Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slightly Married by Mary Balogh

Ah, the old "marriage of convenience." No stranger to romances, this particular plotline is resurrected here, although it never feels stale in Mary Balogh's capable hands. Colonel Lord Aidan Bedwyn has promised a dying soldier that he will inform his sister, Eve, of his death and protect her "no matter what." The soldier dies before he can clarify this statement. Bedwyn, a powerful and "granite-faced" man is a man of honor, so he visits Eve to relay the sad news. While visiting, he learns that proud, independent Eve is about to be turned out of her house, along with everyone else who resides there, due to the terms of her father's will. However, if she were to marry within the allotted time period left, the estate remains hers. Bedwyn makes Eve an offer she cannot refuse.

The two agree to marry and stay physically together long enough to ensure the estate stays in Eve's hands, then live their separate lives while remaining married in the eyes of the law. Although both had others in mind for matrimony, they both realize this is the only way to save Eve's home and all the people she has taken in there. They travel to London to perform the private, quiet ceremony.

Following the ceremony, Eve and Bedwyn spend the day sightseeing - she begins to see another side of him, and truly enjoys the time she spends with him. Hidden beneath his stoic nature is a kind heart and a subtle sense of humor. They travel back to her estate, where they both thoroughly enjoy turning her cousin away as he comes to claim the estate for his own, and attend an impromptu wedding reception thrown in their honor. Following this, they part forever, or so they think.

Although they are living separate lives, the two think often and fondly of one another, as well as the others they had thought to marry, but now never will. When Aidan's brother, the Duke of Bewcastle, learns that Aidan is married, he forces Aidan to claim her and present her to society in London, despite Aidan and Eve's wish to remain on the downlow. Eve, of course, is up to the challenge despite her obvious lack of aristocratic heritage. What will become of this "marriage of convenience?" Will Eve and Aidan ever be true marriage partners? Will they live happily ever after?

This is a fine example of Regency romance, with the requisite happy ending, so there are no surprises here. The characters are well drawn, the book zips along at a nice pace, and it all culminates in a satisfying conclusion. This is a good, solid, historical romance, sure to appeal to the romantic in all of us!

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