Title: Simply Love
Author: Mary Balogh
Published: 2006, Dell
Category: Historical Romance
This is the second book in Balogh’s “Simply” series. I almost didn’t buy it because I thought the first one (Simply Unforgettable) was kind of meh, but then this mass market edition came out and it was just so pretty I had to buy.
The series centers on the four teachers of Miss Martin’s School for Girls in Bath. Anne Jewell has been working there for several years---she was of noble birth, but her respectability was ruined when she became an unwed mother. Her family gave her no support at all, and so she has raised her son, David, all by herself. Joshua, Marquess of Hallmere (who was the hero of one of the Bedwyn prequels, but don’t ask me which because I can never remember), feels some responsibility for Anne and David because he was the cousin of David’s rat of a father (who is now dead). Joshua invites Anne and David to spend a month in Wales with all the rest of the Bedwyn family, and Anne decides that David needs some male role models, so she agrees to go even though she feels like it must be an imposition.
Sydnam Butler is also not looking forward to that month. Sydnam is the Duke of Bewcastle’s steward at Glandwr, where the reunion is to take place. He was captured and tortured during the Napoleonic wars and is now horribly disfigured---scarring covers the entire right side of his face and body, and he is missing his right arm. Anne and Sydnam are the only two unmarried people included in the house party, so they end up spending quite a bit of time together. They find it amazingly easy to talk to each other, they become friends, and after admitting that they are both lonely, they decide to consummate their friendship even though they have no plans to pursue a long-term relationship. Anne leaves Wales thinking that she will never see Sydnam again.
Okay, as I recall, a lot of people were bored to tears by this book, but I LOVED IT. Mary Balogh has become an author I can depend on to give me a comfort read, and this is one of the most comforting yet. It was so lovely and sweet, a little sad, but then completely happy. And it made me so cozy. It was just nice. Nice, nice, nice and exactly what I needed last week.
Anne and Sydnam’s relationship is so wonderfully complex and mature. They are both “untouchables”---Anne not only because she is an unwed mother, but also because she was raped, and Sydnam because his disabilities. And it is real deformity; so often romance writers do a disfigured hero but don’t actually want him to be repulsive, so they make him “strangely” attractive or something. Sydnam is horribly deformed; Anne actually runs from him when they first meet because she is startled and frightened by him. He’s pretty much given up on the idea that any woman would ever want to be intimate with him. And when he and Anne sleep together, she cringes from the act because she is remembering her rape, but he thinks that she is cringing because he is ugly. SOB!! I adored it. They are friends first, and their early conversations I found completely delightful.
Another problem people had with this book is all the Bedwyn cameos, and I can see their point. It was constant barrage Lord Whosit, Earl of Whatever and his wife Whatshername. I’ve read (and liked) all the Bedwyn books and I still can’t keep it all straight. But I just let the names roll over me, so it didn’t really bother me.
This is sort of long, but I have to mention the Welsh setting---so lovely! Balogh grew up in Wales, and her love of the area certainly shows here.
The third book in the series, Simply Magic, is out but I WILL NOT buy it. NO! (I’m trying to convince myself here.) It’s in hardcover, and I’ve been spending way too much on books lately. I will get it from the library. :)