The best books about the intricacies and perils of divorce in Regency-era Britain

Who am I?

I’m a writer of Regency Romance fiction with a perfectionist’s zeal to get the details right. Most Regency Romances are tales of aristocrats falling in love and marrying—or marrying and then falling in love! But in real life, romantic love was often not an essential aspect of courtship in this era. Aristocratic families might ensure that a couple was “suited”, but they arranged unions for bloodlines and wealth, and the ties were almost impossible to break. Enjoy these true tales of marriage and divorce, and the two novels of heartbreak, divorce, and happy-ever-after.


I wrote...

Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

By Alina K. Field,

Book cover of Fated Hearts: A Love After All Retelling of the Scottish Play

What is my book about?

Plagued by hellish memories and visions of a coming battle, a Scottish Baron returning from two decades at war meets the daughter he denied was his, and the wife he divorced, and learns that everything he’d believed to be true was a lie. What he can’t deny is that she’s the only woman he’s ever loved and when passion flares, it burns more hotly than ever it did in their youth.

They soon discover, it wasn’t fate that drove them apart, but a jealous enemy who played on his youthful arrogance and her vulnerability. Now that old enemy has resurfaced, more treacherous than ever.

The books I picked & why

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One Leg: The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget : First Marquess of Angelesey 1768-1854

By Marquess of Anglesey,

Book cover of One Leg: The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget : First Marquess of Angelesey 1768-1854

Why this book?

Henry Paget, first Marquess of Anglesey, was a quintessential nobleman of his time. One of my very favorites reads, this biography by his descendent, the seventh Marquess, draws on letters and family lore to tell his story in detail: his grand tour, his military and diplomatic service, and best of all, his scandalous adultery, divorce, and remarriage. At about forty years of age, he fell deeply in love with Wellington’s sister-in-law. Her husband divorced her in England, and then the parties traveled to Scotland so that Paget’s wife could divorce him there. The story includes all the drama of divorce in the era: the action for “criminal conversation,” the ecclesiastical divorce, and a necessary duel to preserve the honor of the adulteress’s family name. 


Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England, 1660-1857

By Lawrence Stone,

Book cover of Broken Lives: Separation and Divorce in England, 1660-1857

Why this book?

This book provides a helpful overview of the marriage and divorce laws of England during the period in question, as well as twelve “case studies,” all useful for research. Most of the marital breakups covered in this volume occurred before the Regency era, a few even before the greater Georgian era. Each story takes a reader through the heartache and drama of these unhappy marriages and the legal machinations needed to end them. 


Wives for Sale: An Ethnographic Study of British Popular Divorce

By Samuel Pyeatt Menefee,

Book cover of Wives for Sale: An Ethnographic Study of British Popular Divorce

Why this book?

An early novella of mine has the indignant heroine rushing to save a woman from a wife sale at a seedy inn. The enormous cost of legally ending a marriage in the Regency put divorce out of the reach of all but the very wealthy. For the poor, and perhaps the drunks, like Thomas Hardy’s hero in The Mayor of Casterbridge, there was another option for ending a marriage, one with a long though not very respectable tradition. Yes, some Englishmen sold their wives! This book covers the peculiarities of this poor man’s method of ending an unhappy marriage. 


Once a Duchess

By Elizabeth Boyce,

Book cover of Once a Duchess

Why this book?

Divorce is good fodder for drama and can be employed in different ways in fiction. In this second-chance Regency romance, the reunited lovers are divorced. Convinced by his duplicitous mother of his wife’s infidelity, the hero, a duke divorced his wife and left her penniless. The heroine’s only income is an allowance from her brother, which he ends in a fit of pique when her scandal impacts his marital prospects. (Divorce in this era might shame the entire family). Forced to earn a living, the heroine takes employment as a cook at an inn, where her former husband encounters her and is shocked at how far she has fallen. Read this book to see how the perils of divorce—and remarriage—are dramatized by a skilled romance writer. 


The Bedding Proposal

By Tracy Anne Warren,

Book cover of The Bedding Proposal

Why this book?

Yes, that says “bedding” and not “wedding”! In this Regency Romance novel, the heroine is a scandalous divorcee who’s sworn off romance. She has some income of her own and isn’t penniless. Dipping a toe into society again, she’s wooed by a determined young rake who wants only to bed her. But when he falls in love and proposes, she has to say no. [Spoiler alert] Her abusive former husband paid a man to perjure her as an adulteress so he could divorce her. The story shows the vindictiveness a spurned husband might employ in this era: the divorce decree leaves her forbidden to remarry. Read this book for a different take on the perils of divorce by another skilled romance writer.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Regency, aristocracy, and divorce?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Regency, aristocracy, and divorce.

Regency Explore 48 books about Regency
Aristocracy Explore 25 books about aristocracy
Divorce Explore 68 books about divorce

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover, Lakeshire Park, and Devil's Bride if you like this list.