Sophie Jordan’s The Duke Buys a Bride begins with a scene so seemingly outlandish, this reader believed there was no basis for it in the historical record: Heroine Alyse Bell is taken to the square of her tiny village and sold in a bride auction so that her much older husband can then marry another woman. However, a quick Google search revealed that bride auctions were a legal and common practice for decades, affording lower class citizens with an alternative to the far more immoral action of divorce.
Alyse is purchased and married to Marcus, Duke of Autenberry, an upstanding nobleman whose life has steadily imploded during the first two books of Jordan’s current series, The Rogue Files. We talked to Jordan about the historical practice of bride auctions, power dynamics in historical romance and why she wants to write a book inspired by John Tucker Must Die.
Where did you first learn about bride auctions, and when did you decide to use that practice as the premise for a romance novel?
You know, I cannot recall the first moment I learned of “wife-selling,” but as a history major and writer of historical romance I’ve always read research books—especially about British history. I know I stumbled upon the historical tidbit some time during the course of researching (a long time ago), and I found it quite shocking to learn that such a practice was legal in Britain as late as the early 1900s. I was never able to shake the existence of such a thing. I’ve always known I would write a story around this premise some day.
You write contemporary romance and YA novels in addition to historical romance—do you think your authorial voice changes in each genre?
I think it must . . . certainly I use more “colloquial” language in my YA novels and contemporaries. However, I do believe I’ve always written heroines with modern sensibilities.
This book is deeply interested in class and specifically dismantling the hero’s class snobbery, which I greatly appreciated. What level of society would you chose to be born into in the Regency?
Interesting question! Clearly females are afforded very little choice or autonomy in this era amid any class, but as a member of the upper class I would at least likely be fed and clothed and not subject to penury. Living a comfortable middle-class existence might be the way to go. I would not be subject to the pressures placed upon females from the most upper echelon of society, nor would I be so poor that I feared constantly for my next meal/shelter, etc.
How soon did you know that Marcus, who’s appeared in both of the previous books in The Rogue Files, was going to be the hero of The Duke Buys a Bride? And what made you decide to tell his love story?
I always knew his story would be forthcoming (readers wanted to know what happened to the comatose duke in While the Duke Was Sleeping), I just didn’t know what his story would be! It was with a great deal of time and plotting that I realized the time had come to write my book that centered around “wife-selling.” When I came to that conclusion, I just had to weave Marcus’s story in with this woman who was being sold at auction—and make both their separate stories compelling.
What do you want to make sure readers who haven’t read the other books know about Marcus?
I guess . . . just that he’s not your typical duke. He’s turned his back on the ton. He’s gone through something, and he’s trying to figure himself out and what he wants.
The first book in this series, While the Duke Was Sleeping, is a historical adaptation of While You Were Sleeping. Are there any other classic rom-coms you want to transform into romances?
I do think about doing it again! I actually have tinkered with the idea of writing a historical romance version of John Tucker Must Die. Can you imagine? Earl Tucker Must Die . . . or some such? Lol!
How did you approach writing a romance where there is such a dramatic difference in social and economic power between the two leads? How do you balance depicting those dynamics honestly while still telling a love story?
It’s tricky. But the thing I strive to remember (and accomplish) is that both the hero and heroine must be equals in every sense to have a true and authentic happily ever after. If they don’t start out as equals (or perceive to be each other’s equal) they most certainly will be by the end of the book.
What did you like best about writing a road trip romance?
Oh, I love reading them—and watching road trip movies. I’ve actually written another road trip romance (Surrender to Me). But that was so long ago, and I was ready to do it again. The best part is throwing the hero and heroine together in constant proximity. It builds a lot of tension.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on This Scot of Mine (Clara’s book—she’s Marcus’ little sister). Readers meet the hero, Hunt, in The Duke Buys a Bride. I can promise that it’s the most crazypants idea I’ve ever come up with ☺. But basically Clara is forced into a situation where she has to pretend to be ruined/compromised. You’ll just have to read the book to find out what that is!
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of The Duke Buys a Bride.
Author photo by Country Park Portraits.