Mary Balogh is a reliable and consistent romance genre author. She’s been putting out books for years and years, and with the advent of e-books will be reissuing her back catalogue for quite some time to come. I do not begrudge any author the chance to cash in, except maybe that 50 Shades of Twilight woman. I generally read Balogh when nothing else is handy, but I would go so far as to say this particular book is a classic of the genre.
In my (scathing and bitchy) review of Jennifer Ashley’s Mackenzie series , I wrote that the common series structure has the last book be about “the most forbidding of the men; the one you can’t imagine rooting for, or whose arrogance and aloofness is nigh on insurmountable”. This is that book, but instead of digging deeper to find sexually-twisted tyrants all the way down a la Ashley, Mary Balogh shows us a deeply caring man, motivated only by love and duty. Wulfric (I know) Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, is the eldest of six children and each have already had their story told; I gave Slightly Married a try, but when I skipped ahead to page 200 to check on the [cough] action I met the sentence, “He gave her his seed,” and I was out. I did read all of Slightly Scandalous, but, despite a wonderful rake, the heroine was off-putting.
As the family protector and a Duke, Wulfric is a very serious man weighed down by duty and propriety in a way that is everything repugnant about the antiquated notion of aristocracy; fortunately, he falls for a woman who punctures that and makes him human. Christine is a free-spirited widow living in genteel poverty who encounters the Duke at a house party (because it’s the Regency and that’s how they do). She is both drawn to and leery of the Duke and her objections to his character, as she perceives it, and the role of his Duchess are the basis of the book’s tension. He’s fighting it for all he is worth, too, but in the end, she deigns to rescue him and it is lovely.
An Amazon review described the book as “Notting Hill meets Pride and Prejudice” and I can’t do any better than that. The story is not as funny as some, and is virtually chaste, but the two main characters are so well drawn and fight against their attraction so valiantly that it carries the story along wonderfully. To use romance genre lingo, this book goes on the “keeper shelf”.
Also by Mary Balogh –
A Handful of Gold for which I created a romance review template.
The Survivors’ Club Series:
The Proposal (Hugo/Gwen) – pleasant
The Arrangement (Vincent/Sophia) – very sweet, understated
The Escape (Benedict/Samantha) – meh
Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes) – Wonderful, read this one. Read it twice.
Only a Promise (Ralph/Chloe) – very good
Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen) – see below
Only Beloved – May 2016