Help A Bitch Out

Help a Bitch Out: Where there’s a will, there’s a presentation.

Courtney Milan is working on a presentation for the Beau Monde conference, which happens Wednesday 30 July, conveniently out in SF. It’s a mini-con, she says, and her workshop is all about wills, and what they can and cannot do. For example, she says, “they can’t condition the money given on marrying a particular person.  Or a slew of other things, ranging from “no violating the Rule Against Perpetuities” (please don’t make me explain that one—it basically means, don’t give stuff to people who aren’t, and might not be, born, but it’s more complicated than that in ways that take ages to explain) to “you have to let people do *something* with your stuff, eventually.”

Problem is, Ms. Milan needs books what deal with wills as a plot device.

One of the things I want to end with is a dissection of Actual Wills in Actual Historical Romances.  I know I have read this particular trope about ten zillion times, but when push comes to shove, I never remember names and I cannot remember a single book in which it actually comes into play.  Worst of all, my vast stores of historical novel are all packed in boxes and in another state, due to an impending move.  If possible, I would like to impose on the Bitchery for the following.

There may be a large number of answers here, rather than just one book, but here is what I am looking for:

1.  Must be set in England before 1873.  And no, Scotland doesn’t count—Scotland had separate courts of equity and different rules applied.
2.  The heroine must marry the hero because a will specifies that the two must marry.  It doesn’t matter whose will, or who will lose the money (either the hero or the heroine).  The important thing is that the will must say, “You, Jane Heroine, will receive 10,000 pounds, but only if you marry John Hero.”
3.  Ideally, the relevant language of the will should be in the text of the book, but this is not necessary.

So, anyone got any ideas to make this presentation super-duper funky punchy? And if we get really, really good answers in this thread, can we sit in? I promise not to heckle!!


Help a Bitch Out

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  1. 1
    Keri Ford says:

    Gaelen Foley’s Devil Takes a Bride set in 1818 deals with this. All though

    in the end, the hero finds a loop-hole out of the will.

  2. 2
    Karen says:

    Angel of the Knight by Diana Hall….the hero is the one set to inherit only if he marries some Lady Gwendolyn.

    If you can use examples where marriage is necessary to inherit but doesn’t state a specific person, I’ve got more of those.

  3. 3
    Dijim says:

    In Karen Hawkin’s The Abduction of Julia, the hero, Alec, must marry “the daughter of the late Earl of Covington.” He thinks it’s this one stuck-up girl, but there’s another person who fits the bill. The will also says they have to live scandal-free for a year or so. Good book too!

  4. 4
    Margaret says:

    Check out Cotillion by Georgette Heyer.
    Ward has to marry one of her guardian’s great-nephews to inherit her guardian’s money

  5. 5
    Cat Marsters says:

    It’s not a condition of marriage, but I’ve just read The Virtuous Courtesan by Mary Brendan (HMB historicals).  It’s a Regency.  The heroine is the mistress of a wealthy man who has just died, and his brother stands to inherit, if he ‘protects’ the mistress.  That didn’t seem like the sort of thing that could stand up in court to me!

    I know I’ve read this device a gazillion times, but I fear it was in my mum’s old category historicals, when I was a teenager, and they’re now long gone.

  6. 6
    Julianne says:

    Valentine by Jane Feather deals with this as well.  It’s good a book but I haven’t read it in years.

  7. 7
    alexandria tristram says:

    Joan Wolf’s Someday Soon
    (must marry particular duke of whatever – new heir appears)

    In Cotillion, the guardian is just threatening to leave his money away from his ward – he is not actually dead, so the will wouldn’t have to hinge on a future marriage.

    Why can’t I remember the other 450 books I’ve read with this plot device?

  8. 8
    Meredith says:

    I can’t think of the name, but doesn’t Garwood use this plot device a lot?

  9. 9
    alexandria says:

    Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer.
    (2 down, 449 to go…)

  10. 10
    Melissa says:

    Victoria Alexander has a Regency (not sure about the exact date)  called Let It Be Love that deals with this. I think that she also has another one that has a similar plot but for the life of me I can’t remmber the name of it and I’m at work so I can’t check my shelves ;) Hope this helps.

  11. 11
    Sara N says:

    Catherine Coulter’s The Heir deals with “marry her or you’ll just get the title”. I don’t remember if the will is quoted or anything but there you go.

  12. 12
    Courtney says:

    Thanks for all the ideas!  I am investigating them as we speak.

    But I throw this out there to make things easy on people.  Georgette Heyer never actually uses this precise plot device (she knows better than that).

    In Bath Tangle, the Will appoints Ivo guardian, and gives him the right to grant consent to marriage—but does not require the heroine marry anyone in particular.  And in Cotillion, IIRC, there is no will; her guardian is alive and just promises to bestow the fortune if she marries one of his nephews.

    I’ve never actually seen Heyer mess up a will issue—she is actually quite careful in setting up plot devices.  It’s only the people that follow her that don’t realize that the irascible guardian is not an interchangeable ruse in the marriage-by-convenience plot, but a legal necessity.

  13. 13
    Lacinda says:

    The Wyndham Legacy by Catherine Coulter has almost exactly the plot you are looking for, in that the marriage between the two was the end goal of the way the will was worded. Also, the herione is very forceful about making the marriage happen in order to save the hero, which is endearing, if a bit stubborn.

  14. 14
    Karen says:

    You might be thinking of Victoria Alexander’s The Husband List.  It states she has to marry to inherit, but I don’t think it mentions a particular person.

  15. 15
    A.R. says:

    Bath Tangle doesn’t fit the “forced to marry” any more than Cotillion does—its not that the heroine is constrained to marry someone: rather her father makes her former fiance (she jilted him) into her guardian & puts him in control of her inheritance.

    I second the Joan Wolf & Jane Feather examples.

  16. 16
    KG says:

    I’m just curious…does her presentation talk about wills during regency England (or any other period prior to the 20th century)?  Or is this using modern wills and our understanding of them?

    Since I thought most women could not inherit property (this was the worry of the mother in Pride & Prejudice, since she had all daughters), I would think this kind of thing might actually have been legal back in the day. How to keep the $$ in the family?  Why, by marrying your cousin or the person who is to inherit the fortune. Once again, just like Lizzie in Pride & Prejudice who was ‘set up’ with the dorky religious guy who would inherit the family home.

    So, I wonder about the history of this kind of thing in England before the modern day. Or am I misreading what her presentation is about?

  17. 17
    Sarah says:

    The Wyndham Legacy by Catherine Coulter has a variation on this theme. The hero has to marry the heroine in order to inherit his uncle’s money, otherwise she gets all of the money and the trusteeship over the estates and he only gets the entailed properties and an allowance.

  18. 18
    Rose says:

    Devil Takes a Bride is the only one I can think of, but Keri beat me to it. I am curious about one thing – was it legal to stipluate in a will that a settlement of money would be contingent upon the recipient marrying someone by a certain date without mentioning, i.e. without naming a specific person? Julia Quinn definitely had one of those – Brighter than the Sun, I think.

  19. 19
    Harlequin says:

    Heyer probably didn’t mess up the will thing because her husband was a barrister so he could have set her straight on legal issues! :-)

  20. 20
    A.R. says:

    If you’ll also accept books involving wills where the hero or heroine must marry within a specific span of time, but the person they’re supposed to marry isn’t named, then Mary Jo Putney’s The Bargain (formerly The Would-Be Widow) might work.

  21. 21
    Courtney says:

    KG, this is a presentation on wills in Regency England.

    It’s just not true that women couldn’t inherit property.  They could, and did, all the time.  (In fact, if you recall, Lizzie stood to inherit 500 pounds from her mother eventually.)  The problem in Pride & Prejudice is that the property was entailed, and so couldn’t be given away.  More specifically (since the property was not entailed in the way most people think of entails), Mr. Bennet had a life estate in his property, with the remainder (the estate after Mr. Bennet dying) going to his closest male heir.  That Lizzie cannot inherit is not solely a function of her sex; it is a function of how the property was granted.

    (And that is why there is a cryptic line in the book of how Mr. Bennet found economy perfectly unnecessary, because he was to have a son, and together they would have joined in cutting off the entail.)

    Women could definitely own property.

    In fact, contrary to modern beliefs, married women could own property separate from their husbands—under certain very specific circumstances, if their guardians were smart when they married.

    The truth is, there are a lot of drastic misconceptions about what can and can’t be done, and that is why (shameless plug alert) my workshop is going to be both useful and fun!

  22. 22

    I just want to say, Courtney is the SHIT when it comes to this stuff!  I envy those writers who’ll get to hear her.

  23. 23
    Gail Dayton says:

    Celeste Bradley’s Desperate Duchesses series has a man leaving money to one of his granddaughters—the first one to marry a duke. The duke is not named. Just any duke. I’m not sure if his granddaughters were born at the time he died. Is that necessary?

    Sounds like an excellent workshop. Will be there if I’m not required to be somewhere else…but then I’m also getting the workshop CDs, so maybe I can listen to it later, if I can’t be there…

  24. 24
    Courtney says:

    Oh, Gail, I have already included Celeste Bradley’s will.  That will is definitely worthy of discussion for several reasons.

  25. 25
    Lorelie says:

    Debbie Raleigh: The Wedding Clause

  26. 26
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Didn’t Heyer’s The Reluctant Widow deal with this in a roundabout way?  Sleazy guy has been mortally wounded in duel, his relatives have to marry him off to someone before he bites the dust or they won’t get to keep the estate, enter confused heroine who thinks she’s applying for position as governess, etc. etc.

    Another Regency dealing with wills is the hilarious Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds by Joan Smith.  (Okay, that one has nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with grave-robbing, but it bears mentioning just for the entertainment value.)

  27. 27
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Oh yeah, and in my fave Regency of all time, Jeffery Farnol’s The Broad Highway, whichever nephew marries a certain heiress within a year gets the bulk of the estate, 500,000 BPS.  Failing that, each gets a pittance and the money goes to charity.  This is long out of print but readily available used (try to find the original and not the Barbara Cartland’s Library of Love abridged version) and has actual quotes from the will in Chapter One!

    family83:  family can be strange when it comes to money!

  28. 28

    Well, there’s Middlemarch, which was not only set but also written in England before 1873.  Although in that case it wasn’t “You only get the money if you marry X” but “You only get the money if you don’t marry X.”

  29. 29
    Michelle says:

    Mary Balogh’s Courting Julia

    From her Web site:  “When Julia Maynard’s step-grandfather dies, he leaves Julia nothing even though she has lived with him all her life and tended him in his last illness and loved him – and even though he appeared to adore her.  But he does leave his precious unentailed home, Primrose Park, to whichever of his five nephews can win her hand within a month of the reading of the will.”

  30. 30
    Sandy says:

    In Karan Harbaugh’s, “Miss Carlyle’s Curricle” (1999) The heroine (Diana) will get a large inheritance if she marries the hero (Gavin.)  If she doesn’t marry him, she gets a very small bequest. She is also left a curricle as part of her inheritance, but it doesn’t depend on her marriage to Gavin. The reading of the will is part of the story. I’d have to check the book at home for the exact text.

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