Review: Gypsy

Gypsy by Carole Mortimer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jealousy, Misunderstandings and Relationships Too Complicated to be Believed

FINAL DECISION: This book is well written and strongly compelling. There are so many twists and turns that I couldn’t believe so much could be packed into such a short book. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t buy the relationship between Shay and Lyon. There was too much anger and pain between them to be resolved so quickly.

THE STORY: Shay Flanagan aka as Gypsy was eighteen when she met and fell in love with Lyon Falconer. They began an affair that ended when Lyon ruthlessly told Shay that he would never divorce his wife for her. Shay left him and ended up married to Lyon’s youngest brother instead. Five years later, Shay’s husband has tragically died and Shay is pregnant. Lyon wants Shay back but she never intends to be vulnerable to Lyon again.

OPINION: This book is filled with angst and drama. In fact, Shay spends most of the book hating Lyon. Her strong emotions make it difficult to accept her quick change to love again. Unfortunately, this book is well written but probably too short for the complicated story. I thought everything about it was well written except that I didn’t believe how quickly Shay could forget the husband she so desperately loved to end up again with a man she claimed to hate for 80 percent of the book.

This isn’t a couple I will be thinking about for years despite the claims in the book that they have a romance for the ages.

WORTH MENTIONING: GYPSY was originally published as a category romance in the 1980s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GYPSY is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

Review: Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride

Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride
Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Liked the Heroes but the Heroines Drove Me Crazy

This book contains two novels from the Stapleston-Downes series (number 3 and 4 in the series).

DARK ANGEL: Jennifer Winwood has been unofficially engaged to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years. Finally, her dream of marrying Lionel is coming true. They are to be married within months. Jennifer knows Lionel is honorable and she has loved him for years. Just when things seems to be going right for her, she meets Gabriel Fisher, Earl of Thornhill, a rake and known to be dishonorable. I liked how the romance between Jennifer and Gabriel developed. Jennifer believes herself in love but is still drawn to Gabriel. I believed how their emotional attachment developed and I ended up liking both of these characters even though Jennifer’s behavior annoyed me for much of the book. I liked Gabriel much more as a character even as he had bad motives for pursuing Jennifer. I love the complicated nature of Balogh’s romances. Thoughtful and romantic. Rating: 4 stars.

LORD CAREWS BRIDE: Samantha Newman (cousin to the heroine in DARK ANGEL) fell in love with Lord Kersey while her cousin was engaged to him. She realized that he had used her and has hated him for six years. When Kersey returns to England, she fears that she will fall into his arms again, so she seeks safety with Hartley Wade, a disabled gardener that she met in the country. Unknown to her, however, he is actually the Marquess of Carew and Kersey’s cousin. I want to say that I absolutely adored Hartley. He is one of my all time favorite heroes. He fails to tell Samantha the truth about his identity, but he is constantly wanting to please her and he doesn’t hide his love for her. He is very self-conscious about his disabilities and he sees their romance as a type of beauty and the beast story. On the other hand, Samantha drove me crazy. She is so determined to cling to her past with Kersey that she hurts Hartley greatly. Her thinking is muddled and annoyed me. Despite this, however, my appreciation for Hartley and the resolution of the story saved the book for me. Rating: 4 stars.

Review: A Precious Jewel

A Precious Jewel
A Precious Jewel by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prostitute Heroine and a Beta Hero

“And if she was a whore, then he was a man who found it necessary to employ whores because he was no good at real relationships.”

FINAL DECISION: Complex and nuanced, A PRECIOUS JEWEL takes a difficult situation and goes deep within the relationship in order to build toward a happy ending. The story is slow and detailed, but every moment is necessary to make the progression feel real.

THE STORY: Sir Gerald Stapleton is a confirmed bachelor with a distrust of marriage. He wants uncomplicated sex so he goes to a brothel for his pleasure. There he meets, Priss, a prostitute. He ends up deciding to take her as his mistress. The two grow closer which worries Gerald. His uncomplicated world is shaken when Priss tells him that she is leaving him to marry another man. Priscilla Wentworth grew up a gentlewoman, but falling on hard times, she makes the decision to sell herself. She begins to fall for Gerald even as she knows that a prostitute doesn’t have a future with a client.

OPINION: This is the story of a prostitute finding love, but there is no magical solution to the fact that Priss has sold herself to many men. This is not a book where the “prostitute” heroine is really a virgin, or pretending to sell herself. Priss is a working prostitute when she meets Gerald, who is a client. Balogh never turns away from difficult premises for her stories. This story is deep and complex and takes a long time to wind through the journey of these characters. The book’s action takes place over more than a year’s time and the characters have many challenges to face.

Priss is a likeable heroine. She is down to earth and practical. She ends up falling in love with Gerald despite knowing that there can be no happy ending for them. Gerald is a beta hero. He is quiet and more uncertain about himself than might be expected. But he and Priss are such a great combination.

I loved how these two connected and navigated this difficult situation.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book takes place at the same time as the events in THE IDEAL WIFE.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A PRECIOUS JEWEL is the second book in the Stapleton-Downes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

Review: More Than a Mistress

More Than a Mistress
More Than a Mistress by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d Rate This Book a 4.5

MORE THAN A MISTRESS is the first book in the Mistress trilogy. It is the story of Jane Ingleby who is on the way to work as a milliner’s assistant when she comes across a duel being fight. She attempts to stop the fuel but instead ends up getting Jocelyn Dudley, the Duke of Tresham, shot. Tresham demands that she assist him which ends up making Jane late and getting her fired. Jane comes to Tresham and demands that he help her. He offers her a job nursing him. The two are fascinating together. Jane challenges Jocelyn at every turn. But both of these people have pain and secrets that these two people possess.

I loved Jane and Jocelyn. The two of them have a difficult road to travel. There is so much pain in Jocelyn’s life and he is always anticipating betrayal that he assumes the worst about Jane. Yet he cannot give her up. I loved how Balogh reveals the soft sensitive side of Jocelyn and yet allows him to remain the strong man that he is.

My only negative comment is that I think the story is better with the missing chapters that Balogh released in NOW A BRIDE. Those the chapters give an emotional conclusion because Jocelyn finally gives voice to his feelings for Jane. For me the book ends to abruptly without those chapters.

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Review: The Secret Mistress

The Secret Mistress
The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Soft, Sweet Unusual

THE SECRET MISTRESS is the this book in the Mistress Trilogy. It is actually a prequel to the other two novels but I didn’t mind reading it last. It is the story of Lady Angeline Dudley, the sister of the Duke of Tresham, who travels to London for her coming out. on the way, she ends up in the same inn public room as Edward Ailsbury, the Earl of Heyward. Heyward is the consummate gentleman who rescues her from the attentions of a rake.

I absolutely loved this book. It is not a flashy story, but rather a sweet story about falling in love between two opposites. Balogh does a great job with difficult characters. Heyward, we already have learned is a bit stuffy and uptight. Balogh makes him sympathetic and romantic without sacrificing his character. He is who he is presented to be but he is also more. She masterfully weaves the story of the unlikely pair such that by the end I had no doubt that these two were meant for one another.

There is also a secondary romance mirroring the main one that made me smile.

This book also contains some extras from the entire series. I enjoyed those as well. They are really extras and not a short story. The epilogue that wraps up the entire series was nice because readers get an update on all the important characters in the series.

I’d rate this one a 4.5.

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Review: No Man’s Mistress

No Man's Mistress
No Man’s Mistress by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I Wanted to Like It More Than I Did

NO MAN’S MISTRESS is the second book in the Mistress Trilogy. It is the story of Lord Ferdinand Dudley who wins an estate in a card game only to find out that it is already inhabited by Viola Thornhill, who insists that the estate is hers. The two match series over the estate. Viola, however, harbors dark secrets and a painful past that leaves her alone.

I really wanted to like this book, but I never really liked Viola. She was too much of an enigma throughout the book. Her past was too painful and sordid and I never felt that the resolution of her personal journey was set out in a way that made her sympathetic. Unlike most Balogh novels there were times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish the book.

I’m not a great fan of the ex-prostitute story so perhaps I judge them more harshly than other tropes. This book just didn’t feel deep or dark enough to compensate for the serious story of Viola’s life.

This book was my least favorite in the trilogy even though I enjoyed revisiting the other members of the Dudley family.

I’d rate this book 3.5.

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Review: The Secret Pearl

The Secret Pearl
The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lots of Angst, Beautiful Story

THE SECRET PEARL is the story of Fleur Bradshaw who has become so desperate that she resorts to prostitution. Her first client is Adam Kent, the Duke of Ridgeway. Adam is trapped in a loveless marriage and feels a pull toward the desperate Fleur. After their encounter, Adam finds Fleur work as his daughter’s governess. The two have a long path to happiness. Fleur is in danger from her past and Adam’s marriage are obstacles.

This book is simply amazing. The book has an incredibly dark beginning with a sexual encounter that leaves both Adam and Fleur unhappy. This is a book with severely scarred people, both inside and out. What I loved about it is the beauty that comes from that darkness. These two are noble people. They do the right thing even when it hurts them. I cried during parts of this book and sighed with happiness at the end. This is a powerful, romantic tale.

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Review: Christmas Miracles

Christmas Miracles
Christmas Miracles by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heartwarming Christmas Novellas

CHRISTMAS MIRACLES is a compilation of three novellas that were previously published as part of the Signet annual Regency Christmas anthology.

THE WASSAIL BOWL — John Beattie, Earl of Wyndham has been estranged from his wife Antonia because he believes she has been unfaithful to him. A visit at Christmas provides an opportunity for them to begin again. This story has surprising emotional complexity considering its short length. I also liked that Christmas was a real part of the story and not just a gloss over a story that could occur at any time. Rating: 4 stars.

THE BOND STREET CAROLERS — Roderick Ames, Baron Heath is a promoter of music and musical talent. Walking down Bond street he is arrested by a beautiful voice of a young boy. Fanny Berlington, a widow, devotes herself to her two children. Before her marriage, she had a small crush on the Baron, but she is wary of this man who wants to promote her son at his musicale. This story is sweet, but the romance was less convincing because of the little amount of time that the hero and heroine spend together. I wish this story had been a bit longer because I thought the characters were very interesting. Rating: 3.5 stars.

GUARDED BY ANGELS — Elliott Nichols, Viscount Garrett and June Nichols, Viscountess Garrett have been married for five and a half years and separated for five and one-quarter years. Married young, the two had difficulties because Elliott had just returned from war when they married and had not dealt with his issues caused by his service. Instead, it infected their marriage and caused their separation. This story had a very magical theme and it worked well because of the existing connection between the characters. I thought their problems dissolved quickly once they talked but the quick resolution was understandable considering the length of the story. Rating: 4 stars.

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Review: Heartless

Heartless by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Story of Secrets and the Pain They Cause

“He had learned neither to expect nor to give love.”

THE STORY: Lucas Kendrick is the Duke of Harndon after the deaths of both his father and older brother. Ten years ago, Lucan left England after having been betrayed, rejected, banished and shunned by his family and fiancee. He has closed himself off from love because of it. When he returns to England to accept his duty to his title, he realizes that he must marry. When he meets Lady Anna Marlowe, Lucas knows that this woman would make an appropriate wife. Anna knows that she will never marry. Her painful past gives her little hope of having a happy future. Despite all her resolve, she agrees to marry Lucas but knows that the two of them will have to keep their personal secrets.

OPINION: This book was uneven for me. I loved the progression of Lucas as he changes from a man who has cut himself off from everyone to a man who can open himself up to love again. I didn’t think that Anna’s character was as successful. After a year, it becomes more difficult to accept Anna’ silence about her secrets.

I really liked how the secrets were revealed in this novel. Even as I was annoyed by Anna’s continued silence, I appreciated the pacing of how things were slowly reveal and resolved in the story. The past is very dangerous to both of these characters.

I give this book high ratings primarily because of Lucas. His journey was compelling and I found the moment that he recognizes that he cannot hide from love to be one of the most beautiful I have read. It is a testimony to the power of others to change us.

WORTH MENTIONING: Anna’s deaf mute sister plays an important role here and is the heroine of the sequel SILENT MELODY.

FINAL DECISION: A good story with the highlight being the hero’s journey from a heartless man to one who can open himself up to love.

CONNECTED BOOKS: HEARTLESS is connected with the subsequent book SILENT MELODY.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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Review: The Ideal Wife

The Ideal Wife
The Ideal Wife by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marry in Haste, Repent in Leisure

“If you could set before me the plainest, dullest, most ordinary female in London, or in England, for that matter, I would make her an offer without further ado.”

FINAL DECISION: With a trippy premise (proposing marriage on minutes acquaintance), this book does so many things right. The hero is so wonderful. The heroine, unfortunately, drove me crazy with her secrets. Overall, I thought it was well written but not among Balogh’s best.

THE STORY: Miss Abigail Gardiner is a survivor. After being dismissed from her position as a lady’s companion she decides to approach a remote “cousin” who is a also a complete stranger to ask for help in finding a new position. Miles Ripley, Earl of Severan refuses to give her a reference but instead proposes that the two marry. Miles wants to wrest control of his life from his interfering female relatives who have already chosen his bride despite his wishes. He decides that Abby who appears quiet, plain and shy will be the perfect wife to marry, give him an heir and then not interfere with his life. Abby, however, has secrets that threaten to tear their marriage apart in ruin and scandal.

OPINION: What I loved best about this book is how Miles accepts and falls in love with Abby even though he is completely mistaken about her personality when he proposes to her. Frankly, he is almost a saint because Abby lies to him, keeps secrets and risks ruin and scandal again and again. He treats her with respect and generosity at every turn.

Abby on the other hand is a mixed bag for me. She is caring and protective of others. She also makes stupid decisions, keeps secrets far too long and threatens her own marriage. By the time, Abby’s last secret is revealed, I could only roll my eyes at her behavior.

One of the best part of Balogh’s novels is the sense of realism that she infuses in her books. Here, there is no instant attraction and torrid love scenes. The sex life of the characters has a progression and they have a more satisfying sex life as they open up to one another.

There is also overlap in the story here and the next book’s romance (Miles’ friend is the hero in the next book).

WORTH MENTIONING: The book was originally published in the early 1990s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE IDEAL WIFE is the first book in the Stapleton-Downes series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

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