The Ungrateful Governess, by Mary Balogh

>> Friday, August 26, 2005

This one's for JanetW, who wanted me to write about The Ungrateful Governess, by Mary Balogh ;-)

The Earl of Rutherford was handsome, charming, rich, generous, and as adept at giving pleasure as he was avid in pursuing it. No wonder, then, that when he marked Miss Jessica Moore as the latest in his endless string of conquests, the irresistible earl expected a swift and most satisfying triumph. How could a mere governess, no matter how lovely and spirited, stand up to the attractiveness of his person and power of his purse?

He soon found out... as this young lady with too much pride to surrender to her rising passion set out to teach the earl a lesson in manners... even as he used every means at his considerable command to teach her a lesson in love.
Well, Janet, you were right! It's a great book. I'd give it a B+.

I really loved what Balogh did with the hero. The man was insufferable in the first sections, maybe very much a man of his times, but a smug, condescending, narrow-minded fool. Obviously, this is the way he looked like to my undeniably modern eye. I was outraged (though not surprised), by certain of his attitudes... the way he considered female servants were fair game ("[he] considered himself something of an expert on female servants" Yuck!), the way he seemed to feel contact with Jess would somehow contaminate his female relatives, even though he was the only one to do any compromising to her... intolerable!

So why did I love the book?

First, because he was called on the attitudes I despised.

"Your assumption that my impoverished background makes me therefore a woman of loose and low morals says a great deal about your own morality".

His own grandmother:
"If Hope has not already been contaminated by contact with you," the duchess said soothingly, "I doubt she will be by Jessica, Charles. After all, you have been whoring for ten years and more." Ha! Good one!

Second, because Jess never gave way until Charles had thoroughly renounced all such attitudes. Even if she did physically want him from the very beginning, and even if she was soon in love with him, she remained firm, and refused to say yes to him until she was sure she was going into the marriage in her own terms.

Third (and here the bloodthirsty sadist in me comes out), Charles was seriously punished and, as a result, grew into a much better person. He suffered for his mistakes and had to pretty much humiliate himself to atone for his insults to Jess in the first part of the book. I absolutely adored all those scenes in which he'd propose and Jess would refuse him, because until the very end, he deserved it.

He really was a different person by the end of the book. I was a bit doubtful at the beginning because I just couldn't see how he could ever become a person I'd be happy for Jess to end up with... for instance, I thought, no way this guy is going to be faithful to a wife! But there was no doubt he was such a person in the end.

The only reason I'm not grading this an A- is because I found the initial setup much too hard to believe. Considering Jess' relationship with her grandfather, I find it impossible to believe that any sane person would seriously consider embarking on such a "career" as being a mistress, when her moral code obviously considered it something really bad, when she had such an easy alternative. Preferring to be a governess to keep her pride, that might believable. Choosing to go into Charles' bed, not really.

Other than that, a wonderful book. Even loving her new books as I do, I do understand why people are so crazy about Balogh's old Regencies!


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