The Famous Heroine, by Mary Balogh

>> Friday, March 19, 2004

Still rereading, this time The Famous Heroine, by Mary Balogh.

When Lord Francis Kneller first sees Cora Downes, she is tripping over her own feet, shrieking, and laughing rather too loudly. His conclusion is that she is a frightful young lady. When Cora first sees Lord Francis, he is wearing a bright satin turquoise coat with silver and turquoise striped waistcoat and silver knee breeches and copious amounts of lace. She immediately thinks of peacocks. Cora has a habit of getting herself into dreadful scrapes, and Lord Francis always seems to be close enough to get her out of them--at the cost of compromising her once too often. Soon this ill-assorted pair is forced into a marriage neither of them has sought.
I haven't read many books by Balogh, but of the half dozen or so that I've read, The Famous Heroine is easily my favourite. An A.

I just loved the farcical feel of the book, very definitely not what I'd expected from Balogh, at least from what I'd heard and read. But in spite of the lightness of tone, the book didn't lack emotional power.

Francis and Cora were very definitely not the same old, same old. Francis, especially, was a delightful hero. Here's a guy who actually dresses like the dandified peacock most heros (all dressed plainly in black) feel so superior to, and he does it simply because he likes it and enjoys it. His character never loses any sense of masculinity for it. And Cora, clumsy and forthright, naive about the ton's rules and terrified of aristocrats, and with a wonderful sense of the absurd, was a delight.

The book shone in depicting their relationship, how they became friends and the way this friendship turned into love. This was done gradually, and believably, and succeeded in showing how these two people were perfect for each other. I especially enjoyed how Francis appreciated Cora's personality, quirks and all, and genuinely liked her and shared her sense of the absurd.

Oh, and for a Regency, this was a very sensual book. The love scenes were particularly explicit (only for a Regency, though), and the sensual tension was wonderfully done. Also, in the other Baloghs I've read the love scenes have never felt really good (there's a sense of awkwardness, usually), but that didn't happen here, and they flowed nicely.

I especially enjoyed the fact that the book focused completely on Francis and Cora's relationship.No suspense subplot whatsoever. These have become so common even in historical romances, that I treasure each and every one that I find that doesn't include this plot point and doesn't rely on soap-operaish melodrama to manufacture conflict. What this one did use was a "misunderstanding" plot, which is something I enjoy when it's an understandable mistake and played for laughs, as it was here. Cora thinking Francis was gay went on for a pretty long time, and yet it never felt old.

All in all, a beautiful comedy. This book inspires me to look for other similar Baloghs... do any more exist?


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