The Temporary Wife, by Mary Balogh

>> Friday, November 19, 2004

After reading Nonnie St. George's lovely Desert Isle Keeper review of Mary Balogh's The Temporary Wife at All About Romance, I was dying to read it. It was very, very hard to find, though, so I resigned myself to wait for years, if necessary.

Imagine my surprise, then, when saw it in my last batch of books I got from the US. I'd been arranging a trade with someone and had had to choose a book as filler, so that we came out even. So I chose The Temporary Wife as filler, LOL!

The Marquess of Staunton cold-bloodedly advertises for a governess for his non-existent children, chooses the plainest and dullest applicant, and offers her marriage. His only motive is to anger his estranged father, who has chosen a different bride for him. After he has presented her to his family, he plans to establish her somewhere with a great deal of money and never see her again.

Charity Duncan agrees to the strange bargain because she is desperate for money to help support her brothers and sisters. But when she meets his family and recognizes the pain behind the estrangement, her warm heart cannot remain aloof. And when Staunton realizes that his temporary wife is in fact neither plain nor dull, his cold heart stirs to new life.
Well, it was and excellent book, but not quite as good as I was hoping for, after such a glowing review. Still, it was quite good, I can't really complain, a B.

I found Charity and Anthony's relationship fascinating, the way Balogh so gradually showed the increasing intimacy and fondness for each other. What was especially interesting was that they were physically intimate almost immediately, but real emotional intimacy took much longer to achieve. I actually enjoyed how Anthony was so reluctant to get involved with Charity, even physically, but simply couldn't help himself. It was as if he was blocking what he really wanted from his conscious brain, but these needs kept escaping the lid he had put on them.

The book was as much about Charity and Anthony as about them (especially Anthony) and his family. It was very satisfying to see the barriers between Anthony and his brothers and sisters fall. There had been some heart-breaking miscommunication there, and some very difficult conversations were needed. Balogh did the way they danced around each other wonderfully.

However, one of my problems with the book came right here in this area. While I was cheering all the way at Anthony's rapprochement with his siblings, I wasn't so happy about his father. The thing is, I just didn't find the duke worthy of forgiveness. Ok, I understand that Anthony's memories of his father's treatment of his mother were only her side of the story, and she wasn't blameless there, either. So it's fine to me that that's forgiven and forgotten.

What I can't forgive, however, was the way he treated Anthony. I may be too rooted in the 21st century to be able to judge the situation as it would have been at that time, but to me, he was an abusive father. There was simply no excuse for the way he treated Anthony, not for the way he constantly physically "disciplined" him and never showed him any love as he was growing up, not for the duke's reactions on the episode that ended with Anthony leaving for good. That final big scene left a bad taste in my mouth.

I also had a bit of a problem with Charity, who was sometimes tedious and a bit of a martyr. I applaud her for accepting Anthony's offer. She had a lot to win and little to lose there. But why the need to saddle her with a motivation which includes her sacrificing because "my brother should be able to live the life of a gentleman of leisure. He shouldn't need to work!" Er, just why exactly? I find this type of thing very tiresome. And her final stunt was TSTL.

Still, apart from these problems, I liked the rest of the book quite well.


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