Friday, February 9, 2018

Mary Balogh - Simply Love

New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh returns to the elegance and sensuality of Regency England as she continues the enthralling story of four remarkable women–friends and teachers at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. At the center of this spellbinding novel is Anne Jewell, a teacher haunted by a scandalous past…until she meets a man who teaches her the most important lesson of all: nothing is simple when it comes to love.…
She spies him in the deepening dusk of a Wales evening–a lone figure of breathtaking strength and masculinity, his handsome face branded by a secret pain. For single mother and teacher Anne Jewell, newly arrived with her son at a sprawling estate in Wales on the invitation of an influential friend, Sydnam Butler is a man whose sorrows–and passions–run deeper than she could have ever imagined.
As steward of a remote seaside manor, Sydnam lives a reclusive existence far from the pity and disdain of others. Yet almost from the moment Anne first appears on the cliffs, he senses in this lovely stranger a kindred soul, and between these two wary hearts, desire stirs. Unable to resist the passion that has rescued them both from loneliness, Anne and Sydnam share an afternoon of exquisite lovemaking. Now the unwed single mother and war-scarred veteran must make a decision that could forever alter their lives. For Sydnam, it is a chance to heal the pain of the past. For Anne, it is the glorious promise of a future with the man who will dare her to reveal her deepest secrets…before she can give him all her heart.

Comment: This is the second installment in the Simply Quartet series by author Mary Balogh. In this installment, we have Anne Jewell's story. This character was initially presented in Slightly Scandalous, a book in a series that, chronologically, happens before this one. Of course that new readers don't need to read the other story to understand this one but it's certainly a plus.

Anne lives with her son at Miss Martin's School for Girls, where she found employment after being considered an outcast in the village where she lived before. With miss Martin she found friendship and joy in her work, as well as protection for her son. This story starts when she is invited by the Joshua Moore, the marquess of Hallmere for a family vacation, something he claims would be good for her son, always without other boys to play with.
Anne doesn't really want to have anything to do with the father of her child's family but she reluctantly accepts, hoping to spend a very boring summer with the servants. But Joshua and his wife's family certainly have other plans to include Anne in their activities. And there's also a compelling man to be friends with...

This was a sweet story about two people who thought themselves unlovable and unworthy of having someone but that finally found that special person to share a life with. The path towards happiness wasn't always what I would call engaging but after all things done, it ended up being sweet and romantic.

This is an historical, so some rules apply and Anne is a single mother, she was raped and her family wanted her away so she went to live on her own with her young son. She has had the help of her rapist's cousin but when a job offers is presented, she accepts it happily, which oust her in a school for girls. Anne's character is well flashed in this story and I found that many of her attitudes and feelings are what I probably would feel myself, if I were in her shoes.
She can't forget, however, how others look at her so she isn't too keen on going along to a family holiday. Of course she is surprised there, by how friendly and polite everyone is and she starts to feel less worried. She even befriends Sydnam Butler, the estate's steward and has her first unrelated man friend since her son's birth.

Sydnam is a fascinating character, he is young, he was at the war and came back alive but without an eye and an arm and with many scars from torture.
As one can imagine, he has several issues to deal with and despite having made peace with what happened, he still feels unworthy at times and very lonely.
In fact, it's loneliness that first brings these two together, why thy start feeling comfortable sharing things and being together so often, even if only for walks in the parks or the estate.

I liked their sweet romance and I didn't even mind the surprise after the holiday ends and Anne goes back home after an emotional goodbye to Sydnam. However, from that point on, still considering all the changes that were happening and the obvious need for redemption and "solving past issues" which is always an item to go through in stories where one tries to achieve complete happiness, I didn't find this part of the plot as magically done as the previous ones. I understand but it all just felt to much like pressure as if the characters couldn't live without getting that. 

This is a book to sigh over and to be cozy with. I liked spending time with those characters, I liked seeing others I knew as part of this couple's life and I liked the interactions between everyone.
I feel hopeful about the two remaining stories in the quartet.
Grade: 7/10

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