Against the scandal and seduction of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh introduces an extraordinary family—the fiery, sensual Huxtables. Vanessa is the second daughter, proud and daring, a young widow who has her own reason for pursuing the most eligible bachelor in London. One that has nothing to do with love. Or does it?
The arrival of Elliott Wallace, the irresistibly eligible Viscount Lyngate, has thrown the country village of Throckbridge into a tizzy. Desperate to rescue her eldest sister from a loveless union, Vanessa Huxtable Dew offers herself instead. In need of a wife, Elliott takes the audacious widow up on her unconventional proposal while he pursues an urgent mission of his own. But a strange thing happens on the way to the wedding night. Two strangers with absolutely nothing in common can’t keep their hands off each other. Now, as intrigue swirls around a past secret—one with a stunning connection to the Huxtables—Elliott and Vanessa are uncovering the glorious pleasures of the marriage bed…and discovering that when it comes to wedded bliss, love can’t be far behind.
I liked the opening of this book – both the emotional prologue and the opening chapters. It sets up the whole series, where a family living modestly in the country suddenly discovers they have inherited a title.
It occurred to me while I was reading First Comes Marriage is that one thing Mary Balogh does better than almost any historical romance author is come up with a *concept* for each of her series. She throws her characters into extraordinary, but historically accurate situations and the series evolves from there. No spy clubs or marriage societies.
Another thing Balogh does wonderfully is make all of her characters distinctive, and shows how different people see each other in different ways. You would never mistake one of her heroes or heroines for another. She is especially good at writing poor first impressions. She has characters who grow to appreciate each other, rather than have it that way from the outset. This is a hero who has no particular reason to admire the heroine at the beginning – and he doesn’t. Of course, his opinion changes over time.
I liked that the heroine was plain, but had been married before, to a dying man who loved her. The historical romance genre tends to feature dozens of extraordinary aristocratic beauties in Regency England, but I seriously doubt there were that many! A plainer heroine shouldn’t mean a heroine incapable of attracting a man.
The relationship develops at a believable pace. The marriage takes everyone completely by surprise, but that’s only the beginning of the story. The hero’s issues come out much more slowly, but when they do his distance and coldness suddenly make sense.
The spurned ex-mistress is a character who turns up in a lot of books. I’m not sure how I felt about the one here – it’s not a trope that can ever treat women well, and so I always tense up when a character like that comes onto the page. If I was looking for a flaw, that might be it.
Additionally, I do wish editors wouldn’t change the spelling of proper nouns into American English. The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane was – and still is – a real place, and the name can only be spelt one way.
I was late to discover what a good author Mary Balogh is, and so I’ve been working my way through her backlist. She really is one of the best historical romance writers around.