Simply Unforgettable, by Mary Balogh

>> Monday, December 12, 2005

Simply Unforgettable, by Mary Balogh is slightly related to the Slightly series (heh!), and especially to Slightly Scandalous, Freyja's book.

If you remember, in that book there's a certain Miss Martin, who Freyja remembers as one of the governesses she made quit by being a brat. In Scandalous, Freyja finds out the school Miss Martin has established near Bath is struggling, so, feeling guilty for her behaviour (and favourably remembering Miss Martin's dignity in quitting -not accepting further help from Wulf, for instance), she becomes an anonymous benefactor to the school. Also, later in Scandalous, Freyja sends Anna Jewell, a friend of Josh's who's been ostracized because she has an illegitimate son, to be a teacher at the school.

Anyway, this new series focuses on four teachers at the school, including Claudia Martin herself, whose book is supposed to be the last in the series. The second will be about Anna Jewell, and the other two, books 1 and 3, star heroines we haven't previously met (though we did meet the hero from book 3 in A Summer to Remember).

With this, the first in a dazzling new quartet of novels, Balogh invites us into a special world–a select academy for young ladies–a world of innocence and temptation. Drawing us into the lives of four women, teachers at Miss Martin’s School for Girls, Balogh introduces this novel’s marvelous heroine: music teacher Frances Allard–and the man who seduces her with a passion no woman could possibly forget.…

They meet in a ferocious snowstorm. She is a young teacher with a secret past. He is the cool, black-caped stranger who unexpectedly comes to her rescue. Between these two unlikely strangers, desire is instantaneous…and utterly impossible to resist. Stranded together in a rustic country inn, Lucius Marshall, who is the Viscount Sinclair, and Frances Allard share a night of glorious, unforgettable passion. But Frances knows her place–and it is far from the privileged world of the sensual aristocrat. Due to begin her teaching position at Miss Martin’s School in Bath, Frances must try to forget that one extraordinary night–and the man who touched her with such exquisite tenderness and abandon.

But Frances cannot hide forever. And when fate once again throws them together, Lucius refuses to take no for an answer. If Frances will not be his wife, he will make her his mistress. So begins an odyssey fraught with intrigue, one that defies propriety and shocks the straitlaced ton. For Lucius’s passionate, single-minded pursuit is about to force Frances to give up all her secrets–except one–to win the heart of the man she already loves.z   
After reading the wonderful, wonderful Slightly Dangerous I tried not to raise my hopes up too high for the following book. No way Balogh could write two so amazing books in a row! Well, I did like Simply Unforgettable a teeny bit less than Dangerous, but not much. It was an A- for me.

What is it with Balogh and and those "stranded by some kind of storm and seeking comfort from each other" storylines? And what is it with me for enjoying them so much? That's exactly how this one starts. Teacher Frances Allard is on her way home to the school from a Christmas visit to her aunts, when she's caught by a big snowstorm on the road. Driving conditions become dangerous, and they are not improved by the behaviour of a certain gentleman's coach, whose driver has a quite daring driving style. After her carriage falls into a ditch, and realizing it's just not safe to keep driving, Frances and the gentleman, Lucius Marshall, and their respective drivers and grooms decide to take shelter in a nearby inn, empty but for its caretaker.

Frances and Lucius' relationship doesn't start out well. She thinks he's an arrogant ass, he thinks she's a sour shrew. But as they get to know each other, being stuck together for a few day (not much else to do in an empty inn!), their impressions of each other start changing, and a strong attraction develops.

Before long, they've given in to that attraction, and when the time comes to go back on their ways, there is more than a little reluctance to part, on both parts. Lucius is more than willing to continue their relationship (actually, he's quite eager to do that), but Frances refuses to be his mistress. She's got a job she enjoys, one that is secure and that gives her quite a comfortable life, surrounded by people she likes and who like her. She sees no reason to chuck all that for, at most, a couple of years with a man she will probably fall in love with, a man who will never love her back.

So Lucius and Frances separate, but before long, circumstances conspire to make them meet again, and now Lucius is determined that he will have a relationship with Frances, whether it's marriage or something else.

I just loved seeing these two interact. Strangely enough, I especially enjoyed the way Lucius plotted and manipulated and arranged things to get himself and Frances together more and more often. I'm not usually too fond of arrogant, manipulative heroes, but with Lucius, I could just see his desperation because he saw no other way to have a chance to woo the woman he soon knew he was in love with. And he miscalculates more than a few times. Frances doesn't react very positively to his scheming, and this makes for some very emotional and memorable scenes.

I also liked the way the issue of Frances's suitability as a viscount's bride was dealt with. The romantic in me sighed at how Lucius decided she was the woman for him and hang all expectations! But I liked that he realized that for Frances, it was important that he didn't have a falling out with his family because of it, because she recognized that his family was so very important to him. The way this was solved was wonderful. Oh, that last scene at the school!

And kudos to Balogh for her characterization of Portia, the woman all Lucius' family expects him to marry. She's a very real character, neither angel nor demon, just a woman who's not right for Lucius, and just irritating enough for me not to feel overly sorry for!

A truly beautiful book. I can't really point out any flaws. The only thing even approaching a problem was Lucius' name, and that was probably just me. Instead of Lucius Marshall, I kept calling him Lucius Malfoy in my head, and I'm not someone who has a crush on that particular fictional character. In fact, I can't understand how people can have a crush on him! He's not a misunderstood, endearing villain, he's a vicious bigot -nothing endearing about that!

Err, sorry, I disgress. I'll just close this by saying I loved this one so much I'm seriously considering ordering the next one in HC, and never mind the astronomical shipping costs of having it sent to Uruguay!


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