#WritingChallenge! Update the Marriage of Convenience

by Deirdre

When I asked a group of Harlequin editors for romance tropes they’d love to see refreshed, one favourite was the marriage of convenience. Although the MoC is most often associated with historical romance, contemporary romance readers love it too. But making the marriage of convenience trope work in a modern romance – and in ways it hasn’t been done before – can be a challenge.

In fact, it’s today’s challenge! In 3-5 sentences (no need to write a scene this week), give us your unique take on the contemporary marriage of convenience trope. Why would your hero agree to a fake marriage? Why on earth would your heroine propose?

Tip: Try to make sure your hero and heroine still hold the reins. Yes, they’re entering an agreement with built-in restrictions, but make the choices theirs – rather than a stipulation from a will, or other outside interference, for example. That way there’s room for internal and external conflict as the characters struggle with their own competing desires.

For an editor’s perspective on romance tropes from the movies, including the MoC, check out Harlequin Western Romance editor Johanna Raisanen’s blog post in our archive.

Ready? Share your Marriage of Convenience setup in the comments any time between now and  this Sunday night, January 22, 2017,  and we’ll check back with you on Monday!

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Comments

  1. Chrissie

    Nicole’s sister dies in childbirth, leaving behind a baby girl. The father is a bull riding cowboy who is somewhere on the rodeo circuit. Nicole moves to Montana to take care of the baby until they locate the father. After meeting him, Nicole resolves to take her niece away from the wild and irresponsible cowboy.
    Brett is determined to be the next world champion bull rider. He needs the money or he’ll lose his ranch to foreclosure. He married a pregnant friend to protect her from the unborn child’s imprisoned father. Brett promised to take care of the baby, but he must return to the rodeo or forfeit his chance to win. In desperation, he asks Nicole to be the baby’s nanny. She counters with a marriage of convenience, giving her the ability to prove him an unfit father.

    • Victoria

      Quick question: How does a marriage of convenience give her an inside edge into his strength as a dad, over being a nanny? In both roles, she’d be there all the time… Just playing devil’s advocate!

    • Chrissie

      Victoria – so hard to put all the details in a short space. The heroine in unaware that her sister’s marriage was a MoC, she is also unaware that the child isn’t really the hero’s. He’s not breaking the promise he made to his friend (her sister) because the baby’s real father is in prison for murder. He wants to protect the baby but he needs to save his ranch from foreclosure. he’s desperate. The heroine is rich. She doesn’t need his money, she only wants custody of her last living relative, and she doesn’t like his wild and carefree lifestyle. She is determined to win the child and if she is the baby’s mother by marriage, it would give her more clout to do what is best for the baby. But, of course, she doesn’t count on falling for this rugged cowboy, nor does she have any idea she’s in danger when the real father comes looking for her sister…and discovers he has a baby daughter.

  2. Best friends in college made the drunken promise to marry one another if they were still single at 35. After his fiancée betrays him on the eve of his birthday celebration, he decides to look his old friend up & see if she’s still willing. She has been focusing on building a successful career and has put love on the back burner but a recent doctor visit has turned her biological clock into overdrive & she’s vulnerable and willing to give a MoC a shot when her old friend proposes.

  3. Jayna wants to give her jaded sister hope real love connections can still happen. Max is looking for a purpose to his life. A long conversation during a flight layover leads to a plan to present a love at first sight tale to her sister that they may have taken too far… All the way to the wedding altar.

    • Victoria

      Editor Insider Tip: when a character, like your hero, is looking for purpose in his life, it’s a red flag to an editor. It means that character is ready to take a new direction, ready, therefore, for love. The hardest part of writing a romance is finding unpredictable paths to the happy ending. But if a character in a romance is dissatisfied and looking for something: that can tend to play out as a more predictable path to HEA. Just a heads-up! (If he’s dedicated to achieving a very high stakes and specific goal, but gets waylaid by a marriage of convenience that gets in the way of his goal…that tends to be a more unpredictable journey to HEA. Does that make sense?)

  4. Kimber Li

    Jack wasn’t a hero until he met Robin, he just played one on TV.

    He falls hard for the married woman and gets landed with a surprise bundle of joy by a dead ex-girlfriend.

    Robin’s husband is killed in battle and she’s a professionally trained nanny.

    Now, he’s charged with protecting her from those responsible for her husband’s death and fears she can never love him back.

    • Kimber Li

      They don’t actually get married until the end of the story. Making it a legal arrangement does come up near the end when the heroine is hospitalized and wants the hero’s baby to stay with her, because she’s become the mother in all but blood.

    • Victoria

      I wonder if there seem to be a couple of coincidences that make an already pretty contrived premise (marriage of convenience) even more contrived…? The fact that the hero falls for this married woman and her husband then dies; and the fact that this woman is a trained nanny = makes the path to love smoother rather than bumpier and more unexpected?

  5. Rebecca Laurence

    Single mother of two, Hannah, has just landed her dream job as principal of a small town school. Mistakenly Hannah had stated that she was married in her application. The small town is needing more married families to move in to stop the school from closing. Technically she is still married, as she was never able to bring herself to apply for the divorce. Ex-husband always wanted a second chance to make things right, maybe now he can have a chance, but on her terms.

    • We see the “employer wants married employees” premise quite often. I have questions about it though, as I’m not sure employers are allowed to ask if someone is married. And since she’s technically married anyway, I wonder if you could find a more compelling reason for them to be together?

    • Victoria

      If this can be made to work (I totally understand Deirdre’s contemporary-realism concerns)…I always love the romance where hero is hung up on heroine (whether it’s a friends to lover story or this one you’re proposing). I like the idea that he won’t let his “ex” off the hook here and gets a chance to woo her all over again!

  6. A marriage of convenience for one year
    Carmen Eastwood had something he wanted. A lost piece of treasure, stolen years ago from his lands. A part of his history. The piece had been given to her by her grandfather and she wasn’t handing it back. It was all she had of her grandfather. She wanted out of an awkward situation. A scandal, which had nothing to do with her, but to protect family, she has to wear it. Name tarnished, hiding from the press, she said the only way the piece of treasure was going back to his homeland, unaware of a curse put upon his lands, since it had disappeared; was by marriage. The Sheikh agrees. She hadn’t been serious. Then things turn worse, named in a messy divorce of a very rich man and was told to disappear, she does by marrying the Sheikh and disappears into the Middle East. He sees her as a woman of ill repute from a family of thieves. He would do anything to get back what belonged to his country, even marry her. She would do anything to prove her grandfather didn’t steal anything, while she waited for her name to be cleared as promised.

  7. Lakisha friday

    Look, Lay, I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you but I just didn’t know how. Michael said.
    Layla felt so hurt by his sudden announcement that he was engaged when she proposed to him. What an awkward situation that was.
    If we’re such good friends then marry me. We’ve known each other since pre-k. I know when you’re happy. I know when you’re not feeling well. I know what foods you like and movies and how we used to cuddle on the couch and you used to sneak over and tap my window when you needed to get away from home. What has she done? Layla asked him. I guess she has a great body or a raging fire downstairs cause you’re all about her now.
    I’m sorry Lay, I don’t mean to hurt you
    We grew up together and we know more about each other than anybody. I want somebody who don’t know me. She’s great. I love her.
    I want to be the one you love. Layla said. Marry me. For a year. If things aren’t how you like it, then you can go.
    Michael stared at her. She is serious.
    I can’t.
    Yes you can. You said I’m more like a sister to you. The only way to disprove that is for you to marry me for a year. If you still feel the same then you can leave and you’ll never hear from me again.
    You sure about this? You’re asking me to dump my fiancée for you?
    Its only for a year and you can leave
    If you don’t fall for me by then I’ll leave you alone for good and you know my word is true.
    Fine, Michael agreed, I’ll marry you. For one year to prove that I can’t love you the way you want me to.
    One year. Layla agreed, besides, this ring of her’s is stuck on my finger so you may as well marry me.

    • A practice marriage? Interesting idea! But what would make Michael say yes? I think for the MoC to be totally convincing to a reader, the reasons have to be clear and compelling for both parties.

  8. Since she was a child, artist Anita Drummond has dreamed of studying with the glass blowers in Murano, but just two days after she arrives on the Italian island her chance is lost to a visa error. When she meets Luca di Mauro on her last night in Venice, she has no idea he’s the Italian football league’s hottest bachelor, until he’s recognised by an English hen party group. She helps him escape, and they realise they could be useful to each other – a whirlwind ‘romance’ could keep the media at bay so he can concentrate on football, and her immigration problems find a quick fix.
    MoC is not a trope I read widely, so this may be a tired tired tired idea and I just don’t know it…fun to think about what could force people to marry in our times though.

  9. When her father unexpectedly dies in a car crash with a woman by his side who is most definitely not his wife, former It-girl Cara Tomlinson is forced to step back into the limelight she left behind a year ago, only to find the once thriving family business near bankruptcy. Selfmade billionaire Matteo Ruiz was on the verge of a take-over of Tomlinson Inc. when Tomlinson sr. kicked the bucket. Marrying Cara will save her mother and the family company from financial ruin, and will allow Matteo to get his hands on the company he needs to expand his business to the States, even though an outrageous party girl is the last thing he wants for a wife, even it’s only temporary.

    • The merger/marriage is one that I think can still work in a contemporary story. You just want to make sure reader is convinced that marriage would be the only way to accomplish their goals. Thanks!

  10. No, wait! This is maybe more interesting…
    Jane Whitling has always known she wanted to be a mother. The only problem is that she doesn’t want to be married. Ever. (background – either divorce, or traumatic broken home) So she turns to her best friend, Mark Sheldon. Mark’s happy to oblige, but only if she marries him – if he wants to take over the family firm he’s got a reputation to uphold, and out-of-wedlock babies will go down about as well in his socially conservative town as the fact that he’s as submarine full of sailors. It’s a win-win, and all is going swimmingly until they get back from their ‘honeymoon’ and she meets Mark’s brother…

    • CORRECTED VERSION No, wait! This is maybe more interesting…
      Jane Whitling has always known she wanted to be a mother. The only problem is that she doesn’t want to be married. Ever. (background – either divorce, or traumatic broken home) So she turns to her best friend, Mark Sheldon. Mark’s happy to oblige, but only if she marries him – if he wants to take over the family firm he’s got a reputation to uphold, and out-of-wedlock babies will go down about as well in his socially conservative town as the fact that he’s as gay as a submarine full of sailors. It’s a win-win, and all is going swimmingly until they get back from their ‘honeymoon’ and she meets Mark’s brother…

    • Victoria

      I would totally buy a heroine who wants a baby but not a husband, even if she doesn’t have a tragedy in her backstory! (Maybe she just doesn’t want to look after two babies…oops…did I just reveal a personal bias???) I like this story idea, mainly because I am a sucker for a hero like this who has a reputation to uphold.

  11. Allison Mitchell

    Issey is the hardworking manager of a service desk at a supermarket in Sydney and one of her Scottish employees/friends has a brother who is going to be kicked out of Australia, just as he is about to do a big deal on his IT start up. He needs an Aussie wife so he can stay in the country and close the deal. Then he is going back to Scotland. He will pay Issy money to marry him, sight unseen. Issy thinks this is ridiculous, until her sister confides that she has gambling debts. Issey is like a mother to her little sister and takes the money to repay her sister’s debts and to pay for her rehab. It’s only for six months and then they can get divorced. It will be as if nothing ever happened.

    • Victoria

      I worry that the sister’s surprise revelation that she has gambling debts and needs the money for rehab is a bit contrived (and makes me wonder if the heroine is really a good role model for her sister if the kid was a gambler and she didn’t know). I think the strongest motivations come when a character really really wants something badly for selfish, personal reasons. But for sure, the selfless motivation can also work. It’s not one of my favourites, though!

  12. Adrian Butler is rich, reclusive, and according to his doctors, dying. He rightfully despises his bloodsucking relatives and their crooked lawyers. Wanting to ensure that his estate goes to his determined, albeit, eccentric charities, he convinces recent medical grad, Jenny Rose, to marry him, be his widow, and execute his will. As she has a couple hundred thousand dollars in student loans that will be paid off in the bargain, she agrees. All goes as planned, until she falls in love.

  13. Family By Midnight

    Coming home from a two-year tour in Kazakhstan, the last thing Declan Bradley thought he’d find on his doorstep was a woman on the verge of giving birth. Leave it to his twin brother, Dominic, to get a woman pregnant, then leave her homeless and in labor. When a quick search for Dominic finds him unfit to support his new family, Declan decides to provide for them himself by way of a marriage of convenience. In six weeks, he’ll be on his way to a third tour in the East, and Dominic’s small family will be able to use his housing allowance on base and Army health insurance until they get on her feet again. It’s the perfect solution until the midnight cries of a newborn and the warmth of the woman sharing his home awaken a new kind of desire in the man who thought he’d never open his heart again.

    Okay, this was fun. I’m going to have to write this now. 🙂

  14. Marcie R

    Golfer Faith Chapman, darling of the LPGA, is pregnant and alone after the baby’s father dies unexpectedly. Faith needs to do whatever she can to protect her career and avoid scandal. She needs to get married. Something she swore she would never do.
    Cole Bradley is Faith’s agent. He’s also the cousin of her baby’s father. Having once considered marriage, Cole swears he’ll never go that route again. Until Faith offers a proposal and he realizes one thing: he has to protect his client.
    Both have reasons for not wanting a forever marriage. Will a baby change their minds?

  15. Contemporary marriage of convenience challenge:
    The hero, a European-U.S. citizen, flies to Armenia in Europe to attend his brother’s funeral. The grief is overwhelming, but more than that is the knowledge that his deceased brother’s pregnant wife has no money, no family, and no one to take care of her. When he returns home, he writes her and offers to pay her passage to the U.S. and volunteers to help her get settled.

    Heroine is grateful but could never travel halfway around the world, unescorted, without an offer of marriage, what would people think? She proposes a marriage of convenience: she’ll take care of the housework besides getting a job to pay for her and her baby’s expenses, then when back on her feet and in her own apartment, she promises to divorce him.

    • Hi Marie, I would love to see this global MoC premise made more contemporary. How might you reframe this so the heroine is more independent, with her own goals that could only be accomplished through marriage? (As opposed to the hero taking care of her because she’s financially destitute.)

  16. Maggie Jones

    She’s working to make partner in a law firm. Takes time out to go home to her large family, who sacrificed to get her where she is today. When they ask her to save them from bankruptcy and the sale of their hotel by marrying rich, she finds she can’t say no. She sets out to find her man.
    He’s broken by the death of his wife – but he needs to be married for six months if her life’s work is to survive. When she proposes, he agrees. He can act the part too, for such a short time, even with someone so unlike his beloved. But he offers her an alternative deal that terrifies her.

    • I’m intrigued by your motivation for the hero, although I’d need more details to understand it. I wonder how you could make the heroine’s motivation more contemporary? It’s hard for me to imagine a successful professional woman of today marrying rich to save the family. Thanks for writing!

    • Maggie Jones

      Thanks so much for commenting, Deidre. I need to work on pitches, clearly 🙂 I reckon you can motivate anything. It’s given me a story idea to work with, though. Love MoCs! Mx

  17. Mary Fahey

    Prince Wally is way down the succession line so to find a purpose in life, he will work on climate change issues in the USA.

    Unfortunately the new POTUS refuses him a visa so to get around it, he must marry a US citizen. Waitress Teegan from a truck stop cafe shares his love of preserving the environment.

    Teegan’s online lifestyle blog needs a boost and the minute Wally walks into her diner, she knows how to do it. She can post their romance on it leading to their unique royal wedding.

    But when a suspicious POTUS follows her blog, if they don’t make it look authentic, Wally could be deported.

    • This is a fun premise, although there are a few contrivances and coincidences 😉 But I love the socially aware prince and environmentally active blogger! Thanks!

    • Mary Fahey

      Thank you. I actually saw a few flaws with it from some of the other answers. I’ve really enjoyed this challenge as marriage of convenience is my favourite set up.

  18. Quinn Richmond is a bored billionaire needing a change. Hannah Andrews is a small town girl who needs help restoring the big, old house willed to her by her aunt. He arrives in the small town, stays at the B&B, and they become friends.
    His snooty parents arrive and they think the small town, and her, are beneath him. He protests and, when they continue along this line, he gets angry and tells them they’re engaged. His parents insist on two things: 1) a pre-nup and 2) for him to prove it. He agrees. Now all he has to do is get her to agree.
    He asks her for this favor, promises a marriage in name only, and offers to pay for the total restoration of her B&B. She agrees. But, it’s not long before they both have difficulty keeping the promise of a marriage in name only.

    • Hi Amy,

      I think to make this premise really contemporary and compelling, your hero and heroine need stronger motivation. What reasons might Hannah have to agree to a fake marriage, beyond financial? (She could always get a bank loan.) Why does Quinn feel compelled to appease his parents? Thanks for writing!

  19. Catriona can’t go back to Scotland because she was involved with a bad crowd in her youth and her life is at risk if she returns, but her Australian visa is about to run out. She has nowhere else to go. Her boss’s sister needs a kidney transplant to survive and it turns out that Catriona is a match. He offers to marry Catriona so she can get permanent residency as long as she donates her kidney to save his sister. She agrees. The problem is that you have to be married for two years and living together to get residency. Once married and the operation is a success, the boss finds out about her past and it looks like Catriona might be heading for divorce before the two years are up.

    • I like the high-stakes of this premise, although I’d love to see some details fleshed out. (How does he know she’s a match for his sister’s kidney? Why must she stay in Australia, rather than travelling somewhere else?) Nice job!

  20. Maggie Lovern

    They are the oddest of Odd couples. She is a loyal loving granddaughter, and he is a fierce ruthless executive who will stop and nothing to get what he wants.
    Teresa loves her grandmother who raised her more than anything, and the one thing granny wants before she dies is to have the wedding she was denied by Teresa’s own mother. When Teresa finds out her grandmother is ailing she decides what she needs to cheer her up is an instant wedding, but she can’t seem to find Mr. Right, so she may need to settle for Mr. Right now.
    Garrett is an up and coming attorney for a growing corporate law firm, but when he finds out that his single status may be the one thing that is keeping from moving on up he decides he needs to find a wife. He discovers a warm and beautiful paralegal who is in a somewhat similar situation and the two hatch a marital plan that will get them both what they want and maybe more.
    When Teresa meets Garrett he takes her breath away, but she can’t decide if it’s from his determination or the chemical attraction she feels when he is near. Garrett likes the way Teresa makes him feel, and if he has to get married than he might as well be to someone he is attracted to.
    Can Teresa handle the fierce ambitious lawyer, or will it be Garrett who falls into her loving trap?

    • The thing that attracted me to your premise was the phrase “instant wedding.” That made me think of a fun and independent heroine staging a wedding for a day for her dying grandmother, and I enjoy the free-spirited heroine/straight-arrow hero trope. I admit I have trouble with the “character-must-get-married-because-it’s-required-for-the-job” situation, which we see quite often, and I wonder how “2017” it is. I also think the motivation’s more compelling if the hero and heroine need to be married to satisfy their own goals, rather than pleasing someone else (family, social circle, etc.) Nice job!

  21. “Your father’s word was his bond. I can’t meet the deadline.” The man before him was broken and Nicos could not let himself feel this man’s pain. “He promised security for my pride and joy, my lovely daughter, that you would marry her and guarantee the future she deserves.”

    Nicos can’t believe how everything falls into place to exact revenge for his dead father. The problem is that Megan will not accept his plan and fights him at every turn. He will bend her to his will by whatever means necessary. He must succeed….

    • This premise has some tried and true hallmarks of the traditional marriage of convenience – a hero determined to “bend [the heroine] to his will”, a heroine in need of protection, and the stipulations of a will. For a contemporary pitch, we’d love to see a more equal power balance between the hero and heroine – both get something they need from a marriage and agree to enter an alliance. Thinking about what both parties want also gives you the opportunity to add emotional, internal conflict to the external conflict, giving your reader even more reason to keep turning the pages. Thanks for writing!

    • Nicos is marrying to get revenge for his father but his reason turns around when his feelings get involved.
      Megan is a successful career woman, who will carve her own future and does not need Nicos to secure her future. A further complication is Megan hires an escort to stop her friends finding her plus one and Nicos ending up standing in for the escort without Megan knowing. Once they meet passion sparks and chaos follows.

      I definitely want these characters to progress, they are strong individuals and given a chance will be a dynamite combination together. Thanks for your comments.

  22. The Crazy Canuck ski resort had been in Sadie’s family for three generations. It paid the bills, and afforded her, and her teenage daughter a decent living, as well as providing the village of Whisky Creek with much needed employment.

    Unfortunately, a foreign investor has their eye on the CC and won’t take no for an answer. Sadie needs help. Someone, who is financial savvy, with resources and deep pockets to take on the overseas interest. Someone, who would put Sadie and her daughter’s interests first, and wouldn’t bankrupt her to pay for that help.

    She contacted Hawke Financial Group’s CEO, Samuel Hawke. Sadie must agree to Sam’s terms, one year of living together, as husband and wife, a family. It hadn’t worked sixteen years ago, why would it work now?

  23. Laura Joy McKendrick

    This idea partly came to me after reading Lori and Rebecca’s ideas. Hope that’s alright ladies!

    The location is a fictional Scottish island based on Fair Isle. Tiny Fair Isle lies to North of mainland Scotland and is the most remote inhabited island in the UK. No electricity at night, cut off for weeks at a time in the winter etc.

    The land is owned by the National Trust for Scotland who lease out little farms called crofts. There are only 55 people on the island now, down from 400 in 1900, and the NTS and the community want to attract new families, to combat the population decline. However couples who already have children are reluctant to change their lives so drastically.

    Fit property on my fictional island is severely limited, so the next crofters must be carefully chosen, and in it for the long haul. After a bad experience with an unmarried couple breaking up, the NTS decides that it will only accept new applications from married couples. This is the motivation for the hero and heroine, who are ornithologists, to marry. As a result they are successful in getting a croft in a beautiful island location, which is home to a bird observatory, at a highly discounted rent. They can write papers on bird migration and further their careers. Suddenly in constant close proximity, whilst learning brand new farming skills, and being kept inside for long spells in the winter by the weather, will the academics grow to love or hate each other?

    • SYTYCW Editors

      I really like this idea – these dedicated birders both vying for the ideal place to conduct their research! Are they neutral toward each other, or competitive?
      -Kayla

    • I love this setting (I binge-watched Shetland on Netflix recently and spent many nights fantasizing about living on a remote Scottish island.) And your setup has a lot of charm. What I would want to see next is how you create high-stakes romantic conflict. What goals might your hero and heroine have for themselves that would make falling in love an impossible choice? Having your hero and heroine in a new setting and situation sometimes makes romance a little too easy. What obstacles could you throw in their path so the reader wonders how they could ever get together?

    • Laura Joy McKendrick

      Thanks for the feedback! I see them as having agreed to collaborate their research efforts over a sustained period in order to gather enough data to observe patterns. But they haven’t been there long when an academic position comes up that they both secretly apply for whilst outwardly assuring the other one that they are committed to seeing the study through…

      I like Shetland too, but I used to be a Procurator Fiscal Depute so I always notice when the writers of crime dramas, especially Scottish ones, get things wrong!

  24. Michelle Monette

    It’s the modern economy and times are tough in the historic small towns and villages that dot the east coast of Canada. The fishery is limited, forestry is a dying industry, but family ties are tight and no one wants to leave to the lure of big cities and big oil in places west. One day, University educated, underemployed and desperate-for-steady-work single mom, Elizarose is browsing the classifieds when she sees an opportunity too good to be true! The owner of sea-swept summer resort in Nova Scotia is looking for a live-in family to look after the high-end escape getaway year round. In return? A living wage and the opportunity to own a small piece of nearby land and the house that’s on it, but only with the promise (signed contract) of five years of service. The catch? Elizarose doesn’t know a thing about carpentry, plumbing or any handy dandy DIY work. The solution? The enterprising Elizarose seeks out the help of her lifelong friend Jaxson, a red seal tradesman tired of life on the road, who coincidentally has been not-so-secretly in love with Elizarose for most of their lives. She NEEDS this opportunity for her and her son, Jax needs this so he can be leave his life on the road behind him. It should be simple: All they need to do is to show the offsite owner their marriage certificate, provide Jaxson’s red seal trade certificates, then sign a five year contract, and the job and home is theirs, along with life in the small town community that they never want to leave. Is the price too high? Not only the commitment, but the endless temptations may prove too much (Beautiful resort guests, Handsome mostly absentee resort owner, etc?). And their own personal and professional history together…There’s a lot to surmount. Only time will tell how fate, love, choice and sacrifice play out in the salty summer breezes in the dunes of Eastern Canada.

  25. Moonshine Writer

    Proposal Proposition

    Justin Hopethorne has always been just the bosses’ son until the energy magnate suffers an aneurysm in the boardroom. Now, investors who’ve already sank millions into the promise of Hopethorne Enterprises’ exploration of a new oil basin are spooked, and a clause keeps Justin from his family legacy unless he can prove to good ol’ boys on the board that he is qualified to lead the billion dollar company as COO. With a short rope and an even shorter trial period, there’s only one way to do that, and that is to win over the heart of small town Aikens, Nebraska, where the wealth of black gold is overshadowed by environmental worries to family farms. He needs a wife, and with his ex-fiancé jet-setting Europe with his ex bestfriend, the only person he can turn to is his father’s whip-smart personal assistant.

    Big Ed was the guardian angel Lake Greer and her infant daughter needed after her husband’s death in Afghanistan, but with Ed’s unexpected death, Lake knows she’s going to have to prove herself once again. Enter Justin Hopethorne’s proposal proposition. A ready-made family for two people who believe that love has passed them by, starting with three-month honeymoon in Aikens, Nebraska. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Moonshine Writer

      Thanks…one of my husband’s family members in Italy had shared a picture of a gorgeous lake in Austria right above the Facebook post with the writing challenge and I figured it was as good as any, plus had some kind of environmental aspect to it lol.

    • Patience Bloom

      This story sounds like a lot of fun and I personally love personal assistant/boss romances. You set up nicely the very practical reasons for them to marry. They aren’t all that modern, but hey, they still work! 🙂

  26. Who wins in a war of wills between a man who makes an impossible vow to a dying friend, and the woman who considers that man her lifelong enemy? Braden James has promised to protect Jacob Dodge’s legacy and look after Jacob’s long-absent daughter Gracie. Spurned by her father, Gracie Dodge has finally returned home, determined to push Braden out of her life. But with her inheritance on the line, she must call a truce and agree to a short-term marriage to save what is hers. Will long-buried secrets threaten the peace and love they both crave, when it’s over?

    • SYTYCW Editors

      Hey Gina – this is a great concept! What really appeals to me about it is that Gracie would need to reconcile some of her past with her late father – and who better to help than Braden? There’s a lot to work with here!
      – Kayla

  27. It seems that Eva has it all, a strong start to her career, friends and family… and money. Love will come but on her own terms. Her father, the successful CEO of Pembrook Enterprises, has plans of his own, trying to marry her off to the eligible Darius, son of a business hot shot and a notorious jerk. When Eva confides in her friend Luke, he proposes that she marry him instead, just long enough for her father to get off her case. And besides, it might be fun to pretend to be a business man himself. Will their MoC hold water or will they all realise there’s more to it than they thought?

    • Patience Bloom

      Hi, Michele, This is short and sweet and I love friends who decide to be more than friends. My one request in a proposal would be to know what they feel would happen after the baby. Do they co-parent, amicably? Do they have in their arrangement how they would deal with another person coming into their lives? There is a lot here that would make this a fun, emotional story.

  28. The hero is diagnosed with a progressively more debilitating disease which will end in death within 9-10 yrs. He is the grandson of a billionaire and has just turned one of his grandfather’s companies around. He admires the director of the company’s nursery school, and when he finds out his health prognosis, he asks her to marry him for ten years. He doesn’t want to be alone and wants her companionship. When he passes away she will inherit a fortune from him. After she considers it, she agrees to the marriage if he will agree to have a child. He agrees to her proviso and they are married. A few months later he finds that it was a mis-diagnosis, and while he is ill it won’t end in his death and it won’t be debilitating. She is pregnant.

    • Patience Bloom

      Dear Bev, Even though I’m a romance editor, I love the melancholy of this story! Hero/heroine on the brink of death is one of my favorite themes! The only thing I had a little trouble with is how easily it’s resolved. If he has a debilitating disease, wouldn’t he get a second opinion? And I wondered about how realistic the disease itself was (I’m sure it is, but of course, I’m interested in the science). Nicely done.

  29. Gorgeous, Marie Antoinette writes an advice column that’s wildly popular with singles looking for that special someone to marry. Dating is her bread and butter, but she can’t remember a thing about her last date, only that she woke up alone and his cell number is written on her hand, but no name. What’s a girl to do except enjoy a hen party at a stand up comedy club? The audience is part of the show and she finds herself telling what she thinks happened on her last date, can you say “never again”? Seeing the number on her hand the comic makes a prank call to the guy she was with, funny right? Unfortunately for Marie, the guy is in the audience and tells a different story, and he has pictures to show he was sincere. Marie can’t believe it when Stefan challenges her commitment to marriage and proposes. Cheered on by the audience, Marie accepts, but only for a year, and only for the good of science. A marriage of convenience will help her understand she realizes. Tit for tat, Stefan tells her, a hundred dollars says you will fall for me and I want a by line for half of your columns. The only good thing that she can think about the whole thing is that he isn’t wearing the sport coat with leather patches, she described.

    • Kathryn Lye

      The setup is so much fun and unique, it’s very good. If you could keep the story going with more fun twists, make sure there’s emotion to back up conflicts and make the characters feel genuine, and have a happy ending, this could work. I’d read this if you’d like to work up a proposal.

    • Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the feedback. I will write up a proposal for this and send it through the submission page, mentioning this challenge and your interest in reading it.

  30. Thea George

    MoC Proposal Idea:

    Heroine: Desperately wishes to adopt a little girl she fell in love with while on an overseas humanitarian trip but the agency and country will not let a single woman, especially one who works freelance, adopt a child on her own.

    Hero: His family has always been involved in some type of public service and politics and he is fed up of the corporate life and wanting to do something that can make a difference. This means a run for office. However, he needs to appeal the conservative base of his area who have not forgotten his youthful indiscretions and playboy image.

    When his childhood friend jokingly suggests a MoC as a solution to her problems he agrees, and suggests they really go through with it so they can both get what they want.

    • Patience Bloom

      Thea, I like how both characters need the marriage to help them. A lot of potential for both the hero and heroine to realize that they have more than just a marriage in name only. Well done! I agree with Nicole that this is like The Americans.

  31. Fiona Marsden

    Hero and heroine were engaged until hero finds out it was a put up job between their father’s to end the business rivalry and join forces. He believes the heroine was in on it. Now her father is dying and hero has the power to make or break her family business. Hero proposes a marriage merger to save the business lasting until her father dies. Only thing is hero expects heroine to provide their fathers with a grandchild as proof of commitment to the next generation of the family business.

    • Patience Bloom

      Hi, Fiona! This idea has great hooks with the marriage for the sake of the family, a quasi-reunion romance, and the heroine’s heartbreak over her father. My only question would be what the heroine would get out of this. Is her agreement purely for the sake of her father and the business? How would she agree to having a child when they aren’t supposed to stay married for long? But still, I like it! 🙂

  32. Fiona Marsden

    Heroine has agreed to be a surrogate for her sister who lost her reproductive system to cancer but where she lives, IVF is only available for married couples. Her sister’s husband has a bachelor brother and he agrees to a MOC to allow heroine to be eligible for IVF.

    • Patience Bloom

      Wow, Fiona! What I like about this is that it does deal with a touchy issue, especially from what I’ve read, since some states don’t allow IVF to unmarried couples. Fascinating and definitely a modern way to have the MOC hook.

  33. Well, I’m a few months late, but I hope I can still share my idea (even if I get no comments back!) as I am currently working out a MoC plot. I like to overcomplicate things, so I am attempting to simplify it. Also, I have no idea if this is a realistic situation – like I said, still working on it!

    Eleanor once married a man and adopted his infant daughter because he was dying, and the mother had signed away all rights in favor of drugs and partying. Now a widow and working for the man who’s son broke her heart, she is faced with the threat of losing the only family she has left – her daughter. The birth mother, claiming sobriety and married to a very wealthy man, has decided she wants her daughter back & claims she can provide things Eleanor cannot, namely money and a father. Against the advice of her lawyer, Eleanor decides her only choice is to marry someone wealthy.

    Derek Hildebrandt hasn’t returned home in 10 years, but when he learns his father is dying, he rushes home. And when he learns that the girl he once walked away from needs a wealthy husband, he knows he has a second chance at getting things right with her, and volunteers to be her much needed groom.

    (I wish I could expand this teeny text box to check for errors, and to make sure this makes sense. This is the first time I’ve written anything that SEEMS clear. Isn’t it funny though, how even when we modernize tropes, there are still things that carry through – old wealthy alphas worried about their blood lines being tainted. Guess that’s why Sr owns one of the nations largest and most well-respected horse ranches, and Jr is a bloodstock agent.)

  34. Deanna

    I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile and finally came up with an idea. Politics aside, health care is a serious issue for a lot of us and I thought it would set up a “perfect” MOC. Maybe the heroine has a younger sister/dependent with a disease that needs care but loses her health insurance. Hero is the “boy next door” they’ve grown up with who offers to marry her so that both she and her sister have health insurance again.