REVIEW: The First Snowdrop by Mary Balogh
Dear Ms. Balogh,
Your traditional regencies are books I often find interesting even when though they are not always necessarily romantic or sexy to me. That's because the characters have human flaws and weaknesses not often seen in many of today's books. Such is the case with Alex, Viscount Merrick, the hero of The First Snowdrop.
Here’s is a description of the book from your website:
When Viscount Merrick inadvertently compromises plain Anne Parrish, he is obliged to marry her. But he has no intention of living with her or even seeing her again after settling her on his country estate. When he arrives at his grandparents’ home more than a year later for the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, he is enchanted by his first sight of a lovely stranger. Then he realizes that she is his wife….
Merrick, riding alone when the weather turns bad, arrives on Anne’s doorstep seeking shelter from the snowstorm. Anne answers the door herself because she and her brother are about to relocate and have already let the servants go. Anne’s brother is at the pub and gets caught in the storm there, so Anne is alone with Alex, who assumes she is a housemaid. The shy, reticent Anne doesn’t say much to change his misapprehension.
Alex thinks Anne wants to sleep with him so he attempts to kiss her but when she shows some resistance, he immediately stops. When Anne’s brother Bruce shows up the next morning, along with his friend the local vicar, Bruce and the vicar pressure Alex into proposing to Anne, who has been compromised by his mere presence under the same roof.
Alex was about to propose to another young woman, Lorraine, with whom he believed he was in love. Since Lorraine is beautiful and vivacious while Anne is overweight and timid, Alex hopes Anne will refuse his proposal. But Anne, already smitten with Alex mostly on the basis of his good looks and the attention he has shown her, says yes.
After they marry Merrick convinces himself that Anne took advantage of the situation to mislead him and entrap him on purpose. He plots some kind of revenge, but the wedding night turns unexpectedly passionate and pleasurable. The next morning Alex abandons Anne on his estate. He sends her money over the next year and some months but wants nothing to do with her and doesn’t allow her to come to London even to visit a friend.
Meanwhile Anne restores the gardens in Alex's country home. She also loses considerable weight, acquires pretty clothes, allows her maid to style her hair beautifully and blossoms into a beauty, although her life is a lonely one and she wishes she had a real marriage.
In the spring of the second year of their marriage, Anne receives an invitation from Merrick’s grandmother, a duchess, to a family gathering in honor of the grandmother and grandfather’s 50th anniversary. Merrick forbids Anne to attend but his grandmother insists that the duke will send his carriage for Anne regardless so Anne goes, arriving two days ahead of the rest of the family.
Anne hits it off with Merrick’s grandmother and when Merrick arrives, he doesn’t recognize Anne right away. But although Anne is now a beauty, she is still shy and reticent, a bit intimidated by the husband who treats her coldly during the day and passionately at night, and for whom she still has deep feelings.
Alex feels guilty for the way he has treated Anne, but somehow that doesn’t ease his resentment at the way he ended up married to her. He is also jealous of the attention his cousin Jack gives Anne, and partly as a result of that he is alternately warm and cold, drawn to Anne despite himself, unhappy with his attraction to her yet needing her all the same.
As for Anne, she feels helpless to defy Alex until late in the book, but she comes out of her shell around his family, who adore her. Gradually she realizes she deserves more than Alex is giving her, but can she stop loving him?
Of the three of your older traditional regencies which I have read recently, A Masked Deception, Red Rose and this book, The First Snowdrop, this is the one I enjoyed the most. It was a reread for me and I think I even liked it a bit better this time than the first time I read it.
The premise of a pair of strangers trapped into marriage was engaging, especially with Alex’s conflict of having been about to propose to another woman. The characters were much more compelling to me here than in the aforementioned two books. Alex could be a jerk at times, but it was clear he had a good heart under there. Anne was weak-willed at times, and I wished she’d found her spine more times than she did, but I liked the way she came out of her shell and sparkled, and the way Alex’s family member appreciated her endearing qualities so that Alex began to notice all the things he’d overlooked.
Alex's grandmother insisted that Alex and Anne play the leads in a theatrical performance of She Stoops to Conquer which the duchess required her family members to perform, and the parallels between this play and the dynamics of Anne and Alex's relationships were entertaining. I also found a subplot about Alex's cousin Freddie, who was not too intelligent but was blessed with a loving heart, in contrast to the clever but less open-hearted Alex, very touching.
While I wish that Merrick and Anne had communicated better, and that Anne’s love for Alex had been the result of more than his good looks and their passionate wedding night, I still found the book an interesting character study. I was invested in their story and the emotional ending made me cry, so I’d give The First Snowdrop a B-.
This book is out of print.
- ISBN-10: 0451145933
- Publisher: Signet
- Date: September 2, 1986
- For sale at Amazon and other used book places.