Gerri Russell Dishes on Courtship Through the Centuries

My guest today is Montlake author Gerri Russell.  Our regulars will remember Gerri’s earlier Scottish historicals.  Now she’s launching a new series, The Highland Bachelors, set in the 17th century.  She’ll talk to us today about how dating evolved.  Welcome, Gerri!

gerri-photoThanks, Nancy.  I’m delighted to be here.

Since the first man and the first woman appeared on this earth, there has been a need bringing two people of the opposite sex together to propagate the species, secure an heir, or just continue a family line. Though how men and women have been brought together in marriage or as partners has changed over the centuries.

In ancient times, arranged marriages were the norm. There was not a lot of courtship involved. These marriages came about as business relationships born out of the need or desire for property, financial gain, or political alliance. Or in a less civilized manner, when there was a scarcity of women, men raided other villages for wives.

Frequently the tribe from which a warrior stole a bride would come looking for her, and it was necessary for the warrior and his new wife to go into hiding to avoid being discovered, and most likely to get her pregnant before they returned. According to an old French custom, as the moon went through all its phases the couple drank a brew called metheglin (or mead) that was made from honey. Which is where we get the term honeymoon.
During medieval times, the importance of love in a relationship emerged as a reaction to arranged marriages, but was still not considered a prerequisite in matrimonial decisions. Suitors wooed their intended with serenades and flowery poetry, following the lead of lovelorn characters on stage and in verse.

Chastity and honor were highly regarded virtues. In 1228, women first gained the right to propose marriage in Scotland, a legal right that then slowly spread through Europe.

In the 19th Century, romantic love became viewed as the primary requirement for marriage and courting became even more formal. Courtship became almost an art from among the upper classes. An interested gentleman could not simply walk up to a young lady and begin a conversation. Even after being introduced, it was still some time before it was considered appropriate for a man to speak to a lady or for a couple to be seen together.

Once they had been formally introduced, if the gentleman wished to escort the lady home he would present his card to her. At the end of the evening the lady would look over her options and chose who would be her escort. She would notify the lucky gentleman by giving him her own card requesting that he escort her home.

Almost all courting took place in the girl’s home, always under the eye of watchful parents. If the courting progressed, the couple might advance to the front porch. Smitten couples rarely saw each other without the presence of a chaperone, and marriage proposals were frequently written.

Nowadays, in the 21st century, chivalry is alive and well, but it is expected of both parties—male and female. If a man opens the door for a woman, he doesn’t want to be told she could have done it herself. He would like to hear a thank you.

If a couple goes out to a fancy dinner, the male is not the only one paying the bill anymore. Perhaps the meal is split, or even the female picks up the tab. Or if the man pays, the woman buys the movie tickets afterwards.

Women have fought hard for their independence, but common courtesy still exists when it comes to courting. In the current century, dating sites are also a popular way of meeting people who might have similar interests. Mathematic algorithms help determine the best chances for compatibility so that busy people can still meet and court each other in an expedient manner.

Reality TV has even had an effect on dating in our current century. Courtship went from private interactions to a public arena. One man or one woman had multiple suitors whose interactions were shared with and commented on by viewers. How many of you have watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette and wondered who would win that “onscreen” marriage competition?

Nancy--Russell_LairdXmas_front_cvr_FINALMy latest book series, The Highland Bachelors, takes a look at many of the ways a man might enter into marriage in the 17th century. The first book in the series, A Laird for Christmas, is loosely based on the hit TV series The Bachelorette. I found the high concept of the show fascinating and wanted to explore the concept of courtship in a time period where women did not always have the freedom to marry for love.

Being the hopeless romantic I am, I wanted my heroine to need a husband, and come about finding her perfect someone in a nontraditional way. The ultimate reward of the book, as in any romance, is finding true love.

The notion of true love’s kiss is really important. Love is often the vulnerability of the bad guys in my books. It’s their kryptonite. They can’t love.

The good guys win because they are capable of love. They can depend on each other. They trust each other. Love is the reward for the ultimate moral behavior. Love is putting someone else’s needs above your own—it’s the ultimate magic the good guy wields. It is something we are all capable of and it brings out the best in us.

So tell me…what’s your favorite story about a couple finding true love?  How did they meet?  I’ll give one commenter today a choice of a Kindle download or a signed paper copy of A Laird for Christmas.

For more about Gerri and her books, check out her website.  There’s an excerpt from A Laird for Christmas here (It should open in a new window). 

You can also find her on Twitter ( and Facebook (



  • flchen1 says:

    Aw… Gerri, I love reading romance. There isn’t any way I could possibly choose one favorite love story! There was one that really amazed me though, from the times of the concentration camps and the Holocaust, about a boy in the camps, and a girl who’d thrown him an apple or two over the fence. I believe they met years later in America, and married. That gave me chills reading about them.

    A Laird for Christmas sounds lovely–looking forward to adding that to my TBR!

  • Gerri and Nancy, great blog. Gerri, welcome back to the lair and congratulations on your new series. It sounds fantastic – and such fun to get out of Regency England for a while. I love the Regency, but everybody needs a holiday now and again. Oh, who can pick the best love story? There are thousands! Let me go for tried and true – Beauty and the Beast. I love the theme of transformation and not trusting outer appearances in that one.

    • Anna,

      It’s so fun to be back in the lair with you al! I’m with you…my usual reading habits change during the holidays. I love picking up a book with a holiday theme. It helps me get into the spirit of the season. And Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites as well because it illustrates that sometimes the warmest hearts do not come in a beautiful package.

      • Gerri, I love holiday anthologies. They mostly seem to revolve around Christmas (or Halloween occasionally), at least that I’ve seen. I wonder whether there are any for other holidays, maybe in other religious traditions.

        • I’ve seen many books that revolve around Celtic traditions…Beltaine, Samhain, etc. Also Valentine’s Day and New Years. But you are right, most seem to revolve around Christmas.

    • Anna, I love Beauty and the Beast. Authors have used that motif in such wonderful ways. I’m with you in that I love the Regency but am happy to visit other periods.

  • Hi Gerri –

    Question – did Montlake invert the second S in your name on purpose? Is this a new brand name for you? Or is it to make the heart out of the Ss? Just curious – I do like the heart image.

    I love a good love story. My favorite is my own. My husband picked me up in a bar, or more accurately, on the dancefloor. We lived at opposite ends of a big state, so a lot of our courtship was through letters. I still have all the ones he wrote. Tres Romantique 🙂

    • Donna,

      The story of my brand is a good one! After I got all my rights reverted to my earlier books through my defunct first publisher, I had to rebrand myself. I went to a professional design firm to repackage all my books–new covers, new brand. They came up with the name logo with the backward s that forms a heart. When Montlake bought me, they were impressed with my brand, felt it was very strong and that I had used it effectively on my other books and wanted to continue with that look on their books as well. I was thrilled!

      So romantic about how you and your husband maintained your courtship. A man who can write his feelings on paper…a true hero!

    • Donna, I prefer to be a non-dancer, but I love that story about how you and the dh met.

  • Helen says:

    Hi Gerri

    I love the sound of this book and I have it downloaded onto my kindle already and am really looking forward to reading it. I have been reading romance for many years now and I do’t think I could just choose one couple there have been so many awesom couples in books and on TV over the years I might have to think on this one

    Congrats on the release 🙂

    Have Fun

  • Mary Preston says:

    How do you choose one among hundreds, thousands perhaps? Anna Campbell mentioned BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – that is certainly a great favourite. OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon is another.

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    I have been reading romance for years and honestly, between books and real life I don’t think I can pick one. I am really looking forward to reading your Highland Bachelor series. I do so love me some Highlanders.

  • Caren Crane says:

    Gerri, it’s so great to have you back here with us! You always have the most interesting posts. I had to share the honeymoon bit with my husband, since he is a big fan of mead. 😀 (Also, we can attest that alcohol really does help with the conception of children. *ahem*)

    One of my favorite how-they-met stories is my younger sister and BIL. My best friend from college was living with neighbors in Charlotte down the street from her parents’ old house after she lost a job when we were in our 20s. I lived 3 hours away, but came down to see her one weekend and met the family.

    This family had four sons, the youngest of whom were fraternal twins. I met the twins while I was there and thought they were nice guys. There was something about that family – the dynamics, their humor, something – that seemed really familiar to me.

    My friend decided to seriously try to lose some weight, so she enlisted my younger sister to go to the gym with her and keep her motivated. When she had met her weight goal, they decided to go to the lake for the day to celebrate. There was a music festival my friend knew about and, apparently, the twins were going as well. My friend had a bit of a crush on one of them.

    Well, by the end of the day, my sister and now BIL were snogging in the backseat on the way home and it was clear to my friend she and the other twin were destined to remain friends only. Now, the other twin is married to a woman who has become a dear friend of my sister. It all worked out!

    And I was RIGHT about that family, which made me happy. It just felt destined to be!

    • Caren,

      I loved reading your story. 🙂 Sometimes we do get that “I know there is something special here” feeling. I am so pleased that it led to great things for your sister.

      Thank you for celebrating with me today!

    • Caren, what a great story! Some people meet, and it’s just destiny.

      My dh tried mead and didn’t care for it. Was it an acquired taste for your hubby, or did he like it immediately?

  • Kaelee says:

    Great excerpt!

    I’m never any good at picking favorites as I enjoy reading a lot of books.

    One story that stands out is The Other Soldier by Kathy Altman. The hero of the story killed the heroine’s husband in a friendly fire incident. they meet when he comes to tell her how sorry he is.

  • Shannon says:

    Congratulations on the series. Your bring up what “stories” we like made me reflect if we read for story or characters or both. I guess books are a courtship too–we meet the characters and fall in love with them, then we want the story of how they overcome the challenges to their HEA. I love the journey trope, the arranged marriage plot, and forced together (wounded hero, governess) situations. But in the end, what I remember is the characters.

    BTW, I had the weirdest reaction to your picture of the castle–I knew I had been there before, but I didn’t recognize it. Thanks for identifying it. Now, I know I’m not having some mystical moment; I have seen it before, just not that angle.

    • Shannon, you make a great point about reading being a courtship, too. Like you, I love those tropes, but it does all come down to the characters. I either relate to them or don’t, and that determines how much I enjoy the book.

  • Shannon,

    Thanks for stopping by today. Edinburgh Castle is such an interesting castle. It dominates the landscape. I took that picture from a distance because it was so interesting to truly see Castle Rock on which the fortress sits.

  • gamistress66 says:

    I can’t pick a fave as each has it’s own special way & as long as it ends with happy what isn’t love 🙂 will admit it interesting to look at how things change over time & what doesn’t change as much

    • Gail,

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, how courting has evolved is interesting. A chivalrous man, no matter the century, always has a place in my heart!

    • Gamistress, I definitely favor books with happy endings. That’s why I read my fiction reading is almost exclusively genre fiction. Even in science fiction and fantasy, where all may not be happy at the end, the good guys are pretty much guaranteed to win.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Hi Gerri! Congrats on the new series. I’m looking forward to reading it. I never knew the origin of honeymoon. That’s fascinating!

    I could never choose just one book. I’ve been reading romance for 40+ years. There are so many! lol

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Hi, Gerri, welcome back to the Lair! Fascinating post. It’s always interesting to see how customs develop and change over the years. Thanks for sharing.

    I always thought it was extraordinarily appropriate (and symbolic) that Eve and Roarke from JD Robb’s In Death series meet at a cemetery. It’s a theme that follows both of them throughout the series and reflects the tragedies of their pasts.

    • Hi Jo,

      Eve and Roarke are classic characters and they truly triumph over adversity to reach their HEA.

      I love it when we talk about the books we love because it always makes me smile as I remember that “magic” that happened between the pages. I’m going to have to dig that book out and read it again. Thanks for the memory.

    • Jo, I never thought about that symbolism, but I agree with you. I wonder whether that was intentional on Nora’s part.

  • Welcome back to the Lair, Gerri, and big congrats on the new series! I love the premise of this book, love the Highland setting, and I’ll be off to order it shortly. 🙂

    It’s impossible to name one favorite romance–there are too many!–but lately I’ve been rereading some of Susan Johnson’s old Braddock-Black historical romances. They were unique and so lush and sexy and romantic and the characters had so many serious obstacles to overcome. BRAZEN and FORBIDDEN are two of my faves, but the whole series is downright yummy! 😉

  • catslady says:

    Like the others, there are so many wonderful stories out there. And historicals and especially medievals are my favorite! But when I hear the words “true love” I always think of The Princess Bride.

  • Debb23 says:

    I think my favorite romance movie would be LadyHawke, where a couple is cursed, her to be a hawk by day and him wolf by night. They only see each other briefly in human form for a few seconds. The movie is their fight to break the curse. Your book sounds great, you’ve got to love a highlander.

  • One of my most favorite love stories recently was in Water for Elephants. Not just because of the passionate, ‘forbidden love’ between Jacob and Marlena, but also because included in their relationship was Rosie the Elephant. Their story highlighted that sometimes a couple owes everything they have to someone else. In their case, it happened to be a large, loving animal! 🙂

    • April,

      I read the book Water for Elephants. Was the movie true to the book? I’ve always wondered.

      Ahhh…another forbidden love. 🙂 Thank for popping into the lair!

      • The movie did the book justice. Of couse, I wish the movie had more time for the detail and extra characters, but there were many word-for-word scenes. I left the movie with the same wonderful *sigh* feeling that I had when I closed the book.

    • April, I have to confess that I never saw Water for Elephants because I was afraid bad things happened to the elephant. I didn’t realize there was a romantic arc.

  • bn100 says:

    Sebastian and Evie from the devil in Winter; she proposed to him

  • Becke Turner says:

    Congratulations on the new series. I don’t think I have a Scottish gene in my code, but I love the time period and the stories.

    I loved my parents hook-up story. Mom picked Dad up while he was hitching a ride. Of course that was back in the day when routinely hitchhiked and Dad was a handsome devil. They divorced 22 years later so I guess it worked for a while!

    Reminded me of the old Clark Gable and I think Claudette Cobert flick-It Happened One Night.

  • Hey Gerri! Welcome back to the Lair. It’s always a pleasure having you visit with us.

    True love stories, huh? Hmmm

    My favorite would be Gabriel and Johanna from Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. Johanna is a survivor. She survived an abusive 1st marriage and stood up to a Bishop who thought women were lower than donkeys. Her step-brother takes her to meet Gabriel, a fierce Highland Laird of TWO clans! They marry immediately upon her arrival, much to her dismay until she learned his name (Gabriel is the patron saint and protector of women and children.) Slowly they fall in love and it’s a solid, true, ever after kind of love…


    I’ve read the book 28 times now!

  • Great to see you back in the Lair, Gerri! I wouldn’t mind having a Scottish laird for Christmas!! 🙂

    My parents’ love story is still my favorite and I didn’t even know it until I was a teenager and one of my cousins told me about it!

    My Dad was stationed in Germany with my Mom’s brothers. He saw a picture of my Mom on one brother’s desk and asked “Who is the pretty girl?”

    My uncles said “That’s no girl. That’s our sister!”

    Dad : “She’s too pretty to be your sister!”

    He asked if he could write to her, which is something girls did in the 50’s – they wrote to soldiers overseas as penpals. My uncles told him sure, but they doubted she’d write back.

    He did. She did. They wrote to each other for a year, sometimes several letters a week. At the end of the year, my Dad shipped home. He bought an engagement and wedding ring in Germany (he had not met my Mom in person nor popped the question!) He bought a set of silverware in England and had her initials engraved on it as if they were already married! He stopped in Pennsylvania for 24 hours to tell his family he was going to Alabama to get married. My parents met on May 4th. They had one date. They married on May 11th. They were married over 40 years when we lost Dad. And he is still the love of my Mom’s life.

  • Chelsea B. says:

    My two all-time favorites have always been Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Beauty and the Beast’s Belle and Beast (and, more recently, Once Upon a Time’s Belle and Rubpelstiltskin) 🙂

  • Cassondra says:

    Hi Nancy and hi Gerri! *waves*

    What a great blog! The question, however…gosh…I think my favorite will be whichever book I read last. I’m that fickle, unfortunately.

    I’ve been on a Jill Shalvis binge for a few months now, but even after reading several different books since the last one, I keep thinking about Maddie and Jax from Simply Irresistible the first Lucky Harbor novel. She ran him off the road, knocked over his bike, and generally wreaked havoc in his life in a lot of ways, but he still knew a good thing when he saw it. I think we all wish for a guy like that at some point in our lives.

    While there are a lot of romantic notions about history, and I love love LOVE a man in a kilt, I do not wish to be back in the days when women were property and used as enticement and a bargaining chip for political or financial gain. I’ll marry for love or not at all…and those two options are really nice to have!

  • Marcy Shuler says:

    I love medieval romances.

    One of my favorites is an oldie, but goodie:
    A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deveraux. I like that it’s a time travel and that the heroine’s name is Dougless.

    “Once upon a time…as a fair maiden lay weeping upon a cold tombstone, her heartfelt desire was suddenly made real before her: tall, broad of shoulder, attired in gleaming silver and gold, her knight in shining armor had come to rescue his damsel in distress….”

    • Marcy, what a gorgeous description! I haven’t read A Knight in Shining Armor, but Jude Devereaux has lots of fans in the Lair. It sounds great if that passage is any indicator!

    • Marcy,

      I loved Jude Devereaux’s A Knight in Shining Armor is one of my favorites, too…so much so that the third book in The Highland Bachelor’s Series is titled, A Laird in Shining Armor. No time travel, but there will be a laird in armor…sometimes. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by.

    • A super big thank you to Nancy and the Banditas for hosting me today! It’s been so much fun talking about our favorite romantic characters, remembering great books and movies, and hearing about special romantic first meets.

      Wishing you all the very best! And an early Happy Holidays!