Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Reginald Mason is wealthy, refined, and, by all accounts, a gentleman. However, he is not a gentleman by title, a factor that pains him and his father within the Regency society that upholds station over all else. That is, until an opportunity for social advancement arises, namely, Lady Annabelle Ashton. Daughter of the Earl of Havercroft, a neighbor and enemy of the Mason family, Annabelle finds herself disgraced by a scandal, one that has left her brandished as damaged goods. Besmirched by shame, the earl is only too happy to marry Annabelle off to anyone willing to have her.

Though Reginald Mason, Senior, wishes to use Annabelle to propel his family up the social ladder, his son does not wish to marry her, preferring instead to live the wild, single life he is accustomed to. With this, Reginald Senior serves his son an ultimatum: marry Annabelle, or make do without family funds. Having no choice, Reginald consents, and enters into a hostile engagement in which the prospective bride and groom are openly antagonistic, each one resenting the other for their current state of affairs while their respective fathers revel in their suffering.

So begins an intoxicating tale rife with dark secrets, deception, and the trials of love - a story in which very little is as it seems.

The new book by Mary Balogh… longer than a novella, but not quite a novel either. Although not a traditional Regency book, it does deserve to be reviewed here, on the blog, because of the theme and also because of Mary Balogh (who will always be a trad writer, even if her stories tend to be a little unconventional)

The difference between the two classes: the very highborn and the industrial class, has been depicted in many books, even Mrs. Balogh has a few more titles with this theme (A Christmas Promise comes to mind), so it’s not easy to come with something new. I confess I was very skeptical about it, and maybe with a good reason, but lucky me (us) I was wrong. This book was quite unique, in writing style and in the way the author managed to twist the theme.

First of all, for anyone who reads this review and hasn’t read the book yet, I want to warn you that there will be spoilers, this being the type of story that will get spoiled by a review no matter how carefully written. Actually, what is best about this book lies in exactly that – the power of surprise and it would be a pity to know in advance about what’s going to happen. My advice is simply to read the book – because it’s well worth it, and only after that to comment upon it…

*** SPOILER ***

That being said, I want to mention that the writing style is a little different than what we’re used to. You get one chapter in the present (after the scandal that ruined Annabelle’s chances of making a good marriage) and the next is in the past, so you get to know how everything came to this happening, glimpses of the past with Reggie and Annabelle meeting, forming a tentative friendship and falling in love...

I have to say that I didn’t have a clue about the secret arrangement between the two characters until I was way into the second part of the book, so I got to enjoy almost fully the double-entendres, the little surprises and the fact that the hero and heroine who remained almost throughout the whole book a mystery...

The book is quite dynamic, it doesn’t dwell much on inner emotions (because it can’t :)), some of the scenes are very funny (one of the best proposal scenes ever!!) and it has one of those rare qualities – it makes you want to start all over again as soon as you finish and it’s even better on a second read.

As for what I didn’t like about this book, then it has to be the scene where the hero and heroine have sex. Okay, Mary Balogh’s sex scenes have never been her forte, so I don’t expect much anyway, but I expect at least that it made sense, that the plot requires it, that is not forced… So to me it felt like the publisher asked for a love scene and the author wrote one, but it wasn’t well done, it didn’t make sense and I just passed through it hoping it wouldn’t last much...

In the end, a very nice read, uncomplicated and funny in parts, the type of book that leaves you with a warm, lovely feeling.

Grade: 4.5/5.


Ana T. February 9, 2010 at 3:21 PM  

Ioana like you I liked this book except for one thing, in your case it was the love scene in mine it was the flashbacks... I know they were needed due to the type of story but stories with many flashbacks tend to annoy me and I end up skimming them. But this was definitely a good surprise by ms. Balogh and I hope her next books will bring good things also... :-)

Ioanna February 10, 2010 at 3:57 PM  

I see we are in agreement, as I also liked this book :) I was completely unaware of the twist in the plot in the begining :) As I read on I started to suspect things were not exactly as they seemed, but it was quite late in the book when I finaly understood what was going on. So this book quite surpised me, which I had not expected. So nice story, plus surpise, it made the book above average for me. And it has been a long long time since I enjoyed a Balogh book :)

Ioana February 11, 2010 at 9:49 AM  

Ana, you know, I don't like many flashbacks either, because their role is in clarifying things about the characters, but don't bring something new to the plot, but this time I was just as anxious to know what happens next, whether in the past, or in the present, that I just didn't care... but thinking about it now, I did prefer the present - chapters, they were more funny :)

Ioana February 11, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

Ioanna, I was thinking about you when I read it, "should I, or should I not recommend it to Ioanna?!" :) you're tough to guess whether you'll enjoy a book or not... anyway, I'm glad you did. Anyway, Balogh went a little out of her normal path for this one, but somehow, except for the few surprises, I doubt she will shine again like she used too. She seems to be too comfortable in what she writes right now...

Ana T. February 11, 2010 at 10:57 AM  

Ioana has Balogh announced what she is going to write after the Huxtables? Maybe she will surprise us with something good. :-)

I'm ignoring the fact that she is writing a paranormal story based on Jane Austen as I'm not sure that will be to my tastes...

Ioana February 11, 2010 at 11:23 AM  

She said she was working on Angeline's story (sister of Jocelyn and Ferdie from the Mistress duo) and after that on Gwen (sister of Neville from "one night of love"). Nothing about a new series yet...
Yeah, I try not to think about the paranormal Austen too :) I will probably read it though, it seems that no matter how bad the reviews I always fall on the lure of a Balogh book... :)

Ana T. February 11, 2010 at 11:47 AM  

I think I remember Gwen, wasn't she a widow?? I must reread those books...

Well maybe those will be a good surprise then...

Ioana February 11, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

Yep, she was a widow, she also had an accident where she miscarried and broke her leg, she is cripple right now... You know how Mary Balogh loves these characters...
As for Angeline, she was the very talkative sister who always wore funny hats and her husband was described as a "dry stick" by Jocelyn from "More than a mistress". Her book should be a farce.
I have more hopes for Angeline's story... Gwen might be a little too dramatic for my tastes :)

Ana T. February 11, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

Hmm I think I'll have to reread the books to remind me of the characters...

Laurel Ann February 20, 2010 at 9:27 AM  

I luv Mary Balogh - thanks for this great review & blog!

Marg February 20, 2010 at 10:39 PM  

I was going to save this book until after I have finished the last series, but maybe I should move it up the pile.



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