>> Monday, December 26, 2005
The Forbidden Daffodils is a short story by Mary Balogh, published in the Blossoms anthology.
Kate Buchanan was ruined when she was 18. After a disastrous elopement and being rescued by the Marquess of Ashendon, she refused to marry her rescuer, even though they'd spent two nights on the road together and everyone knew about it. Her father, angry at her defiance, condemns her to live the rest of her life in exile in a remote Welsh village.
Five years later, Kate has resigned herself to her new life, and is actually at peace and as happy as she can be, considering the circumstances. But who should arrive to perturb her contentment but Ashendon himself, who still seems to be so determined to do his duty that he keeps proposing to her, no matter how much she protests she hates him?
I really loved this story, it was an A- for me. It actually reminded me a bit of Slightly Dangerous, with a hero who has trouble showing that there are, indeed, very strong feelings behind his cold, seemingly impassive façade, and a heroine who has strong feelings for him, but rejects him because she doesn't want to spend her life with someone who doesn't return them.
It's a big misunderstanding story, but it works just fine because it was a perfectly believable one. It was one that was driven by the characters' personalities, not by the needs of the plot, and it made for a particularly poignant read. Ashendon is just so, so wonderful. Those scenes from his point of view, in which you really see his vulnerability, were amazing and had me almost crying.
At 70 pages, the story was the perfect length, too. A bit longer, and Kate would probably have begun to grate, but as it is, it was almost perfect. The only slightly false step was the revelations about what really happened that night 5 years before (Kate's "reasons"). That was an unnecessary whitewash of the heroine; I would have prefered the version that made her a more imperfect character. Still, that was a small thing, and it didn't make me love the story any less.
Googling this story gives me the impression it's something of a buried treasure. There just isn't much about it (or the rest of the stories in the anthology) online. Actually, the only thing I was able to find was a post by Alyssa, who listed it among her top 100 romances. I'd agree!
The rest of the stories, in case anyone's interested, are: A Golden Crocus, by Patricia Rice, Hyacinths for Victoria, by Patricia Oliver, The Apple Blossom Bower, by Margaret Evans Porter and Violets are Blue, by Karen Harper. I made a half-hearted attempt to read them, but I stopped after a few pages of A Golden Crocus because I just wasn't interested, and since I borrowed the book from a friend, I felt no obligation to finish it. Unless someone tells me one or more of the stories are truly wonderful, I'll just return this to my friend with only the Balogh story read.