Husband Hunting in India
By Kate Moore, Author of A Lady’s Guide to Passion and Property, Book 2 in the Husband Hunter Series
“No woman ever reaches thirty without having been asked to marry—at least by her parents.”
With few opportunities for education and no professions open to them, nineteenth century women were encouraged to become “husband hunters” and to shape their conduct accordingly. Victorian novelist Charlotte Brontë commented sharply on the effect of that imperative to marry in an April 1845 letter to her friend Ellen Nussey. “I know that if women wish to escape the stigma of husband-seeking, they must act and look like marble or clay—cold, expressionless, bloodless; for every appearance of feeling, of joy, sorrow, friendliness, antipathy, admiration, disgust, are alike construed by the world into the attempt to hook a husband.”
The strong imperative to marry sent young women to London and around the globe in pursuit of a husband. Jane Austen’s novels, the “Silver Fork” novels of writers like Catherine Gore, and the twentieth century romances of Georgette Heyer allow readers to imagine husband hunting in London’s glittering ballrooms and spacious parks. Less well known is the experience of young women who went to India to find a husband on what became known as “the fishing fleet.”
For over two hundred years the Indian Company encouraged women to travel by sail or steamer to India to marry their employees. At first these daring young women were offered passage, maintenance for a year, and a set of clothing while they looked for a mate. By the 1820’s this method of finding a husband became so desirable that the Company could require a £200 bond and ask female travellers to pay their fare.
One young woman who took sail in 1745 was Jane Austen’s orphaned aunt Philadelphia. Phila left an apprenticeship to a milliner in Covent Garden for marriage in to an older man in India. As a girl Jane Austen wondered about her aunt’s experience in an early work of hers, in which the main character asks, “Do you think it lucky for a girl of genius and feeling to be sent in quest of a husband to Bengal, to be married there to a man of whose disposition she has no opportunity of judging till her judgment is of no use to her?” Though Phila’s marriage to Tysoe Saul Hancock may not have been successful, her affair with Warren Hastings, Governor General of Bengal, produced a daughter, Eliza, who would go on to marry a French count and then, as a widow, Jane Austen’s brother Henry.
Plain or dowry-less, girls who joined the “fishing fleet” were wooed and pursued almost from the moment they boarded ship through a social whirl of balls and outings when they finally arrived in India. Because the demand for wives there was so great, no stigma attached to their “husband-hunting”—unless they failed and had to sail back to England as “returned empties.”
Beauty, wit, and charm may catch a gentleman’s eye, but nothing attracts suitors quite like property, as beloved, award-winning author Kate Moore reveals in this delightful Regency romp. For an innkeeper’s daughter new to the dance, a discreet volume of courtship wisdom may help discern the intentions of a mysterious newcomer.
Lucy Holbrook has recently inherited her father’s south London inn, the place she’s always called home. Now her fashionable friends, arming her with The Husband Hunter’s Guide to London, are urging her to sell the establishment and become a society lady, just as her father always hoped. Lucy would rather toss the little book into the hearth—she could never desert the alehouse or its patrons, including an elderly blind man who depends on her care. But Lucy may need every bit of good advice when a handsome stranger arrives with a secret agenda and a baffling crime to solve, and she finds herself navigating a most dangerous attraction!
About the Author
Kate Moore is a former English teacher and three-time RITA finalist, Golden Heart, and Book Buyers Best Award winner. She writes Austen-inspired fiction set in nineteenth century England or contemporary California. Her heroes are men of courage, competence, and unmistakable virility, with determination so strong it keeps their sensuality in check until they meet the right woman. Her heroines take on the world with practical good sense and kindness to bring those heroes into a circle of love and family. Sometimes there’s even a dog. Kate lives north of San Francisco with her surfer husband, their yellow Lab, a Pack ‘n Play for visiting grandbabies, and miles of crowded bookshelves. Kate’s family and friends offer endless support and humor. Her children are her best works, and her husband is her favorite hero. Visit Kate at KateMoore.com or on the social media platforms below.