Slightly Married, by Mary Balogh

29 Jan

Slightly Married, by Mary Balogh

As many of you know, I’ve been introducing (gently, I hope :grin: ) my significant other to all and sundry subgenres of romance. Given that he has always been an avid and discerning reader in many genres (the man owns and has read repeatedly multiple copies of Shakespeare’s complete works and Good Omens, as well as Pratchett, Gaiman, Asimov, Heinlein and many more), I have taken pains to chose the better writers and novels in each subgenre.

So far, he tells me I’ve succeeded.

*pause for cheers* Yes, little ones, we will convert every other person to romance *evil cackle in background*

Occasionally, though, there’s a dud.

Not a complete dud, mind you-just not quite a mark on the plus column.

With some sadness, I must write Ms Balogh’s Slightly Married on the “not plus” side of our ledger.

This was his introduction to Ms Balogh’s work. It is also the first of six connected novels about the Bedwyn siblings, and introduces to a new reader many characters from both previous and successive novels. Seeing how we are both a tad obsessive erm… strict about reading series in order, it made sense to start him with it, even though it’s neither my favorite nor a particularly strong installment in the sextet.

Here is the melodramatic as usual back cover blurb:

Like all the Bedwyn men, Aidan has a reputation for cool arrogance. But this proud nobleman also possesses a loyal, passionate heart-and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought Colonel Lord Aidan to Ringwood Manor to honor a dying soldier’s request. Having promised to comfort and protect the man’s sister, Aidan never expected to find a headstrong, fiercely independent woman who wants no part of his protection… nor did he expect the feelings this beguiling creature would ignite in his guarded heart. And when a relative threatens to turn Eve out of her home, Aidan gallantly makes her an offer she can’t refuse: marry him…if only to save her home. And now, as all of London breathlessly awaits the transformation of the new Lady Aidan Bedwyn, the strangest thing happens: With one touch, one searing embrace, Aidan and Eve’s “business arrangement” is about to be transformed…into something slightly surprising.

*sigh*

Where to begin with all the errors there?

We are introduced to Aidan in a scene set in a battlefield, during the aftermath of a particularly vicious clash between British and Napoleonic forces. A fallen fellow officer lies dying, and as Aidan tries to offer comfort, he is asked to fulfill a debt of honor by offering his protection to the other man’s sister, Eve Morris.

Eve has been raised as a lady even though she has not the slimmest claim to gentility by birth (we are told a little too often, by almost every other character in the book, that she is *collective gasp of shock and outrage* a coal miner’s daughter!!!!) (Can you tell the repetition grew tiresome well before the half point in the novel was reached?). Her station-grasping father spent various years trying to prod Eve into making a socially advantageous marriage, with no success. Not liking having his ambitions so thwarted, his will stipulates that, unless she marries within a year of his death, Eve will lose her home-and indeed, all of her income!

Both Aidan and Eve believe themselves to be supremely unsuitable for each other, but circumstances and honor force their hands, and so the basis for a marriage of convenience-not a business arrangement, dammit!-is laid down for both the main characters and the reader.

The newlyweds are determined not to bind the other to them more than strictly necessary (and here we have the “in name only” marriage trope, yay!)  and so Aidan leaves Eve and all the members of her extended family at Ringwood Manor while he returns to London, determined to keep his marriage a secret from everyone, up to and including his many siblings.

Obviously this is not how things develop, and as a result all sorts of hijinks ensue-starting with the arrogant intervention of Aidan’s eldest brother, the Duke of Bewcastle. (Who, by the way, we both loved to hate from his first to his last appearance.) Toss in a nefarious cousin, would-be heir to Eve’s father’s fortune had Aidan not oh so gallantly rescued her, and you have a very nice set of characters and plot threads, which are for the most part carried off quite well indeed.

So what was our issue with this novel, you ask?

Mostly Eve’s and Aidan’s so tiresome insistence-which carried on well beyond what was reasonable and sensible under any light-that they would part ways as soon as this crisis and that crisis, and oh that other crisis, was taken care of. Particularly because neither of them could think of a good reason why going their own way was necessary or even logical.

There was also the matter of repetition (the “coal miner’s daughter” bit is one among several) and-though this bothered my s.o. more than it did me, I confess-the lengthy and winding sentences. This aspect of the writing didn’t bother me the first couple of times I read this novel, because I do it myself and I think in convoluted ways. However, as we were reading the novel out loud, it became clear that it made for awkward pauses and the occasional, “ack! Let me try that again!”

Slightly Married is a nice story nonetheless, with some truly great characters. It gets 7.5 out of 10 from me.

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  1. Slightly Dangerous, by Mary Balogh | Her Hands, My Hands - 04/01/2012

    […] my recent review of Slightly Married I alluded to my favorite novel in that six-book series-Slightly Dangerous, the last title of the […]

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