It’s less than a month away till release of my Regency novella, Rosalyn’s Ring on July 24, 2013. My editor at Soul Mate Publishing, Debby Gilbert, and the cover coordinator, Devon, have come up with a perfect cover, and here it is:
I just had to give you a large version of this!
I love to read history, particularly the obscure little facts and stories of everyday life. One fascinating aspect of life in merry old England revolved around one method sometimes resorted to by commoners to get rid of an unwanted spouse. No, not homicide—wife-selling.
In Wives for Sale, An Ethnographic Study of British Popular Divorce, Samuel Pyeatt Menefee documents 387 cases of wife sales. Historian E.B. Thompson culled through the data and reduced the number of cases to 218 between 1760 and 1880.
The concept was as horrifying to many people then as it is to us now, but I find it fascinating. Regency literature, even the romanticized novels we love so well, illustrates the precarious situation of women in the period, unless they marry well. If love and fidelity were not part of the mix, only imagine how much misery could follow from incompatibility of spouses. Divorce, when it finally became legal in England, was an extremely costly, extremely difficult matter to pursue, unavailable for the common people.
I’m no historian, but it seems that these sales were a form of divorce, albeit, not legal. In his book Customs in Common, Thompson describes wife sales as “Highly ritualized; it should be performed in public and with accepted ceremony.” One form of wife sale required a market-place sale, with the wife wearing a halter. The other involved a paper contract of sale, witnesses, and delivery of the merchandise in a public bar.
What’s fascinating is that sometimes—many times?—the wife’s sale was arranged ahead of time to her lover by the cuckolded husband.
My Regency novella begins at a wife sale that takes place on Christmas Eve. The heroine is anxious to rescue the poor wife from this horrible fate. The hero–who is not the purchaser–is anxious to see the sale successfully completed, and thus their conflict begins. Here’s the back cover copy:
With her true inheritance lost, Rosalyn Montagu has reluctantly fallen into her elderly cousin’s tidy London life of do-gooder spinster. When a young woman from the district of Rosalyn’s childhood is put up for auction in a wife sale, Rosalyn seizes the chance to rescue her—and to recover a treasured family heirloom, her father’s signet ring, purloined by the woman’s innkeeper husband.
Intent on liberating the young wife with the money she has scraped together, Rosalyn braves a precarious Christmas Eve coach ride in the company of a mysterious nobleman. She soon finds she is not the only determined buyer attending the sale. Her rakish opponent not only succeeds in thwarting her purchase; he reveals himself as the man who took everything that should have been hers. Everything, that is, but her father’s ring, which she manages to recover before being tossed out of the inn into the snowy night.
The newly anointed Viscount Cathmore has accepted there is no way to avoid living his father’s dream of accession to a social class he disdains, but he has drawn the line at marrying a blue-blooded miss. Then he meets Rosalyn, a provoking beauty with an upper crust manner, a larcenous streak, and enough secrets to rouse even his jaded heart, including the truth of her identity—she is the woman whose home and inheritance he has usurped. But more mysteries swirl around Rosalyn’s lost inheritance, and Cathmore is just the man to help her uncover the truth.