Dark Angel, by Mary Balogh

>> Wednesday, May 09, 2007

TITLE: Dark Angel
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh

PAGES: 219
SETTING: Regency England
TYPE: Trad Regency romance
SERIES: First in a quartet that includes some of my favourite Baloghs: # 2 is Lord Carew's Bride, # 3 is The Famous Heroine and # 4 is The Plumed Bonnet.

REASON FOR READING: Well, it's Balogh, and I'd read anything by her. But this particular title came to my attention when I saw the review at DearAuthor. It was kind of HTF and expensive, so my friend M.I. helped me buy it for my birthday.

Miss Jennifer Winwood was engaged to be wed. Even better, her husband-to-be was the dazzlingly handsome, impeccably upright Lord Lionel Kersey, the man of her dreams since girlhood.But Jennifer had never dreamed that a man like the Earl of Thornhill could possible attract her - or even want to.

Why should this disreputable rake whose very name sent shock waves through society use all his will and wiles to seduce an innocent like Jennifer? And how could Jennifer forget her flawless fiancé when she found herself in the arms of this licentious lord who was everything that a proper young lady should despise? Jennifer had a great deal to learn about men... about herself... and most of all about when love was true and when it was a lie...
SHORT (HOPEFULLY!) PLOT SUMMARY: Jennifer Winwood is in London for her Season, but she doesn't have to worry about finding a husband. She's been informally engaged to the swoonworthy Lord Lionel Kersey for years, an arrangement that is officialized as soon as she arrives in London.

Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, doesn't interest Jennifer in the least. He might be attractive, and she might be spending more time with the scandalous man than she should (mostly because it annoys her that people order her not to), but the man just can't compare to Kersey. Well, that's what Jennifer insists.

What she doesn't know is that Gabriel's pursuit of her is really an attempt to get back at Kersey, the man who impregnated Gabriel's mother-in-law and left him to take the blame, with the ensuing hit to his reputation. Or at least, his pursuit started that way...

MY THOUGHTS: This was well worth the investment, and an excellent birthday present. Balogh was just soooooo good at writing angst in her older Regencies, and this one's a great example of that.

DA is basically a story about two men playing games, trying to score points off each other, and of a woman getting caught in the middle. It's a game Kersey gets very close to winning, simply because he doesn't have a conscience to contend with, unlike Gabriel, who really suffers when he realizes what his need to get some revenge has done to Jennifer.

At first, I wasn't completely sure this was going to work. With revenge plots, romance writers can step onto unstable ground. Is using an innocent to get revenge on someone else justified? I don't think so, which means many revenge plots completely fail for me.

In Gabriel's case, however, I didn't get the feel of a ruthless man, willing to destroy anyone if it helped him get his revenge on Kersey. His sin, rather, was failing to consider Jennifer's feelings and being a bit blind to some of the unintended consequences of his actions.

He tries to justify what he's doing by telling himself that Jennifer will actually be better off if she doesn't marry Kersey, who'll obviously make her suffer. He is right, but he doesn't consider a lot of things. He doesn't take into account that being an unmarried young woman in the middle of a scandal is not fun and games. He also doesn't think of the turmoil he'll be putting this woman through, by luring her into being attracted to someone other than the man she thinks she loves (remember: at first he didn't intend to have anything to do with her after she'd broken her engagement to Kersey). He just fails to see that Jennifer is a real person and that his actions will have a very real effect on her.

But when finally did really see what effect his actions had had on Jennifer, oh, wow. This is when the book got really, really good. By then, it's not just a matter of feeling guilty; he's also unwillingly fallen in love with her, and is convinced that what he's done has lost him any chance he had to have a real marriage with Jennifer, so all he can do is try to make it up to her, even if this means putting his feelings aside. Ah, the angst! *g*

I haven't talked much about Jennifer, but she's an interesting character, too. I loved how Balogh wrote her increasing doubts, and how it was clear that she was feeling them, even as she staunchly denied this even to herself. Jennifer is quite a smart woman, but innocent, so I didn't blame her for not seeing through Gabriel's traps.

NOTES: There's a secondary storyline which features Jennifer's cousin Samantha, who accompanies her to London and becomes yet another of Kersey's victims. This subplot actually continues in the next book, Lord Carew's Bride.

MY GRADE: It didn't have that undefinable "something" that puts a book into 'A' territory, but still a very solid B+.


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