Saturday, September 8, 2018

Mary Balogh / Grace Burrowes - Once Upon a Dream

Mary Balogh and Grace Burrowes team up to create a pair of Regency novellas each set at a summer house party. 
In Another Dream, by Mary Balogh, Miss Eleanor Thompson has found satisfaction as the director of a respected school for girls. The life of a dedicated educator offers many rewards and much meaning--but also more loneliness than Eleanor anticipated. She accepts an invitation from her sister, Christine, Duchess of Bewcastle, to attend a Bedwyn houseparty, never dreaming the summer curriculum might include stolen kisses and true love. 
In The Duke of My Dreams, by Grace Burrowes, banker's daughter Anne Faraday is cast into the company of Elias, Duke of Sedgemere, at house party in the Lakes. Anne warms to the lonely man and conscientious father behind the title, and Elias becomes enthralled with the brilliant, burdened woman beneath Anne's genteel facade. Liking turns to love under the Cumbrian summer moon, but family obligations, secrets, and a prodigal duck conspire to thwart the course of true love.  

Comment: After reading the Bedwyn saga by author Mary Balogh and considering it a good one overall, I was very interested in reading the author's novella in this dual novella installment. I also didn't mind that the other novella was by Grace Burrowes, an author I've also read and enjoyed.

In these two novellas we have a common theme: ladies not considered young anymore who somehow find their future with a titled gentlemen.
In Mary Balogh's novella, we have Eleanor Thompson's story, she's the sister of Christine (heroine book #6 in the Bedwyn saga) and we also saw her as she took over Claudia Martin's school at the end of Claudia's book in the Simply Quartet series.
The novella by Grace Burrowes is a standalone apparently, although there is a connection to another novella published in a different anthology. This is the story of Anne Faraday, whose father is a banker for many aristocrats which means many look down on her except the duke of Sedgemere...

Comment: These two novellas made for a not very big book. I had a great time reading both, for different reasons but in the end, it was time well used.
Both have in common the fact the heroines aren't young women anymore but that doesn't stop them from being worthy of a good HEA. The gentlemen who fall in love with them are also titled which guarantees the women's independence isn't out in jeopardy and to top it all, each couple can finally be cured of loneliness. Also in common is the fact most of the plot takes place during a house party.

In Mary Balogh's novella, Eleanor Thompson is on her way to a house party at her sister's house for a well needed rest from the school's obligations. Eleanor hoped the school and teaching would be a perfect way to value her independence but she discovers that teaching in the school and managing it are very different things.
On the way, a storm happens and Eleanor gets stranded in an inn and there she meets an interesting family of three, especially the young girl that introduces herself to Eleanor. She ends up sharing a meal with the widower father of the children and despite how pleasant it is, both think they won't meet each other again until they see each other at the house party where Eleanor understands the gentlemen apparently might propose to a young womb he considered might be a good wife...

I liked this novel mostly because it featured the Bedwyn family and it's always nice to see characters we care about being mentioned. Eleanor was a good heroine, very mature and quiet but with the thoughts many other women have also, such as the notion happiness isn't static nor are the dreams one might have. I liked how she discussed her ideas with others, how she thought one way but with time she came to accept other ways of acting and doing things... and her romance with Michael, the widowed father was very stable as well. Some people say it could have used more passion but I don't think it went too far from the author's style. Plus, the best thing? The author wrote this ina  way, the development of their relationship felt well paced. I liked it.

In Grace Burrowes' novella, Anne Faraday is a lonely woman because her father is a banker and deals with the money of many aristocrats which means she is sort of dismissed and disliked by many. The duke of Sedgemere is going with a dear friend to a house party and miss Faraday is there as well and he does think of her as someone intriguing because she never treats him different from other gentlemen, unlike many other girls and women in society. In fact, the more he thinks of her and her quietness and intelligence, the more he admires her.
Anne has had some bad experiences with the polite society for things she can't control so she decides to eventually go to the country and live peacefully there. However, it he house party she discovers a side to the duke she didn't see coming...

I also liked this novel although I felt, as it also happened with the other books I've read by this author, that the inner thoughts of the characters aren't presented in a way I'd say is "engaging". They always look so distant from what we see them doing in the page that it's almost indifferent the way they think vs acting. I suppose it's just the writer's style.
Anne and the duke were a good match, though, since they complemented each other perfectly: he is well seen and established in many levels, she is smart and offers a steady relationship despite her vulnerable side. The psychological aspect was well done within the page limit so I felt happy with their story, overall.

→ All in all, two good stories and, if nothing else, two good ways to get an idea of the respective author's styles and writing.
Grade: 8/10

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