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The Skeletons You Uncover

Divorce! Not what you’d expect in 1790s England. Accessible only to those with money. And rarely were women able to instigate such proceedings. Prior to the House of Lords granting a divorce to one of my ancestors, he sued the “other man” for criminal conversation with his wife. He was claiming damages for the loss of his property! That explains, in a nutshell, women’s lot in the 18th century.

In the photograph, the booklet is a contemporary 1794 account of the court case. I found it in a San Francisco bookshop that specialises in legal tomes and related documents. Its owner cheerfully discussed the trial with me, notable because a very proficient lawyer, representing one of the parties, lost the case. Since finding this booklet, the account of these proceedings has been widely written about and reproduced, but I feel privileged to own one of the originals.

I’ve since obtained the three-page document on which it sits in the photo, a handwritten marriage settlement, dated 1766. The signatories are several relatives. It’s so evocative, with its seals and antiquated language. Written in relation to the second marriage of my hero’s father, many details have been included in my novel. I’ve copies of other documents—wills and such—but to be able to touch something signed by ancestors 250 years ago, well, how could I not be inspired?

Of course, research is not always easy. Sometimes it’s a hard slog! Trawling through newspapers and books and triple-checking sources can be time-consuming and migraine-inducing. Ultimately, though, it’s incredibly rewarding and motivating when you find such wonderful stories and characters.

The Heart Has Its Reasons is available for PRE-ORDER by clicking this link



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