BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Mary Balogh's The Secret Mistress.
Against the scandal and seduction of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh introduces an extraordinary family—the fiery, sensual Huxtables. Vanessa is the second daughter, proud and daring, a young widow who has her own reason for pursuing the most eligible bachelor in London. One that has nothing to do with love. Or does it?
The arrival of Elliott Wallace, the irresistibly eligible Viscount Lyngate, has thrown the country village of Throckbridge into a tizzy. Desperate to rescue her eldest sister from a loveless union, Vanessa Huxtable Dew offers herself instead. In need of a wife, Elliott takes the audacious widow up on her unconventional proposal while he pursues an urgent mission of his own. But a strange thing happens on the way to the wedding night. Two strangers with absolutely nothing in common can’t keep their hands off each other. Now, as intrigue swirls around a past secret—one with a stunning connection to the Huxtables—Elliott and Vanessa are uncovering the glorious pleasures of the marriage bed…and discovering that when it comes to wedded bliss, love can’t be far behind.
Romance queen Balogh (Simply Perfect) delivers a savory and passionate Regency to launch a series featuring three smalltown sisters. Handsome Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, discovers that he has become guardian to the newly titled Stephen, earl of Merton, who believes his sisters are committed to making his life miserable. Elliot determines to propose to Meg, the eldest sister, but widowed middle sister Vanessa catches him and proposes to him first. Elliot agrees to the match, sensing chemistry waiting to ignite between the two. Romantic encounters between the couple are indeed fiery hot, but their mutual expectations from marriage are a far cry from what soon transpires, and both husband and wife are surprised by what they learn about appearances and love. After a slow start, their tale heats up quickly and satisfies thoroughly.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Frist comes marriage
Great Frist book of the series
A Strong Start But A Weak Finish
Well, the first thing I can say upon finishing the book is that not only did I feel a bit "smarter", but that I am certainly grateful for the residual beauty my parents did give me. It's clear straight from the start that physical beauty is something the character is severely lacking. It is the first romance book I've read where the character isn't glorified by her beauty so kudos to Balogh for novelty.
The novel starts out with a very mysterious prologue.
"You loved indiscriminately," he said. " You even loved me. Especially me."
The immediate dive into the sudden death of a mentally disabled child nabs you with a tear-jerker, but it also makes the reader curious to know who Con is and what exactly happened to Jon. The novel's first chapter starts with the seemingly amiable country living family called the Huxtables. They consist of: Katherine (the youngest daughter), Margaret(the eldest daughter), Stephen (the baby boy) and of course our leading lady, Vanessa (the middle daughter). The surprise that awaits them helps explain the sudden move to the city- Stephen, at the tender age of 17 is now an Earl! The way this all came about was quick but also so well described that it seemed realistic. The hilarity that ensues with sudden move did put a few smiles on my face and I found myself eagerly clutching my truffles awaiting the next shock. During this time, you also receive your first interaction with Vanessa and the Viscount. Their match is an interesting one as you have this plain, humorous and charismatic woman with this gorgeous Greek god who happens to have the personality of stale cheese. By infusing humor into Vanessa's character and displaying droplets of her wit it helped to make their match seem more realistic. Probably one of the better parts of the book is how they became married in the first place. Despite her good cheer though, Elliott is still stubborn and dreading any interaction with the country folk as demonstrated below:
"In my experience those pastoral idylls one reads in which village maidens are not only numerous but also fair and buxom and rosy-cheeked and willing are entirely fictitious and not worth the paper they are written on. You will be dancing with ferret-faced matrons and their plain, simpering daughters, George, be warned."
Well! And that's before he even met Vanessa. It's apparent the Viscount has no desire to meet the Huxtables from the get go and further evidence supports this when Vanessa and Elliot meet. It's less than hospitable to put it politely, but I did catch myself thinking Oh! This is about to get really interesting. After such a promising prologue and introduction, I felt the middle of the book just proceeded to detail Vanessa's desire to make her new husband happy. The banter between the two of them at the beginning seemed to fade and that was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. I didn't feel that there was enough conflict between the two. Although their marriage is an important component of the book, the general struggles of transitioning from a poor country class to a wealthy city upper class were either glazed over or referenced but never actually addressed. There are a few heart warming moments between Vanessa and her mother in law when they prepare to dress for the ton and to meet the Queen (Yes! The Queen of England!). But I still feel they were really too far and few in between. On a positive note, Vanessa is given a bit of a moral dilemma which makes her both more likeable and relatable as a character. Her constant guilt about her previous marriage as well as her longing for her current marriage to work, does pull at the heartstrings a wee bit. It's during this time that her strength in herself is shown:
"My happiness has to come from within myself or it is too fragile a thing to be of any use to me and too much of a burden to benefit any of my loved ones."
Fabulously said Vanessa! And with that brilliant insight, she still sticks around the Viscount- but surprisingly is treated to a rather strong and deep glimpse into his personal demons. At that point, it's officially OK to start liking Elliott. Her continuous "sunny side up" personality and willingness to accept his rather distant behavior eventually wear the old gruff down enough and they finally start being able to build a relationship. The novel ends with them having a successful, if somewhat content relationship with a surprise at the end of the novel.
Aside from Vanessa's interaction with Anna and the back story that was hinted at with Con, I didn't feel a connection to either of the characters. I felt that Vanessa was more believable in her love but Elliott was not. I mean if you can't understand why you want to sleep with your wife, then...? While it did serve as a good introduction to the family and what I can only assume will be the rest of the series, I don't feel that either Elliott or Vanessa was given their due justice. Elliott seemed very one dimensional and really didn't open up until the end of the novel, which in my opinion, was way too late. Vanessa also seemed one dimensional and the occasional glimpses we saw of her assertiveness or emotion seemed either drawn out or created to portray a moral viewpoint. I wanted more passion, more romance, not simply a meeting of the minds and grudging respect! One thing I have to commend Balogh on is her superb attention to historical detail. From the style of Vanessa's bonnet to the correct details and customs of the social classes, it is both evident and much appreciated that she created an accurate historical background. Given the time period of the novel, I wasn't expecting a full out feminist, but I would have appreciated a bit more resistant in a coy way. All in all, Vanessa as a character is a generally likeable person who is portrayed as someone who's beauty, charisma, intellect and charm offset her physical plainness. For those that want to cheer for the underdog, or simply have a not traditional