Slightly Married, by Mary Balogh (Bedwyns #1)

>> Friday, July 22, 2005

I started reading the Mary Balogh's Bedwyn series with book number 3, Slightly Scandalous, simply because the previous ones weren't here yet, and I wanted to get to Slightly Dangerous. Now that I finally did read that one, and that the rest of the books have arrived, I've gone right back to the beginning and started with Slightly Married (excerpt).

Like all the Bedwyn men, Colonel Lord Aidan Bedwyn has a reputation for cool arrogance. But he is also a man to whom honor is more important than any other personal attribute--and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought him to Ringwood Manor to keep his promise to a dying fellow officer. He has sworn to protect the man's sister no matter what--and it is a promise he intends to keep even when he finds that Miss Eve Morris wants no part of his protection and will not admit to even needing it.

Finally, when Eve is about to be turned out of her home with all her friends and dependents, Aidan makes her an offer she cannot refuse. It is intended to be a simple, straightforward business arrangement--a few days in each other's company and then a lifetime of happy independence apart. But they have reckoned without two powerful factors that conspire to wreck their plans--Aidan's elder brother, the Duke of Bewcastle, and their own unwilling attraction to each other.

And so days pass into weeks and take Aidan and Eve from Ringwood to London during the Season--and back again. Soon they begin to wonder if perhaps it will someday be possible to be more than just slightly married...
It's a very solid start to what has so far been a solid to brilliant series. A B+.

I think what I most appreciated here was the very gradual development of Aidan and Eve's relationship. There's no lust at first sight here, not even much attraction. Their first interactions are just perfect, two strangers having to deal with each other in situations that make them feel distinctly uncomfortable, especially once they get married.

And then, very, very slowly, as they are forced by proximity to start getting to know each other, attraction and plain liking start growing more and more, until you see that they are very obviously in love. I'm not a fan of Balogh's love scenes, because I think they're too often uncomfortable and awkward and clinica, but she uses this very thing wonderfully here. The first love scenes are uncomfortable and awkward (not clinical, though), but they become less so as the story advances, as Aidan and Eve stop being strangers and develop some real intimacy.

The characters themselves were pretty good. I especially liked Aidan, a man who never wanted to go to war but had to do so out of duty and hated it, but also a man who never played the victim for it. He's a dutiful man to a fault, a man who prizes his honor as a gentleman and always treats his wife kindly and considerately, even when she's a complete stranger and he doesn't particularly care for her.

Eve is pretty standard fare, sacrificing for the children and her servants who all have lurid pasts, but she was nicely intelligent and sensible, all the same. And hey, not a virgin, which was the most interesting thing about her. I especially liked what this last thing told us about Aidan, how he was perfectly fine with this and never judged her. And his jealousy when her first love appeared and when he understood what exactly had gone on between them, were very revealing, especially to himself.

Like all the other books in the series, this is one of those increasingly rare beasts: a historical romance without a suspense subplot. A military hero who's not hunting up spies, who would have thought! The plot is plenty interesting enough with other distractions. There was a certain thing that I knew would happen (the other books spoilt me), and I wasn't particularly looking forward to it, but it was mercifully short.

As the first book in the series, there was a lot of introduction to the rest of the characters going on, but since all the Bedwyn siblings are unmarried and childless at this point, the whole family is a bit less intrusive here. I especially liked that Bewcastle's interference wasn't out of some matchmaking instinct, which would have been completely out of character (and I would have hated it even it was in character), but out of wanting his family to do what they ought to do. Much more tolerable that way.

I'm missing only one book in the series now, Slightly Wicked. It doesn't sound like something I'd like, really, but I can't very well leave a series incomplete, can I?


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