Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh

If you devoured the decade-old tales of Tresh and Ferdie, the brothers formally known as Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham and Lord Ferdinand Dudley, you will be thrilled to hear that Mary Balogh has responded to fan requests by penning their sister’s story. And what a sister! Ready for her debut into society at 17, Angeline is forced to delay her come-out for one year to mourn her mother’s death, and she suffers a second year wait when she breaks her leg. Her brother refuses to let Angie make her curtsy to the Queen on crutches. Now 19, Angie is impatient to leave her sheltered existence in Acton Park for London’s marriage mart. Her ideal mate is not a dashing rakehell like her father and brothers. She wants an ordinary man who will value her and family life. He will be a refined gentleman, but one not drawn to gaming, duels and dandy clothing. He is what her brothers call “a dry, old stick,” that Balogh brings to life.

Angie herself has a tendre’ for bright colors, fancy hats and behavior not suited to a debutante; “. . . a large, wide-brimmed bonnet in varying shades of green and orange—and not subtle shades at that—laden with artificial fruit and flowers and ribbons and bows and Lord knew what other bells and whistles . . .” This is not the typical attire of a sniveling society miss. Angie rides in the rain on Rotten Row with Ferdie and his friends rather than simpering along in a lady-like carriage. She is a Dudley, after all, albeit a female.

Here lies Mary Balogh’s strength as an author. She takes Regency England seriously, but not too seriously. Humor is mixed with romance and intrigue in a satisfying blend, and the books are not uncomfortably sexy. A New York Times best-selling author known for her historical romances displaying wit and compelling characters, Balogh wrote the first two titles detailing the Dudley dynasty in 2000--More Than a Mistress and 2001--No Man’s Mistress. The Secret Mistress (2011) is actually a prequel to the other Mistress titles, and when I finished Angie’s story, I had to go back and reread Tresh and Ferdie’s books to see how the stories all fit together. The six books in her Slightly Series about the Bedwyn family, the Simply Quartet, and the five titles in the Huxtable Series are popular enough that many of her older series romances are being re-released. I enjoy the overlapping characters and interlocking stories as well as being carried away to a different era and continent. Here’s an interview with Balogh from Romantic Times. Light reading for sure, but just what I need for a breezy summer evening.

~Michelle, Adult Services

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