The Suitor, by Mary Balogh

>> Saturday, August 17, 2013

TITLE: The Suitor
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh


SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Part of the Survivor's Club series, prequel to The Arrangement

Mary Balogh’s charming and warm-hearted eBook original short story is a testament to the steadfast devotion of true love, as a young miss on the marriage mart cleverly plots to claim her one and only.

If circumstances were different, Philippa Dean would be happy to fall in love with Viscount Darleigh. He is certainly the perfect gentleman and everything her parents want: titled, handsome, respectable. His blindness only reinforces his quiet power and strength. But Philippa does not love him. Her heart is already taken and there is only one thing she can do: Thwart the matchmaking plans.

Julian Crabbe is desperate to rescue the woman he fell in love with two years ago. Then, he was a reckless cub, justly earning Philippa’s parents’ scorn. Now, he is every inch a respectable suitor and determined to prove it before it is too late. Intrude on the viscount’s house party? Gladly. Interrupt the match of the season? Happily. For nothing can stop the power of a love that will not be denied.
This is a short story (about 60 pages, according to amazon) tied to the upcoming The Arrangement, the second book in the Survivor's Club series. The hero of that book is Vincent, Viscount Darleigh and The Suitor tells the story of Philippa Dean, the young woman whom his family try to match him with (unsuccessfully, of course).

Philippa is no more interested than Darleigh in the match. She's in love with someone else, a man she met two years earlier, and with whom she has been corresponding secretly ever since. Julian's kept out of the way all this time, trying to make himself into someone Philippa's parents would approve of (the first impression was terrible), but at the very time he's ready to come back to London to court her, Philippa's parents have decided Darleigh would be a great match.

I'm afraid this was one of the the worst Balogh stories I've ever read. She's usually great at short stories (her Christmas anthology stories are particular favourites), but this was boring, pointless, romance-free and a bit creepy.

There was no real conflict. Balogh half-heartedly tried to create some sense of risk by making the case that oh, no, if Darleigh proposed Philippa would have to accept, because it would be such a brilliant match! It would allow her to launch her sisters in style! Bollocks. Her parents love her and want her to be happy, and Julian is a perfectly good prospect. He's got money, and although he had a reputation as a terrible rake when they first met, he's been completely respectable and sober ever since. Philippa's parents might have been a bit disappointed if she told them she'd decided she and Darleigh wouldn't suit, but they really didn't seem the types to apply any real pleasure. They might have been a bit miffed for a few weeks, right until Julian started courting her. But instead of just doing that, Philippa plays games with Darleigh, in a way I (and actually, her) thought was pretty cruel. She didn't acquit herself well.

Julian seems like an ok guy, but he's pretty non-existent here. All we really know about him is that he fell violently in love with Philippa 2 years ago, and that it was such strong love that it inspired him to change his life completely. My only problem with that was that the Philippa he fell in love with was a 16 year old and, as he himself says, he's been waiting for her to grow up. Sorry, but that's just creepy. Yes, this is the 19th century, and yes, he was 22 at the time, but that's still creepy.

There are practically no on-stage interactions between Philippa and Julian in this novella. There aren't even flashbacks. We are told they fell in love 2 years earlier, we're told in the epilogue they courted for a few weeks before Julian proposed, and that's it. That's not romance.

Ugh, this is exactly what I hate about this trend of having prequel novellas for every release. More and more, there will be these things, where the author is just phoning it in, writing a story even though she doesn't have a story to tell, and stupid completists like me will buy them and be disappointed. Pisses me off.

MY GRADE: A D. I'm still going to buy The Arrangement and I fully expect to love it, but this was terrible.


Phyl 17 August 2013 at 05:10  

I could not agree more. I was so disappointed. It's a blatant manipulation of fans like ourselves when a publisher asks for these kind of stories. I just thought Balogh would have more pride in her work. This felt as if it were dialed in. I had no sympathy for Phillipa and, yes, Justin's wait for her to grow up was most definitely creepy. Great review.

Rosario 17 August 2013 at 07:40  

This will be my 2014 reading resolution: I will not feel I should read these short stories and novellas, unless they've been well-reviewed and interest me on their own. I think I hate feeling exploited a tiny bit more than feeling I have missed something, so it could work!

nath 22 August 2013 at 16:44  

Oh well, I'm skipping this one and waiting for The Arrangement :)

Rosario 23 August 2013 at 07:02  

Nath: I think that would be a good idea. All you need to know is that you shouldn't feel sorry for the girl the hero rejects and doesn't want to marry in The Arrangement, because she doesn't want to marry him, either.

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