My Top Marriage-of-Convenience Romances

Marriage of Convenience: (1) Noun. A marriage contracted for reasons other than love, most often for power, security, financial gain, or other strategic purpose. (2) Noun. A romance novel trope in which the marriage begins as transactional but the characters find true love and live happily ever after. 

I love a good marriage of convenience book, both historical and modern. There are the archaic notions of political power and merging families, modern issues like green cards and health insurance, and everything in between. Here are some of my favorite books with marriages of convenience. For reviews of all kinds of books, please check out our Reviews page! 

“A down-on-her-luck Napa heiress suggests a mutually beneficial marriage of convenience to a man she can’t stand… only to discover there’s a fine line between love and hate.”

Following Secretly Yours by only a few months, Unfortunately Yours is the rare sequel that bests the original, and a rare 5-star rating from us.

Natalie’s always been underestimated and ignored by her winemaking family, so off she went to get her business degree and kick ass in the New York hedge fund world. Until she made one mistake and wasn’t kicking ass anymore. Determined to get back to the top, she comes home for her trust fund to raise some capital, but there’s one problem—it requires a husband… antiquated, yes, but it says what it says.

Enter the smoking hot new guy in Napa and former Navy SEAL August, who wants to honor his late best friend’s legacy by running a successful vineyard. Who also happens to be Natalie’s sworn enemy. So far, his wine is terrible and he’s running out of money. So they decide to get married. What could go wrong?

So far, it sounds like just another marriage of convenience trope, right? But wait, there’s more. The themes are woven together perfectly: Natalie’s disillusionment with her family, August’s grief and need to atone for his friend’s death, and inside and outside forces spurring them on yet driving them apart, among other things. It’s easy to empathize with both of them and really feel for them.

Plus, you know there are the rom-coms where you just roll your eyes or let yourself get super irritated over the final obstacle—Unfortunately Yours is NOT one of those books. And without spoiling it, the ending was anything but unfortunate.

Rating: 5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of convenience, fake relationship, enemies to lovers, military guy, Women dealing with boys’ club
Pair WithWines from Veteran-Owned Vineyards.

If everyone would just leave her alone with her science and research, Bronwyn would be a happy woman. She knows love isn’t for her; she’s had her heart broken and what English gentleman wants to marry a naturalist? But her parents have other ideas and are threatening to force her into marriage and destroy her life.

If Ash can get a moment of peace from his three wild young wards, life would be great. Next best would be finding a wife who’d be cool with a marriage of convenience and could manage the little hellions. And what do you know, but he stumbles upon Bronwyn managing them just fine and quickly proposes.

It’s a perfect, loveless match, right? Ash is happy to give Bronwyn the freedom to keep studying insects, and Bronwyn is fine with caring for Ash’s wards and her other duties (and what young boys wouldn’t want to look for bugs?). But of course, there’s more to it than that.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck is such a fun and captivating book! Bronwyn owns who she is, has so much passion for her work (and later, Ash and the kids), and is so competent at everything (unsurprising, right, women are always the competent ones who get things done). Watching Ash grow into loving all of them, though slow, was rewarding and sweet. The author has a lovely way of making you feel like you know these characters, not just Bronwyn and Ash, but also the side characters.

The characters got in their own way more than once, which was a little annoying, and wow, Bronwyn’s parents are despicable people. But worst of all, did Ash have to be such a moron at the end? I won’t go further, but beware of getting super irritated at him.

Lots more spice than I anticipated, too, if that’s what you’re looking for (or trying to avoid).

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Children/wards, Family Growing Together, Scientist Heroine
Pair With: Wines related to naturalists (or simply natural wines), such as The Naturalist. Or, check out Lifestyle Asia’s article, How to Pair Wine With Insects (Yes, Insects)

Widowed Amelia is desperate for money, security, and safety for herself and her daughter. Christopher, Earl of Berkshire, wants an heir and needs a wife to be mother to his daughter, but has such a horrid reputation that no decent woman would marry him.

The perfect exchange: Amelia gets a roof over her head and all the material things she’ll need, and Christopher gets a chance for an heir. But Amelia quickly realizes a lot of the rumors about Christopher aren’t true—she sees how sweet he is with his daughter, and he treats Amelia’s daughter as his own.

Loved Amelia! She’s not some shrinking Regency violet afraid to stand up for herself or her family for propriety’s sake. She takes on bullies and gives them exactly what they deserve. But she can also be hotheaded and impulsive, and too much of a chicken to confront Christopher about what she thinks she sees—ughhhhh miscommunication, the worst trope ever!

The dialogue, banter, and actions among the characters make for strong development and a fun read. The characters are loving and kind, but also practical and realistic, and watching the family grow close was sweet in many instances.

Overall, a fun read with some annoying incidents, nice character development, and maybe a few too many typos and grammar errors. Better editing and attention to detail would have moved this into the 4s for a rating (and now that I’ve said this, no doubt there are some typos in this post).

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Scandal, Widow and Widower, Children, Secrets, Miscommunication
Pair With: Consider Rogue Vine, which aims “to make a different wine style” that “reflects the uniqueness of the Itala Hills.”

Matchmaking grandfathers convince Kamilah and Liam to tie the knot so they can get what they want in A Proposal They Can’t Refuse. And it takes some convincing, given Kamilah and Liam’s mortal enemy status.

But Kamilah wants to make some changes and take on more responsibility for her family’s restaurant to keep it afloat. And Liam wants to continue building his family’s distillery that’s on the verge of making it big. The businesses share a building owned by the grandfathers, who deliver an ultimatum: get married or we’ll sell the building.

This was a quirky book with interesting characters and banter, funny family moments, and a cute plot. Kamilah is vibrant and passionate about her family and its legacy, the restaurant. She’s also a natural extrovert and people person—very different from Liam. He’s quiet and comes off as grumpy, but has a great business sense. So their personalities really complement each other, both for business and for each other personally.

I loved the book most of the way through, but as conflict comes, it gets super irritating and annoying, particularly Kamilah. She can be incredibly selfish, doing whatever she wants and dragging everyone along with her, acting like the world’s biggest martyr, among other not-so-nice things (not going any further on this for now). It gets better and this definitely doesn’t ruin the book, but does get under my skin.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Fake Relationship, Childhood Friends, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Irish Whiskey

Extreme introvert Maddie can’t take another minute of being expected to socialize in society, and will do anything to be allowed to take refuge in her family’s remote Scottish castle. So she invents a fake suitor, Captain Logan MacKenzie, who is supposedly away at war. Maddie even sends real letters to this imaginary man, and tells her family he died in the war and she was heartbroken.

Only there’s a real, live Captain Logan MacKenzie who received those letters and shows up at the castle, ready to marry Maddie with his own motives to gain control of the land. He threatens to expose her lies and also promises to help her get the job she wants if she agrees to marry him.

I loved so much about this book—the premise was hilarious and unique. A completely imaginary lover turned real? Imagine Maddie’s (and her family’s) surprise when her true love, believed dead, shows up to marry her. Here she is, going about her quiet life and happy to be away from society, when everything explodes.

There are some parts that dragged and got annoying, and way too much time was spent on feelings going around in circles, Maddie not wanting the marriage to be consummated, and disagreements among characters. But overall, a fun take on the marriage of convenience and an entertaining read.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Fake Relationship, Scholarly Heroine, Opposites Attract, Extreme Shyness
Pair With: When in Scotland, try some Scotch

 

Lily knows heartbreak and what love can cost you. Turned away by her earl grandfather because her mother dared to love the wrong man, Lily must scrape and claw making dresses just to get by and take care of her younger sister. And now she has some shady characters after her.

American ship captain James was shocked to find himself a duke, and comes to England to set everything in order and deal with a newfound ward—who happens to be Lily’s sister. He takes them both in and realizes the only solution may be a marriage of convenience.

The Duke and the Dressmaker is one of my favorite Regency romances of late, mainly because of the characters. Lily and James are both absolutely wonderful people who have put up walls and defenses to protect themselves, but slowly let each other in. Both were devastated by the choices their parents and other family members made, and were left in horrible situations, but are able to find love together. The chemistry is perfect (and spicy), conversations thoughtful, they support and stand up for one another, and of course they face their challenges too.  

P.S. The first in the series, The Beast and the Bookseller, was also a great read (not necessary to enjoy this book).

Rating: 4.4
Steam; Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Instant Attraction, Class Differences
Pair With: The wine of choice at the time, Champagne.

One of best-selling author Lisa Kleypas’ most popular novels, Devil in Winter is a romance classic and the consummate marriage of convenience!

Charming, shady scoundrel and future duke Sebastian needs money yesterday as his father continues to decimate the estate. His last attempt at finding rich wife failed miserably. He’s home licking his wounds when exceedingly shy wallflower and gaming club heiress Evie shows up at his door.

Evie’s so desperate to escape her despicable relatives (who only want to get their hands on her inheritance) that she proposes a marriage of convenience to Sebastian: He gets access to her huge fortune, she gets safety from her family and the cousin they’re trying to force on her.

There’s a reason this book is so beloved—both main characters are so unique and enchanting. Sebastian (who appears in several other Lisa Kleypas books) undergoes such a transformation from gorgeous, charming, indecent rogue to absolutely in love with his wife. Evie gains confidence now that she has some freedom, and her strength and love shine.

Plus, there are so many insanely great moments—the journey and wedding ceremony, the tenderness both characters show to each other and Evie’s father, the action scenes, the mysteries, the sacrifices, the bargain they strike, the purpose Sebastian finds, the spicy scenes, the way they come together. Definitely one of my favorite romance novels.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Proximity, Rake
Pair With: Gamble Family Wines, for the gambling hell.

A green card marriage with a hot Irishman? Yes please. Brilliant guitarist Calvin, who’s been busking on the New York subway, gets his dream job on Broadway with renowned musical director Robert, but there’s the small problem of his four-years-expired student visa.

Enter Holland, Robert’s niece and theater employee, who wants to repay some of his kindness toward her and who harbors a major crush on Calvin. So, reader, she marries him.

As they marry, move in together, and navigate the tricky green card process, they go from acquaintances to friends to lovers to—true husband and wife?  There are lots of ups and downs, Calvin pisses me off more than a few times and Holland once or twice, but the ending—hell yes!

The ending is the culmination of the fabulous character development built up through the book. The author infuses so much joy, love, and relief that I found myself smiling and feeling so genuinely happy for these imaginary people.  Another book where I listened to the end more than once and read it.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Fake Relationship, Roommates, Secrets
Pair With: Irish Drinks

Rose walks in for a business-ish meeting with a lawyer and walks out with . . . a fiancé? A husband? She’d been dumped by another fiancé only a few weeks ago, but Jack knows her nasty family is trying to screw her out of her inheritance and sees no other way for her to be able to open her dream coffee shop and circumvent their schemes.  Plus maybe he likes her. And maybe there’s a little more to it than that?

I do love when an author finds a creative way to employ the marriage-of-convenience trope in a modern setting, and what’s more modern than present-day Manhattan? Rose is fiercely independent and hard-working, and she’ll push back on Jack like no one else will. He’s a very successful partner in a fancy law firm and isn’t used to being challenged. And he’s used to being a workaholic but suddenly, he becomes a regular at the coffee shop to help Rose out and just see her. He’s more of a show you care through actions not words kind of guy, for a while anyway. Slowly they let each other in—some parts are really too slow and circular—but some interesting twists and worth it in the end.  

Rating: 4
Steam: Average
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Slow Burn, Grumpy Sunshine, New York City
Pair With: Coffee from your favorite independent coffee shop

Naïve and sweet Phyllida is forced to leave her country home and live with her uncle’s family in London, so her uncle can pretend to give her a season while actually trying to sell her to the powerful and creepy Duke of Moreland. As she figures out that her uncle is a slimeball, she finds comfort in Arthur, a former military captain who was injured in battle. As they grow closer, he proposes a marriage of convenience and she accepts, though both secretly want more.

What an incredibly sweet love story between Philly and Arthur! The way their feelings grow and develop, the honesty they have toward one another (at least in how they feel about each other), and their genuine goodness as people really drew me in. Arthur wants only to protect her, and fears his war injuries will prevent him from doing so. Philly wants nothing more than to care for her husband and keep his spirits high, and they are just lovely together.

As for annoyances, ok, Philly is just beyond naïve—at times her thoughts and dialogue screamed twelve-year-old. Yes, she’s been sheltered in the country but she must have some insight into human nature and see what clearly hideous people her uncle and others are. And, there are big moments in the book where you’re screaming like she’s a really stupid character in a horror movie. The other big problem, without getting too into it, was Arthur’s male need to hide any danger from Philly even though telling her would help keep her safe.

Still, The Work of Art is a really sweet book that I’m glad I read and would recommend.

Rating: 4
Steam: Very Low
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Injured Soldier, Terrible Family
Pair With: Your favorite unusual or uncommon wine.

Dissolute rake Thomas, Earl of Drake, needs money but doesn’t want to settle down with just one woman. Mathematical genius Harriet wants to be left alone to solve theorems instead of being dragged to balls and social events. A perfect deal for marriage is struck: Thomas will have plenty of money and Harriet doesn’t care who he sleeps with as long as it’s not her, and she can keep up with her math.

Convergence of Desire was good, but could’ve been great. The premise was fun and the characters were interesting, but there were just too many of the same miscommunications and misunderstandings, without enough growth and development. It seemed like they would just go back to the starting point whenever there was a miscue, and the slow burn just wasn’t full of tension like in some others. Plus, be ready for an annoying third-act problem. Still a cute book, mainly because of the characters’ quirks.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Scientific Heroine, Neurodivergence, Slow Burn
Pair With: Lots of wine.

Two complete opposites, and strangers to boot, decide a marriage of convenience suits them both in Brighter Than the Sun.

Ellie can’t stand being in a house with her father and hideously evil future stepmother for another day, especially when said stepmother plans to marry her off to any eligible man and take her independence.

Charles, Earl of Billington and notorious rake, desperately needs a wife—now—or he’ll lose his inheritance and estate. When he lands at the feet of the lovely vicar’s daughter, Ellie, it’s fate, right? He instantly proposes. She’s not so sure, but the minute stepmommy dearest enters her mind again, and she secures promises of her independence from Charles, she’s in.

I loved the way their relationship grew and blossomed, and how they came to care so much for each other in spite of themselves. The weird things happening in the house were a little farfetched, as was the final obstacle, but still the story was entertaining. This one’s also a little special to me because it was the first marriage of convenience novel I read, during my Bridgerton/Julia Quinn phase.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Murder Plot, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Claret or a Bordeaux Blend

Two best friends try to solve the modern problem of health insurance with a marriage of convenience.

What’s Julie going to do? Recently diagnosed with lupus, she has no way to pay for the expensive treatments and medicines she needs. Enter her longtime best friend Landon, who has the gold standard of health insurance and proposes a marriage of convenience. And, conveniently, they’re in Vegas, so why not? They don’t even have to live together. Until Landon gets transferred to NYC and moves in with his wife.

The Marriage Solution is cute and fun, a little annoying at times, but overall a good read. Good because the characters are really likeable and genuinely good people who care about each other. Annoying because, really, they’ve been BFFs for 20 years and only decide now that they might ant more? I often struggle with the friends-to-lovers trope when the characters have been friends forever and don’t realize their feelings, or just deny them forever. I get not wanting to mess up the friendship, but come on, enough is enough after a while.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Marriage of Convenience, Friends to Lovers, Proximity
Pair With: Wines from New York vineyards such as Ravines, Lieb Cellars, and Red Tail Ridge. Or better yet, if you find yourself in NYC, pop into one of so many wine bars. Check out Wine Bars in NYC: Best of the Best Around the City.

Republished in July 2023, The Wall of Winnipeg & Me features spirited and hard-working Vanessa, who grew up with an alcoholic mother and horrifically abusive older sisters, and managed to turn out a decent human; and Aiden, a grumpy football superstar with a single-minded focus on the game and no time for social niceties (or even decent human behavior), and who also had a pretty rough childhood.

Vanessa’s always wanted to have her own company, and saves every dime she can while working as Aiden’s assistant. When she finally has enough money and has seriously had enough of Aiden’s assholery, she quits and doesn’t look back. Until she finds him on the steps of her apartment imploring her to come back and making her an offer she’d be a fool to refuse…

In true Mariana Zapata style, The Wall of Winnipeg & Me is a true slow burn where you very slowly see the characters develop (Aiden in particular) and the relationship build throughout the book. At the beginning, it’s almost impossible to see how these characters could ever be in love, and how Aiden could possibly care about anyone. And slowly, with little things here and there, it starts coming together. If you can handle waiting a while for the romance, it’s worth it!

One other nice feature of this and other Zapata books is the development of storylines outside the romance—like Vanessa’s relationship with her family—that influence the romance and also add dimension to the story. And inclusion of characters from other books, in this case Diana from Wait for It, make it fun too (and you don’t have to read the other books).

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Slow Burn, Enemies to Lovers, Marriage of Convenience, Work/Business Relationship, Sports/Athlete
Pair With: Texas wines