Balogh's fans have longed to see Wulfric, the imperturbable duke of Bewcastle, fall in love, and Balogh has created the perfect heroine to fell him—Christine Derrick, a lively but lowborn young widow who has a habit of getting herself into very improper situations. The two meet at a sedate house party, where Christine accidentally spills lemonade on the duke and then dares to laugh at him. Wulfric disapproves of Christine's working-class background and unladylike manners, but he can't help being enchanted by her effervescent personality. For her part, Christine disdains Wulf's icy, superior attitude, but she's drawn to him physically. As fans of the genre will anticipate, opposites attract no matter how hard the hero and heroine fight against it, and an unplanned sexual encounter complicates their feelings even further. Although the story lacks some of the dramatic tension of its predecessors, particularly Slightly Sinful, this book rings with humor and delightful echoes of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.Not feeling up to reading any of my more "serious" books, I went looking for a nice, light-hearted romance to read instead. With the next Julia Quinn book still on reserve at the library, I remembered that a friend had recommended this one and tracked it down. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as she did, but I did enjoy it.
This is my second Mary Balogh book. The first was The Secret Pearl, which I did like (I rated it 7/10), but I found the pace to be very slow. That wasn't the case here, and the story moved along nicely, making it a much easier read. This was a good thing, since it was an easy read that I was looking for.
It is also the sixth and final book in a series about six siblings. This is one case where I didn't feel the urge to start at the beginning of the series, and I was delighted to find that I didn't need to have done so to enjoy this entry in the series. The other siblings (and their various spouses and children) did all turn up, but there was a quick paragraph on relevant details where any were required and the story carried on nicely with them there as a pleasant and fun set of characters. Maybe I would have got more from their presence if I had read their books, but it didn't worry me in the least that I hadn't.
Christine was a lovely character; vivid and bright if somewhat accident prone. This was the point of course, as she attracts the attention of her apparent polar opposite in Wulfric. I liked getting to see her in different settings, both in society and at home with her family and I loved the way she was with the children.
I liked Wulfric too, but I felt that I had the advantage of knowing more about him than the people he met, including Christine. For one thing, I knew he was the hero of the book and therefore he had to be a decent person and have more to him than could be seen on the surface. In fact, he was probably my main issue with the book, as I felt that although I knew he was changing into a less restrained individual, the author didn't manage to show me this in a satisfactory manner. She went on a little too much about his icy eyes and inscrutable manner and not enough about the fact he had learned to unbend enough to climb trees. He spent time thinking about how he wanted to laugh with Christine, but if he didn't actually do it, how was she supposed to know this?
All the same, they were a nice couple and I do believe they will do very nicely together.
The villain of the piece was unexpected - I didn't even realise there was a villain until he was unmasked - and I found that to be very clever and applaud Balogh for fooling me the same way he fooled the other characters.
Yes, there were Pride and Prejudice parallels, most notable when Wulfric proposes by telling Christine all the reasons why he shouldn't marry her, but that was really the only time they hit me between the eyes. After that, I just concentrated on this story without worrying about any others and enjoyed myself.
I still don't feel the need to go out and read the whole series, but I do rather think I'll go and read the second to last book, Slightly Sinful, because even though I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, I find the combination of amnesia and a brothel to be just a little too tempting.
Bedwyn Family, Book 6