Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The dowry*

The first time I read a historical novel I had no idea what this word meant. I had to get a dictionary because I was sure that what I understood could not possibly be what it stood for. Surely women did not have to pay men to find them appealing enough to marry them, right?


As it turned out, a dowry by definition is:

“The donation, which is given or promised by the wife or by her side to the husband or his side with the purpose, that it remain forever with him because of the burdens of matrimony.” If the classical dowry was more valuable in worth, the more appealing the woman, or offer of marriage was to an available gentleman.

So what this means is: these men were gold-digging lazy fucks, that instead of getting a job to support themselves and their families, went on the hunt for a rich woman who could provide them with a luxurious life. There is something seriously wrong with this picture!

It was supposedly understood that the dowry “represented the married woman’s claim to financial security;” but that is not the way it’s portrayed in many historical romance novels. Take Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley (gad awful book, BTW). This scene takes place between the hero and the heroine:

Virgin fellatio guru: “You had better not use one penny of my inheritance to outfit your regiment,” she had warned him bitterly.

Lieutenant Dan:** “It’s not your money anymore, wife, and I shall spend it however I damn well please,” he had answered bitterly before going out the door to meet with his captains at the Guards’ Club.

Huh? Does this man have no dignity? How about he gets a fucking job to outfit his army? Did he ever think of that possibility instead of living off his wife and squandering her money? AM I SUPPOSED TO FIND THIS ROMANTIC? *deep breath*

Virgin fellatio guru then had the brilliant idea of cheating on him to teach him a lesson. I’m still confused about what she was trying to accomplish with that. She would have been better of searching the want ads to find him something worthwhile to do! In any case, this is what would have happened to her had she proceeded with her lame-brained scheme:

“That security [the dowry] might be jeopardized by her [the bride’s] own actions or those of her husband. The married woman who committed adultery stood to lose her dowry, and the beneficiary in that case was her husband, who received part or all of it as compensation for his humiliation.”

In any historical where the hero isn’t a wealthy titled lord, there is mention of the dowry in a way that completely puts me off the story. I loved On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn but the fact that Gregory practically lived of what his wife’s dowry provided made me find him less appealing as a character. At least in his case he pretended to do something: he “invested” LOL.

But then, sure enough, six months after the seventh, Lucy sheepishly told him that she was expecting another baby.

“No more,” Gregory announced. “We can scarcely afford the ones we already possess.” (This was not true; Lucy’s dowry had been exceedingly generous, and Gregory had discovered that he possessed a shrewd eye for investments.)

Before starting this article, I did a search for “historical romance novel dowry” in order to find information for my post, and didn’t find ONE SINGLE article that made reference to what I’ve stated above. I worry that I’m the only romance reader that is bothered by this. Please, tell me it isn’t so!

*This post contains spoilers for On the Way to the Wedding and Lord of Ice.
**From the movie Forrest Gump. :P

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26 comment(s):

Anonymous lola lovegood said...

Dowry's aren't a big deal for me. I'm not a big historical reader so that might be it. Still, thank god I haven't read Lord of Ice. What a pig that liutenant dan is (does he have no legs or something?).

Could you please explain why you call the heroine "virgin fellatio guru"? I'm sure there will be a very funny reason for that =)

7/19/2006 03:46:00 PM  

Blogger Harlot said...

Lola, LOL Damien (Lt. Dan) has some sort of a limp if I remember it correctly. :P

Babe, what about if it's the women who look for men with large dowries? Is it much too different from women who want rich husbands, or a titled lord for that matter?

7/19/2006 03:55:00 PM  

Blogger Petra said...

Trollop, great points there. I agree. Besides, how come men don't have dowries?

7/19/2006 03:58:00 PM  

Blogger Jolie said...

I just finished this book by Lydia Joyce, Whispers of the Night. The hero tricks the heroine into thinking he's her fiance and then marries her because he needs her dowry to help his people. LOL

But these, after all, are historicals. Do these things still happen?

7/19/2006 04:06:00 PM  

Blogger Isabella said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think in some places in India, the tradition of a bride having dowry still very much exists. And that some women are killed because of it. :/

I think it's just logical for parents to give their daughter gifts (money, jewelry, etc) for her wedding. That should be required actually LOL. What's not right is a dowry provided by parents for the groom on the in-laws' asking.

7/19/2006 09:36:00 PM  

Blogger Gun_Wielding_Bitch said...

OK wait! I smell a double standard! What about all the book that are written past the 1600 and 1700's, like the mid to late 1800's that the man feels pressure to have "riches and a lofty title" and that if a bigger title came along the woman was expected to marry him?

I guess dowries don't bug me because it was a fact of life. It really was like that. More often it was animals traded rather than money. Well, at least that is how it went down in Ireland.

Now-a-day would it be shit? Sure. Find me a novel written in the present talking about a dowry and I would go out side and burn my bra on the already flaming But the fact is, that is how it was. We can't be mad for an author for being historically correct. It would be like reading a pre Civil War book and their being no slaves. Do I believe in slavery? No! But that is the way it was. We can't just not talk about it and expect our dumb past ideals to go away. We need to see it, recognize it as stupid and remember, people who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

P.S. I remember a lot of bitching going on around here about authors not having their facts straight, and people not using rubbers which pulled some of us out of the fantasy of the book because the author was being unrealistic. You can’t butter both sides of the bread, it only leaves a mess.

7/19/2006 09:40:00 PM  

Blogger Gun_Wielding_Bitch said...

Please excuse my typos. I just got done working out and I am exhausted and about to fall into my bed!

7/19/2006 09:44:00 PM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...


Please don't burn your bras LOL Anyway, the dowry in itself doesn't bother me at all. What bothers me A LOT is the heros that use it to live off it and not try to work, or do whatever, to make some money to support their families. How am I supposed to find a lazy-fuck attractive?

7/19/2006 10:04:00 PM  

Blogger Jordis said...

Trollop, dowries don't bother me. GWB made a good point why. Let's face it, it is what's historically right. But I see your point. It's not about whether this was what's exactly done during those times, it's about how wrong it was.

GWB gave a good example about slaves. I don't like books that are historically incorrect, but things such as slavery still bothers me.

7/19/2006 10:11:00 PM  

Blogger Lorelei said...

We can sit here and debate about the meaning of dowry and how it's been a system eversince. But there's still the fact that it is bad. It is not justifiable if a father or mother or both is forced to sell his ancestral property to get his daughter married off, and then, afterwards, for her husband to just squander it all off. Or in other cases, just lived of by his wife's dowry forever.

7/19/2006 10:22:00 PM  

Blogger R2K said...

: )

7/19/2006 10:31:00 PM  

Blogger Vixen said...

LOL, GWB no burning bras, esp if it gives good cleavage!

I don't typically worry about the dowry but I think I'm with Trollop here that it ruins the appeal of the hero if he relies on it. I want a hero who can support himself, it's far more sexy. But again, I don't care if it's mentioned since that's the way things were but just don't yap about it too much.

7/19/2006 10:31:00 PM  

Blogger ames said...

Good point Trollop.

I guess I never really thought about dowry because the whole point to marriage, historically speaking, was to keep the wealth in the family - it was a business transaction. So all the historicals I've read, where marriage is based on love, just threw reality out the window.

7/19/2006 10:35:00 PM  

Blogger Danielle De Barbarac said...

Trollop, I loved On the Way to the Wedding! :D Love those Bridgerton siblings.

Anyway, I think dowry, in some twisted sense, gives women power. I mean especially those days. Women don't have titles like men do, titles many of these aristocrats have used to get the brides they want. Let's say, there are two prospective brides. Both pretty and both desirable. Of course the bride who can afford to provide a bigger dowry wins. :P

7/19/2006 10:38:00 PM  

Blogger Aggie said...

I find a hero more attractive if he is not dependant upon the heroine's supply of a dowry. Historically correct or not, I agree, who likes a lazy fuck for a hero.

7/20/2006 02:43:00 AM  

Anonymous Linka said...

VT, I can see your point. It certainly does dim the romance when the macho, dominant, independant alpha male can't support himself financially. Part of the fantasy, the appeal, of these men is that they're omnipotent (not to mention potent, ;-)) and can take care of themselves, virtually invulnerable (except emotionally). I find most romance plots are driven by the heroine's dependance on the hero in every aspect (financial included, some/most of the time), except perhaps emotionally when the hero is just as dependant (or in some cases, more) as the heroine. We like our big bad manly men to pay for their own whiskey, but to not be able to sleep at night without cuddling up to his "main squeeze." God, I don't know why I phrased it that way, oh well...

7/20/2006 03:13:00 AM  

Blogger Valeen said...

Dowry's have never bothered me all that much. I guess I just push it to the while reading and they are a standard part of a historical book. Unless of course the hero pays way too much attention to the amount of money she'll bring to the table (er .. the bed?).

My favourite is the hero who refuses the dowry. :) No money for him.

7/20/2006 07:31:00 AM  

Blogger Gun_Wielding_Bitch said...

OK I missed the point before (was very tired.) Not that there is a dowry, but that some of the heroes are dependent on it.

Agreed, lazy fucks suck. Get your own check stub!

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE this site? Where else can I go to run my over opinionated mouth? On top of being able to be opinionated, I am not forced to catfight about it later! :)

7/20/2006 08:24:00 AM  

Blogger C Bradshaw said...

I have to admit dowries have never bothered me before. But given to the husband because of the "burdens of matrimony"? WTF? Now everytime I read about a dowry given to a hero I will remember that. Yikes.

7/20/2006 08:42:00 AM  

Blogger C Bradshaw said...

GWB, I love your rantings! :) I love reading about the different opinions here and love that I could also say what I want comfortably without the fear I would be attacked because I'm opposing someone.

And yes, this site rocks!!!

7/20/2006 08:50:00 AM  

Blogger Vanessa said...

OMG what a pig!

I'm with CB, I don't really pay attention to dowries when they're mentioned in the books. I guess it's because I'm used to reading about it and that I know it's how they do it during those times. But now, yikes, I don't know... I mean, I totally see your point, Trollop.

I'm trying to remember all the hist books I've read recently and seriously, I can't think of ONE where the hero has a job.

7/20/2006 12:35:00 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read your blog almost just shy to post my views..anyhow..i think i found the courage..

i haven't read any historical novels yet..not my range i guess..

i just think that authors should straighten up their research and be responsible of what they are writing..

in india, the ladies still pay dowries to their husband to be, but there are qualifications on how much it would be.. if the man is on the wealthy side or at least he has a high earning job he will get a great sum, but if a guy is a bum, he could end up with nothing (no bride and no money).

all of this is a crap.. but in middle east, the ladies are the one who gets the dowries..doesn't matter if the lady is stupid or smart. the basis of their dowries is if they are virgin and they have good genes.

but still love conquers all, if they love each other, dowries doesn't matter, its just an added bonus.

7/22/2006 02:48:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its all to do with the number of marriageable women available.

In british history at one point it was the men who paid for the parents of the women but then it swung the other way.

In regency times which is when most of these historicals are set which if you think about it what with the war at the time that meant fewer men to women.

So if the historical were set at the right time period then the men would have to pay up.

7/22/2006 10:15:00 AM  

Blogger Vicious Trollop said...

Anonymous from India :)

Welcome. Please don't be shy! You can post anything you want :) even if it's to call harlot an evil wench LOL We love different cultures and points of views here.

Wonder how much dowry I would need to bring? lol I'm not sure if my genes are good, and errr, I ain't exactly a virgin! :P

Second anon :) Welcome! Ohhh I would love for a hot guy to pay for me to want to marry him LOL :P Will do a bit of research on that and add it to a later post!

7/22/2006 11:59:00 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guys, I have so much to say about dowry and its implicaiton that this space is too short.
Just to put a jist. Dory in Urban india(the kind which results into girl parents paying to groom(and not to their own girl) is just a myth.
Because of some draconion laws formed in the name dowry prohibition
DOWRY has been replaced by its brother called SOWRY.Ever heard.
If not it is time you wake up guys. SOWRY has been termed as LEgal terrorism even by Supreme Court of India.
If you are married or plannng to marry, please be very very careful in selecting your bride.
To see how a bride can wreck havoc in your life and your family, please visit
A site which will introduce you to ground realities and not to dowry as it exists in books and as is propogandaed about by some women organisations.

8/02/2006 01:13:00 PM  

Blogger saveindianchild said...

dLatest Update: Haramzdhi's Group so called Deshi Critics or Deshi Cowered writers/blogers dirty face get exposed due to the Voice of Kush "Why 498A can't be applicable for both Mum and Dad ?".

They all get scared and lost thier Night Sleep.

As a Result they thretened to Ban the Name of Kush in thier Group otherwise they will Chop off the Balls of DC Editors/Moderators. At the end the Editor surrender in the Hand to Haramzadhi Feminist writers/blogers and Baned the Name Kush.

AamanURLAugust 4, 200606:04 AM "No prizes for guessing who is 'Baned'"

Fight between Child Killer vs Child Saver will Continue till the time all those Haramzadhi will not be behind the bar for Killing the Child/Child abuse/forcing a child to live under single parenting system.

Save Indain Child form Haramzadhi Feminist group, if you you have some social responsibility , otherwise continue your money earning business through Legal Terrorism in India.

We do not want part time Fathers every night basis...

8/11/2006 08:28:00 AM