Review: Irresistible

Review: IrresistibleIrresistible (Horsemen Trilogy, #3) by Mary Balogh
Series: Horsemen Trilogy #3
Published by Berkley Books on October 2nd 2007
Genres: Historical
Pages: 320
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book was just okay. I enjoyed most of the relationship and story but I couldn’t relate how Sophie reacted to being blackmailed.  Her irrational behavior just bothered me throughout.

THE STORY:  Mrs. Sophia Armitage, as the wife of an officer, followed the drum during the war became the friend of the Four Horsemen. Now a widow, Sophie resides in London and for the first time in three years, meets up with Nathaniel Gascoigne — a man that even a respectable wife could admire.  Now an opportunity for a special kind of friendship between the two arises and both are surprised by the intense passion that arises. Their fledgling relationship is threatened by the fact that Sophie has a secret — she is being blackmailed.

OPINION:  I liked how this book developed in the relationship between Nathaniel and Sophie. Two adults who want physical companionship begin to develop an emotional connection that they didn’t expect. They were sweet together and I liked them.

Unfortunately, the blackmail plot drove most of the action in the story.  Because of that Sophie’s continuing actions in giving in to the blackmail began to wear on me.  Not because I didn’t understand that she was afraid and wanting to be independent and used to hiding.  What I expected was that once the blackmail was revealed that she would gain a stronger emotional connection with Nathaniel by admitting her fears and anger. Instead, the story fell flat emotionally for me at that point.

I’m a big fan of Mary Balogh especially her restrained emotional intensity but I think this book was too emotionally restrained for me. On the other hand, I loved the ending where Nathaniel confesses his love for Sophie.  I thought that moment was almost perfect.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will know that there are four horsemen and thankfully although there are only three books, the fourth horseman gets his HEA in a secondary romance in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  IRRESISTIBLE is the third and final book of the Horseman Trilogy. It takes place 2 years after the events in the first two books in the series.  Although characters from those books appear, this book does not rely on those books at all and thus it can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Unforgiven

Review: UnforgivenUnforgiven: The Horsemen Trilogy by Mary Balogh
Series: The Horseman Trilogy #2
Published by Signet on July 12th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION:  Oh, I wish I could have liked this book but I ended up being annoyed with the characters lack of communication, continued antipathy toward one another and then how quickly all the past was so neatly resolved.

THE STORY:  Kenneth Woodfall has returned from war to find that the girl he once loved and then hated has just gotten betrothed.  Miss Moira Hayes fell in love with Kenneth and met him secretly until the long running feud between the families flared up again and she could never forgive him. She blames him for the death of her brother.  There is nothing but passion between Kenneth and Moira whether it be love or hate. When a snowstorm forces them to take shelter together, their lives are changed.

OPINION:  I really wanted to like this book after enjoying the first book in the series, but unfortunately, I just got tired of the antipathy between the characters.  Almost the entirety of the book consists of arguments and sometimes outright hatred especially from Moira.  Then at the end, she learns the truth and never acknowledges that she was a jerk. In the same way I expect heroes to grovel when they have been grossly unfair, I expected her to at least admit that she was wrong.  Nope, not here.  For me, when the conflict between the characters is so intense, I believe that it takes more than a couple of pages at the end to completely resolve the conflict.

I think the antipathy from Moira was just too strong during the book so everything else was overwhelmed. Their romantic moments fell flat because of it. Their first sexual encounter was strange and just didn’t work for me.

So what did I like?  I liked Kenneth who I felt was a much more well rounded and likeable character.  Despite Moira’s treatment of him, he was a nice guy most of the time.  I also liked the Romeo and Juliet family dispute part of the story. I also did like how Kenneth and Moira began to work through their relationship to try and have a marriage.  I just felt that the balance between hate and love was off in the entirety of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The heroine has a miscarriage during the book for those who might be sensitive to the topic.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  UNFORGIVEN is the second book in the Horsemen Trilogy.  It takes place concurrently with the events in the first book and can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: Only Beloved

Review: Only BelovedOnly Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh
Series: Survivor's Club #7
Published by Signet on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 393
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Surely everyone was entitled to some companionship, some contentment in life even when youth was a thing of the past.”

FINAL DECISION:  Absolutely loved this lovely story of two people who later in life look for companionship and find love beyond what they ever expected.  Balogh managed to finish her Survivor’s Club series in a emotional and redemptive fashion filled with hope and love.

THE STORY:  George Crabb, the Duke of Stanbrook has been widowed for 12 years after his wife committed suicide following the death of their son in the Peninsular Wars.  Now at 48 years old, George is considering marrying again since all his Survivor’s Club friends have found love.  When he thinks of marriage, however, George has only one woman in his mind.  He thinks of Dora Debbins, a woman he met briefly a year ago and still hasn’t forgotten.  He seeks her out and proposes marriage for companionship and friendship.  Dora gave up hope of marrying when a family scandal left her to care for her younger sister.  Dora has made a life for herself as an independent music teacher and yet the possibility of marrying the man she hasn’t been able to get out of her mind is seductively attractive.  As George and Dora think to build a good marriage, they find out that the past which previously robbed them of their happy ending is dangerously close to stealing their happiness again.

OPINION:  I adore how Balogh goes deep into the emotion of her characters.  While there is a storyline plot that moves the action forward, the emphasis in ONLY BELOVED is on the developing relationship between George and Dora.  George and Dora are characters which I fell in love with.  Both had their youthful dreams of love and marriage taken from them, they reached an age when they believed that the possibility of happiness had passed them by.  Instead, each had built a life helping others.  The marriages of all the other Survivor’s Club members prompt George to think about Dora again and wonder if they might find a measure of companionship, friendship and happiness together. What he knows is that he cannot love — that possibility having been burned out of him by his first marriage.

As Dora and George so obviously fall in love, there is immense sadness that these two people believe that their lives lack the possibility and hope of love.  As they reveal themselves to one another, they discover that love exists for everyone.  I love how the story develops with a maturity and yet a joyful discovery between these two people.  This story demands patience and a willingness to allow these characters their journey.  Their story unfolds slowly and patiently but at the perfect pace for these two.

I love the beauty and gentleness of the relationship between Dora and George.  I like that it reflected both their maturity and the newness of falling deeply in love.  They are both wise in the difficulties in life but also neophytes in loving and trusting and building a life together.

I loved this book and as the last book in the series, I was not disappointed.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Fans of the series will be pleased by the appearances and updates on the couples from the series.  Just what you would expect from a concluding book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ONLY BELOVED is the seventh and final book in the Survivor’s Club series.  It can be read as a standalone although I think the book has more emotional meaning at the end of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Indiscreet

Review: IndiscreetIndiscreet (Horsemen Trilogy, #1) by Mary Balogh
Series: Horsemen Trilogy #1
Published by Signet on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

Complex, multi-faceted Characters are Classic Balogh

FINAL DECISION: Complicated, lovely with characters who have faults and yet love strongly, INDISCREET Is the story of characters who make mistakes but end up finding the happiness they don’t know that they need.

THE STORY: Rex, Viscount Rawleigh visits his twin brother and is looking for a woman to occupy his time. He sees the young widow, Catherine Winters and she seems perfect to Rex. He proceeds to make an improper proposal that Catherine rejects as she is living a virtuous life. Rex isn’t deterred, however, as he can’t seem to avoid her and his attraction to her. Catherine has her own problems because she knows she must resist Rex but she is also tempted by him.

OPINION: I love Balogh’s books. She writes complex, emotional dramas and this book is no different. These characters are complicated and are placed in a difficult situation where they make mistakes. These characters have faults, make mistakes and have to seek forgiveness. Balogh doesn’t have formula characters. Rex is self-absorbed and doesn’t consider Catherine when he makes his move on her. As a result, he ends up turning her life upside down. I loved that his recognition of his own failings comes with his regret for forcing Catherine into a situation she did not want. But Catherine is no victim of Rex. From the beginning, she has complicated feelings toward him and thus she has her own responsibility in the resulting chaos. This book has a measured and deliberate romance that Balogh does so well. By the time these characters find their happy ending, they have earned it.

WORTH MENTIONING; This book features four friends who have returned from war. It is an interesting contrast with Balogh’s own Survivors’ Club series. These returning soldiers have luckily avoided the dark scars of the Survivors’ Club members. I think these two series are nicely complementary to one another.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INDISCREET is the first book in the Horseman Trilogy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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four-stars

Review: Slightly Dangerous

Review: Slightly DangerousSlightly Dangerous (Bedwyn Saga, #6) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga #6
Published by Delacorte Press on June 1st 2004
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

Absolutely Fantastic End to the Bedwyn Series

SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS is the final book in the Bedwyn series. It is the story of the Duke of Bewcastle, Wulfric Bedwyn. In the previous two years, Bewcastle has seen his five siblings happily married. He is now alone and is somewhat restless. That leads him to accepting an invitation for a house party. There he meets Christine Derrick, a widow, whose behavior, while not scandalous, is not completely ladylike either. She is too bright. Of course, the cold, reserved Duke is attracted despite himself.

I absolutely loved this book. It ended up being my favorite of the series. Balogh did an amazing job of allowing the reader to see how two people who appear to be so incompatible are actually perfect for one another. The slow development of the romance between them just built to such an ending that I just smiled through the last chapters of the book.

I started this late in the evening intending to read a couple chapters before bed…didn’t happen. I was immediately drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down. I ended up staying up most of the night to finish it. There was never a lull in the book. Every moment built upon the other. This book plays into Balogh’s strengths. The inner life of these people is slowly revealed. The characters are vivid and compelling.

I have nothing bad to say about it except that I think it is a better book for having read the others in the series first.

Highly recommend!

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five-stars

Review: Slightly Sinful

Review: Slightly SinfulSlightly Sinful (Bedwyn Saga, #5) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga #5
Published by Dell on April 27th 2004
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-stars

More Madcap Then Usual

SLIGHTLY SINFUL is the fifth book in the Bedwyn series. It is the story of Alleyne, the youngest son. The events in this book occur concurrently with those in SLIGHTLY TEMPTED. Alleyne is injured during the Battle of Waterloo. He is rescued by Rachel York, who find him unconscious and naked. Alleyne awakes with no memory of who he is. Rachel is a young woman who has fallen on hard times and is currently staying in a brothel with four prostitutes. Soon Alleyne is helping Rachel by masquerading as a newly married couple.

This is a story about who we are and what knowledge of the past makes us. Both Alleyne and Rachel are missing the truth about their pasts. The two fall in love while engaged in the fake marriage. This book is more madcap adventure than the others. Rachel and Alleyne travel with four prostitutes and a one-eyes former sergeant. Their deception, however, allows them to discover the truth. I really enjoyed this book. It was funny and poignant at the same time. The end of the book where Alleyne finally finds himself was so incredible that I forgot that the madcap adventure went on just a touch too long. I really like Alleyne and Rachel’s romance.

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four-stars

Review: Slightly Tempted

Review: Slightly TemptedSlightly Tempted (Bedwyn Saga #4) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga #4
Published by Dell on December 30th 2003
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Story of Revenge and Forgiveness

SLIGHTLY TEMPTED is the fourth novel in the Bedwyn series. It is the story of Morgan, the youngest Bedwyn sibling. In Brussels, she meets Gervese Ashford, the Earl of Rosthorn. The clever, smiling Gervese approaches Morgan at a ball and ends up wooing her. What Morgan doesn’t know is Gervese is seeking revenge against her brother, the Duke of Bewcastle because of events that lead to Gervese’s exile from England nine years ago. Because of the return of Napoleon, war is coming to the continent. Morgan and Gervese end up spending a week together where they become genuine friends. Once returning to England, Gervese’s desire for revenge and the events of 9 years ago threaten to tear the two apart.

The First part of this book is simply magnificent. It is beautiful and poignant. Gervese struggles with his desire for revenge and his feelings toward Morgan. Once they are back in England, I loved the scene where Morgan confronts Gervese with his perfidy. Although young, Morgan is strong and no one’s fool. I also very much enjoyed the idea expressed in this book that forgiveness is a conscious choice that can give peace.

I really enjoyed the scenes with the various Bedwyn siblings who I have become fond of in this series.

I would rate this one a 4.5.

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four-half-stars

Review: Slightly Scandalous

Review: Slightly ScandalousSlightly Scandalous (Bedwyn Saga #3) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga
Published by Dell on June 3rd 2003
Genres: Historical
Pages: 374
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Balogh Makes Me Like Freyja

SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS is the third book in the Bedwyn series. It is the story of the oldest Bedwyn sister Freyja. Readers of the prequels will have encountered Freyja as woman who was in love with Kit and had expected to marry him. Freyja was particularly nasty in that book and it was hard to imagine that she could be made into a sympathetic heroine. Balogh does a great job of giving the reader an understanding of Freyja’s character. Her brashness hides a soft heart.

She meets her match in Joshua Moore, Marquees of Hallmere. Joshua is a smiling, laughing rake who challenges Freyja and encourages her free spirit. The two end up in a fake engagement. Some readers may not like this old standard, but Balogh does particularly well with them because it allows the characters enough time and togetherness to really investigate their feelings for one another.

I really enjoy these slow developing relationships. Balogh does such a great job allowing the relationship to develop slowly and the characters change and grow.

Definitely worth a read. I’d rate it 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Slightly Wicked

Review: Slightly WickedSlightly Wicked (Bedwyn Saga #2) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga #2
Published by Dell on April 29th 2003
Genres: Historical
Pages: 342
Goodreads
four-stars

Classic Romance from Balogh

SLIGHTLY WICKED is the second book in the Berwyn series. It is the story of Rannulf Bedwyn and Judith Law. The two encounter one another while traveling to the same area. Judith is on her way to be a poor relation in her aunt and uncle’s house. She knows that she will have no future once there. Ralf is on his way to his grandmother’s house to be presented with a potential bride. The two end up spending two nights together in an inn. Both are shocked to encounter one another again at their destination.

This book was enjoyable. The beginning where Judith and Ralf meet was great. The book slows down in the middle while the two begin to feel their way towards love. Once Ralf figures out his feelings, the book picked up again. I thought the relationship between Ralf and Judith is different and interesting. Judith is a strong woman and while she is sometimes rescued by Ralf, she is never a damsel in distress.

For fans of the series, this book is a must. While the first book in the series is not necessary, it helps with the family dynamics to have read it and the prequels.

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four-stars

Review: Slightly Married

Review: Slightly MarriedSlightly Married (Bedwyn Saga, #1) by Mary Balogh
Series: Bedwyn Saga #1
Published by Dell Bantam Random House on April 1st 2003
Genres: Historical
Pages: 342
Goodreads
five-stars

Classic Marriage of Convenience Story

SLIGHTLY MARRIED is the first book in the Bedwyn series (although there are two prequel books ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE and A SUMMER TO REMEMBER). SLIGHTLY MARRIED is the story of Colonel Aiden Bedwyn, the second son in the Bedwyn family. When one of his soldier’s dies, Aiden makes a promise to care for the soldier’s sister. Eve Morris is in serious trouble with the death of her brother. She is about to be evicted from her home if she is not married in a week. Aiden offers Eve a marriage of convenience in order to satisfy his promise. Fate intervenes, however, and the two are constantly drawn back together.

I absolutely loved this book. Balogh has a wonderful way of allowing her characters to fall in love slowly. The emphasis in these stories is on the characters’ romantic journey. I love that part of her novels. I feel that at the end of the book, I understand these characters who are complex and multifaceted.

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five-stars