>> Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Slightly Scandalous, my introduction to Mary Balogh's Bedwyn sextet, was so great that I just couldn't wait to start the other one I had. Slightly Tempted (excerpt is the very next in the series, book 4.
Lady Morgan Bedwyn is in Brussels soon after making her come-out in London. She is staying with friends in the busy, exciting, tension-filled days before the Battle of Waterloo. Half the fashionable world is there too as well as the massed armies. And Gervase Ashford, Earl of Rosthorn, has come there from Vienna after nine years of exile from Britain following a nasty scandal involving a woman who accused him of ravishing her, and a stolen heirloom.Slightly Tempted was just as good. A B+.
Gervase's tastes do not usually run to very young women. But Lady Morgan, whom he first sees at a ball, is extraordinarily beautiful and holds his admiring attention for a minute or two. But it would have been only for a minute or two--if, that is, the friend with whom he has come to the ball had not mentioned her name. Bedwyn--it is like the proverbial red flag to the bull. It is a name Gervase has hated for nine long years, for he blames Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, for all his woes.
Now he is in the same room as the young sister of the Duke of Bewcastle, and he feels the distinct stirrings of a slight temptation to use her in order to wreak his revenge at long last on the icy, heartless duke.
Morgan, of course, is both young and innocent. But she is a Bedwyn to the very core, and in the course of the tumultuous relationship that develops between her and the Earl of Rosthorn, she soon makes it very clear that she is nobody's pawn.
Far from it!
As soon as she understands his intentions, she sets about turning the tables on the cynical, calculating earl. Two can play at the game of revenge--and Morgan has always played to win.
This book had me enjoying a few things I don't generally like. For starters, I prefer books in which there isn't a great age difference between the hero and heroine, and if there is, I tend to prefer that at least the heroine is in her mid-twenties. The fact that I didn't mind the age difference in this book, with Morgan being 18 and Gervase 30, only goes to show that the problem isn't the plot device so much as what the author does with it.
Balogh made the age difference an issue. Morgan's age wasn't just an unimportant detail, one I could ignore and simply imagine her as being 5 years older, as I often do whenever I come across a situation like this one. So why did this work anyway? Basically because it wasn't used to bang the reader on the head with how pure and innocent and virginal Morgan was, and how Gervase finds himself so attracted to this. Quite the opposite. Gervase is attracted to Morgan in spite of her young age. In fact, her being so young would have prevented him from even approaching her at first, if there hadn't been his past history with the Bedwyns to consider. He's attracted to the mature, intelligent woman that Morgan is in spite of her age.
And then there's the revenge plot. Heroes who'll happily hurt an innocent only to get back at someone they bear a grudge against are not, IMO, all that heroic. And Gervase definitely intended to use Morgan to hurt her brother Wulfric, even if this meant Morgan got hurt, too. He feels badly about this almost from the beginning, as soon as he realizes the kind of person Morgan is, but he holds on to this revenge plot for a long time.
Or does he? I liked this because after a while, Gervase's motivations become ambiguous. Is he still approaching Morgan to get revenge or because he wants her for himself? Even he isn't completely sure if he's not using the former as an excuse to be able to do the latter.
Slightly Tempted has two very distinct halfs, and I enjoyed each just as well. The first takes place in Brussels, in the days of the battle of Waterloo. We get a fascinating glimpse of the life behind the front lines. Gervase isn't a military man, so he's not involved in the actual battle (neither is Morgan, of course!), but both are in Brussels during the battle and right afterwards, so you get a clear picture of what was going on, and it's something I haven't seen before in a romance novel.
Then, a few days after the battle is over both Gervase and Morgan return to England, and this part has a very different feel from the first. The setting's more familiar, but the actual story is not... not the tug of war with Wulfric, who refuses to even consider the possibility of allowing his sister to have any contact with Gervase, not Morgan's reaction when she finds out why Gervase sought her out... I lapped it all up.
I am immediately starting Slightly Sinful, in preparation for the arrival of Slightly Dangerous!