*sidenote: Curious. I looked it up. There are 31 states that do not allow it and in some, you have to be 65 or older or one is infertile. Thought that was interesting. I thought there were more states that said no.
For those interested, I now have Kiva mention his exact relationship to Preen in this current story. He’s the youngest son of Preen’s mother’s cousin, which I think technically makes him her second cousin.
I wouldn't expect that a second cousin would be a problem, even among those who've already expressed reservations. Going through this process is a Good Thing, though, as it could be very hard to figure out where are all the gaps in our knowledge on our audience's cultural taboos. When we don't know what we don't know, it's tough figuring out what questions to ask.
That said, if a cultural speed bump is essential to a story, with no way around it, you may still decide that's the story you're going to tell. 'Course, if you can increase the story's appeal without actually compromising the story, many might consider doing that, too. (Who would voluntarily turn down the prospect of a larger audience?)
I think it’s still a cultural shift due to time passing
While 2nd cousins and cousins twice removed can wed, I think today it would get the “yuck” factor from many readers. We are not limited to how far our horse can ride anymore, so we can distance ourselves genetically from those we fall in love with
But this relates to other aspects of writing too though. While we do have the freedom of speech clause here in the USA and can technically write about anything, some things just are not written about. It’s called unwritten rules.
You can, but at your own peril. That seems to be the case here
This story actually features three marriage practices that are not in common use in the U.S. anymore (but for various reasons tend to go hand in hand in other parts of the world) marriage between relatives, arranged marriage, and exchange of dowry/bride price. As @Wes B mentioned, in the past there were very practical reasons for each, making them practically a necessity in some cases.
I was well aware of controversy surrounding the payment of dowries when I set out to write, but chose to include it because it fit well into into the cultural structure of the world I was building.
However, to date nobody has mentioned it or been bothered by it. I wonder if this may be because paying for your wife is so antiquated in most of the Western world that it no longer touches a nerve, while perhaps we’re still (uncomfortably) close to the days of cousin marriages?
I know I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I wonder...where are your characters located? For instance, everyone jokes about first cousins marrying in West Virginia, but it's actually illegal in that state. It's legal for first cousins to marry in North Carolina. Maybe you could play with that scenario.
I would be fine with it, @Zee. It happens all the time in Jane Austen, which is from a different era. Your story (Preen and Kiva, if I guess correctly), has a very different feel from modern America, making it feel like either another era, a different world, or a different area of the world.
In short, it doesn't bother me at in the slightest, in your context.
This may just be my misunderstanding, if you condensed your comment for brevity's sake, but as a "history nerd," I'd point out that a dowry is the opposite of a bride price. You may already know this, and hid it a bit in your condensation, but in case you missed it and planned to use the words synonymously, that might not be a good idea. There is a huge difference.
A bride price is paid by the husband's family in some cultures, to compensate the bride's family for their costs in raising their daughter. See, once married she would not be working to support her parents' family, but rather her husband's family. It turns out that, while women in the primitive cultures were "devalued," it wasn't due entirely to ignorance.
In a world of extreme scarcity, there was extra hardship in raising each daughter, because she was essentially being raised to benefit someone else's family. While that's harsh and cruel, it came out of a harsh and cruel time when one drought year could mean that some of the children would not survive the winter (and maybe some of the adults...) Any unnecessary expenditure of resources could have dire consequences, and the people acted in very hard ways.
Now, a dowry, used in other cultures, worked in the opposite direction. It was paid by the bride's family to the husband, and represented her share of the inheritance. It also functioned as insurance against divorce, as if the bride was "sent away" for any reason, the dowry would be returned to her family, along with the bride herself. The husband only had use of her dowry if he did not divorce her.
And, BTW... one significant reason for cousin marriage in these times was to keep the transfer of wealth in the extended family. In times so harsh when a family was always just one bad year away from losing half of their unpaid workers children, it might be crucial to keep that wealth close at hand...
When you are dealing with any subject that has a negative response regarding general acceptable society values, sometimes it doesn't matter how far you go to explain it, most people already have their preconceived ideas and are just not that open minded. From a fictional stand point I find the whole idea of such a culture as fascinating as I do about many others especially in the study of human nature.
For the most part people are going to take issue with this because it falls too close to other taboo areas in society.
Of course no one wants to talk about the generations after Adam and Eve, who was related to who and who was marrying which relative... but that's because no one cares. All they care about is the here and now and what stigma is attached to such things and attitudes ingrained into today's society.
I am fairly open minded person especially when studying human behavior, but as a Christian I can't say I'm completely comfortable with the idea so I would probably find it hard to read as a traditional romance.