characters that cross class boundaries, but yes, it has to be plausible.

    I loved the Chase book, and she’s one of the very few who could’ve carried off something like and made it believable for me.

    However, if you choose a lower level of the aristocracy and a genteel person, not a ragamuffin from St. Giles, then it’s more than possible and plausible. The gap isn’t that great.

  2. Beth Elliott says:

    I’m thinking of Jane Eyre, where we’re never told anything about her parents. She had nothing until her merchant uncle left her money. Mr Rochester moves in upper class circles, so appears to be socially from a different class to Jane. Yet his father obliged him to marry for money – a girl from a wealthy merchant background.
    A plausible story is Georgette Heyer’s ‘Civil Contract’. Jenny encounters all the snobbery which no doubt deterred many a young miss from trying to rise above her station. I like that story because it is realistic.

  3. Diane Gaston says:

    I love such stories. They are cinderella stories. What’s not to like? I’m actually writing one of those stories right now.

    I agree with you about the dukes, but I think readers don’t necessarily share my historical standards.

    I think you are taking on a hard task of thinking of what challenges your heroine would face. I suspect she would know genteel behaviour, but she would not know “Town” etiquette – whatever that might be!!!!

    Beth, I did not like Civil Contract, but not because of the class element, but because I like my heroines to be at least reasonably attractive and I thought Heyer’s heroine was unappealing.

  4. Thanks, everyone. I am probably overthinking my heroine–I just don’t want to assume she knows everything, when she doesn’t.

    My heroine is genteel, certainly, so she should be okay. If intimidated.

    And Diane, you have written a lot of those types of stories, as I recall!

  5. Jane George says:

    I’m currently rewatching the PBS series Poldark from 1975. The marriage of landowner Ross Poldark and former street urchin Demelza is handled well. Demelza is just so likable!

  6. librarypat says:

    If this young woman is self-assured and poised, she will handle it. She may be impressed and a bit overwhelmed, but take it in stride. I would assume she is intelligent and not a complete rube. The hero saw something in her (I hope) and felt she could handle it.

    Snobs being what they are, I am sure life would not be easy. Grace and perseverance will win over some. The duke will find out who his true friends are and they will accept his choice of wife.

    I like stories where two interesting, likable people become friends and fall in love. Together they face what life has in store for them. Whether they are of the same station or not is not important. It is how they face the world together that counts.

  7. Beth Elliott says:

    Snobs never give in but they can be shown to be lesser mortals – that’s the nice part of being the author. Diane, I agree that poor Jenny lacks appeal but she has many redeeming features. I make my heroines pretty but I have a friend who thinks a plain girl would be more interesting. I just couldn’t cope with that.

  8. I admit to finding the subject of class in historical romance rather superficial, lol, but I do concede to the audience for which one writes (based on memoirs and books on social history, the English from all classes can be astounding in their snobbery and envy over social status and aspirations–there’s a reason why so much is about aristocracy and servants: defining everyone in between can be a nightmare if you aren’t in the know).

    Speaking directly of your heroine, I think she’d be more awed and freaked out by London itself, having lived all her life in one village. Since the English aristocracy were and are a very country people, I don’t think the culture shock vis-a-vis the ton would be as great as experiencing a many types of people and the rumble-tumble of Town. But, if she did not come from a recognizable family, her acceptance would not be very smooth (though, the visible support of her husband’s family would help).

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