Title: Simply Perfect
Author: Mary Balogh
Published: 2008, Delacort
Category: Historical Romance
This is fourth and last in Balogh's Simply series. Balogh is comfort reading for me--I know I'm going to get a very nice story filled with very nice characters and everything will turn out very nicely in the end. ;) So even though I haven't loved this series, I still enjoyed Simply Perfect.
Claudia Martin has run a school for girls in Bath for over a decade. She has been content there, ruling over the roost with a firm, yet kind, hand. So when Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, offers her a ride to London and makes himself charming and attentive, she tries very hard not to fall for him. At 33 she considers herself firmly on the shelf, and she appreciates the independence of her current life. But as the two become closer friends, they both realize that they're falling in love. But Joseph must do as society expects and marry within his own class, even as he discovers that his fiance, Miss Hunt, is one cold fish.
This story is definitely not new--really this is almost the exact same plot as at least two of the other Simply books. But it's told well. It may be too sugary sweet for some readers, but I liked it anyway. Balogh somehow manages to satisfy my need for sweet romance without making me want to puke--it's a fine line and she's always on the right side. :p
That said, Claudia definitely isn't my favorite Balogh heroine--she's supposed to be very no-nonsense and stern, but she seemed to act a bit out of character at times. I guess the point is that underneath her hard shell there beats a soft, soft heart, but I would have appreciated a bit more teeth to her. And I didn't think Joseph was a very good match for her--he's easygoing and jolly, and I was just never convinced that he would appreciate Claudia's good qualities enough to fall in love with her.
My favorite part by far was how Claudia helped Joseph with his big problem (I am being intentionally vague here because I don't want to give it away). Claudia's desire to help did seem very in character--she saw it as a challenge, and her kindness made it impossible for her not to do everything she could. It was just ... nice. ;)