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REVIEW: The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh

Dear Ms. Balogh,

I first read The Temporary Wife, one of your most beloved trad regencies, several years ago. At the time, I liked it but was distracted by an initial similarity to another of your regencies, The Ideal Wife, which I had read first and liked even better.

The Temporary Wife/A Promise of Spring 	Mary BaloghThe opening premises of the two books are very much alike, but they shoot off in very different directions soon after that. Still, the similarity in how they begin makes it difficult not to compare them and choose a favorite. I suspect that in many cases, whichever of these two books a reader reads second will feel somewhat less original to that reader as a result of having read the other first.

Now that The Temporary Wife is finally being reprinted in a 2-in-1 edition along with A Promise of Spring, I was curious to revisit it and see how I would like it since it’s now been over a decade since I read The Ideal Wife and that book has faded from my memory. Happily, this time I enjoyed The Temporary Wife even more.

The Temporary Wife begins with the following sentence:

It not being quite the thing to advertise in the London papers for a wife, Anthony Earheart, Marquess of Stuanton, eldest son and heir of the Duke of Withingsby, advertised instead for a governess.

Anthony omits his title from the advertisement, which entertains his friends no end. They tease him mercilessly about his apparent need for a governess, when he has no children. It’s only later that he explains his purpose to one of them, Lord Rowling. He requires a wife, one who is a gentlewoman, but at the same time “impoverished, plain, demure, very ordinary, perhaps even prim,” with “all the personality of a—a quiet mouse.”

Lord Rowling asks if Anthony feels a strong need to dominate his future wife, and the marquess replies that his father the duke has summoned him home to marry a seventeen year old girl. Although the duke is ill and Anthony is his heir, they had a bad falling out eight years earlier and have not seen each other since. The family, under the duke’s influence, has remained in the country in all these years (something I found unlikely) while Anthony has lived in London, establishing a reputation as a rake.

To Rowling’s protestation that “you cannot marry the dullest creature you can find merely to annoy your father,” Lord Staunton replies “Why not?” He explains that has no intention of spending his life with the woman he marries. She will be pensioned off to the country. His brother will serve as an heir. The woman he chooses will only remain with him for the length of his visit to Enfield, his father’s ducal mansion. She will be a temporary wife.

After interviewing five unsuitable applicants, Staunton finds his dull mouse in Miss Charity Duncan, whose self-effacing mien is matched by her drab and brown clothing. Miss Duncan keeps her eyes downcast and her voice is soft.

Her face looked pale and ordinary in the shadows. The brown of her hair blended so totally with the brown of her bonnet that it was difficult to know where the one ended and the other began. Her garments were decent and drab. He was given the impression that they were not quite shabby but very soon would be. They were shabby-genteel.

She was perfect. His father would be incensed.

What Anthony doesn’t know is that Charity is less timid than she looks. In fact, she was dismissed from her previous position as a governess for reporting to the mother of her charges that their father molested a maid.

But Charity needs employment badly. Due to a debt her father left behind after his death, her family is impoverished. Her brother has had to find work as a clerk and she insisted that she could also seek employment to help support their younger siblings. Charity dreams of finding a get rich quick scheme that would actually work, but since such a thing isn’t possible, she is resigned to doing whatever she can to find another position, even if that includes keep her eyes lowered and her voice quiet.

Of course, when Anthony offers Charity five thousand pounds a year for the rest of her life if she marries him and accompanies him on his visit to Enfield for a few weeks, Charity accepts. Charity finds the dour and businesslike Anthony unlikable, but to support her family so well, she is willing to marry him. She doesn’t realize until after they marry that Anthony is not just wealthy, but also a marquess.

Anthony and Charity journey to Enfield together (Charity having told her brother that she got the position, but not what the position was). They stop to spend the night in an inn where only one room is available and there they share a bed. At first, all they intend to do is sleep, but Charity can’t fall asleep and Anthony gets the idea that sex could solve that problem. It is their wedding night after all. Charity wants to experience sex and knows she may never get another opportunity. And so, they go for it.

The sex is spectacular, but the next morning Anthony kicks himself for having suggested it. He noticed Charity’s blue eyes and lovely hair in the process and now he can’t think of her as a drab mouse any longer – and yet that is what he needs her to be when they reach Enfield. Charity, for her part, cannot believe that Anthony is just as dour and abrupt with her as he was the day before.

But once they arrive in Enfield, Charity is in for worse shocks. The house is palatial and imposing. The housekeeper takes in Charity’s clothing and mistakes her for a servant. But worst of all, the family members are toplofty and cold. Charity immediately senses undercurrents of anger and resentment in the way they treat her husband, and being a kind-hearted meddler, she decides to try and heal this breach.

But can there be mutual forgiveness between Anthony and his siblings? Will Anthony make peace with his ill father before the duke dies? And will he realize what a gem he has in his wife before their temporary marriage comes to an end?

I enjoyed The Temporary Wife immensely though for me at least, this is a book that reflects fantasy at least as much as reality. The premise of a duke’s heir advertising for a wife is quite far-fetched. This was probably the biggest hump I had to get over in the book, but it was not the only one. Still, I can usually go with the flow if something unbelievable is presented from the beginning as the premise of a story.

Doing so wasn’t easy in this case, but after I got over it, I found a thoroughly rewarding emotional journey for the main characters. Charity, although courageous to begin with, comes into a family alienated from its eldest son. Not only does she have to close that rift, she first has to get to know them despite their standoffish exteriors. In the process she discovers that the man she married does have a heart, and that he was badly hurt when the falling out took place. She also, very gradually, falls in love with Anthony.

As for Anthony, while he is a less overtly sympathetic character than Charity, he is fascinating. His expression is often described as “shuttered” and his is the journey of a closed man gradually opening up. He doesn’t believe he needs love, but of course he does need it, and he very gradually allows himself to be convinced of this. His love for Charity also grows in slow steps but once he falls for her, he is head over heels in love, which is all the more satisfying since he began the book pretending (and even convincing himself of) complete indifference to love.

As readers of this review may be able to tell from the above two paragraphs, the growth of the romantic relationship is thoroughly blended with the family’s healing, to a point where it is hard to separate the two. I think the first time I read the book, I wasn’t expecting this and therefore felt it took something away from the romance, but this time I loved this aspect of the book.

Besides the premise, a couple of other things also struck me as difficult to buy. I thought Charity’s boldness in calling the duke “father” rather than “your grace” and interfering in the affairs of such a forbidding and high-in-the-instep family was unlikely given that she came from such a different background, but I was able to suspend disbelief because courage and meddling were presented as integral aspects of her personality.

The other instance involves a spoiler:

[spoiler]Late in the book, Anthony’s father suffers a heart attack that comes shortly after Charity forced a confrontation between him and Anthony. The confrontation went badly, and Charity later blames herself for having precipitated the heart attack. Anthony assures her that his father had a weak heart and therefore she was not at fault, and although I thought this may have been inserted to reassure readers on that score, I was left somewhat skeptical toward Anthony’s statement.[/spoiler]

Finally, one of the biggest pleasures of this book is the writing, which is sharply observant and true to the characters. In this regard, as well as in the transformation of Anthony and his family from joylessness to joy, I feel that this book is one of your strongest. Despite its imperfections, The Temporary Wife is now among my favorites of your books. B+/A-.

Sincerely,

Janine

PS The Temporary Wife has been reprinted in a 2-in-1 edition with A Promise of Spring. While The Temporary Wife is a DA Recommended Read, A Promise of Spring is not.

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

29 Comments

  1. MD
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 14:27:37

    Your last comment, saying that “the promise of spring” is not a recommended DA read, sounds to me like “we think ‘Promise of Spring’ is not a good book”. Is this true? It’s one of my Balogh favorites, though of course it does not have to be everyone’s ;-)

  2. Janine
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 15:51:00

    @MD:

    sounds to me like “we think ‘Promise of Spring’ is not a good book”

    To clarify, there is no “we.” DA Recommended Reads aren’t chosen by committee or voted on by every reviewer. We don’t have the time it would take for each of us to read every book the others review. A book receives the DA Recommended Read banner when a reviewer likes it enough to give it a very positive review. In my case I don’t give them to anything that hasn’t earned a B+ or higher grade from me.

    In this case, The Temporary Wife earned such a grade from me but A Promise of Spring did not. Since the “DA Recommends” banner appears on the cover of a 2-in-1 edition that includes both books, I just wanted to clarify that only The Temporary Wife a high enough grade to merit the banner in this case. But this represents my opinion. I don’t know if anyone else at DA has read A Promise of Spring and if so, whether or not they loved it.

    I plan to post a review of A Promise of Spring in a couple of weeks, and yeah, it didn’t work for me. There were some things I liked about it but not enough to outweigh the things I didn’t like. I’m waiting a couple of weeks to post the review because I couldn’t discuss my problems sans spoilers, and (although there will be a spoiler warning at the top of the review) I want to give readers a chance to read the book first, so that hopefully there will be a discussion. I hope you come back to comment on it at that time. In the meantime, please feel welcome to comment on my review of The Temporary Wife.

  3. Keishon
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 16:00:12

    Well, I wonder whose bright idea it was to bundle them together? I hate that. I loved The Temporary Wife but have not/will not read A Promise of Spring. I won’t be buying this title either. I’ll stick to my paper copy.

  4. Sunita
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 16:07:42

    I liked many things about A Promise of Spring back when I read it, but it’s been a while, so I wasn’t comfortable recommending it without rereading and I just don’t have time right now. I’m happy to talk more about the book when Janine’s review posts, and I’ll try to skim it again so that I can contribute intelligently.

    I remember The Temporary Wife quite well and it’s always been a favorite of mine. I’ve read it at least three times, I think. I agree with all of Janine’s caveats, but there’s something about it that just sweeps you along when you’re reading. It’s a classic Balogh in many ways.

  5. MD
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 16:08:32

    Ugh, sorry, I know there is no “we”, that was sloppy writing on my part. Mostly I wanted to know exactly what you said – that your sentence meant what it meant, that “The Promise of Spring” didn’t merit the high recommendation, not that you just haven’t read it. I would be interested in reading the review when the time comes, I don’t expect the reviewer’s opinion to always agree with mine, whether positive or negative ;-)

  6. Cecilia Grant
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 17:48:11

    This sounds lovely. Nobody does kind-hearted meddlers like Mary Balogh.

    Given that I haven’t read either this or The Ideal Wife, and given that whichever one I read first might compromise my enjoyment of the second, which do you recommend more strongly?

    ETA: Wait a minute. Maybe I have read The Ideal Wife. Was the hero a supporting character in A Precious Jewel?

  7. Janine
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 17:50:41

    @Keishon: A lot of the Balogh reissues have been released as 2-in-1′s. To digital format readers that makes it more reasonably priced than if they only got one book for $7.99 (although maybe not worth it unless they want to read both books) and for print readers it’s a bargain. I agree with you inasmuch as I feel that these two books don’t go together as naturally as a say, Dark Angel and Lord Carew’s Bride (another 2-in-1, and one where I liked both books).

    Glad you loved The Temporary Wife.

    @Sunita: Glad you’ll be there for the discussion of A Promise of Spring. I’ll look forward to that.

    I agree with all of Janine’s caveats, but there’s something about it that just sweeps you along when you’re reading. It’s a classic Balogh in many ways.

    Glad you loved The Temporary Wife. It swept me along too, even moreso than Balogh’s trads typically do (and they often do). I found it hard to put down in a way that made me understand why it’s considered a classic of the traditional regency subgenre.

  8. Janine
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 17:58:52

    @MD: No need to apologize, I totally understand why you wanted clarification since I think when the review of The Famous Heroine ran, Jane posted a similar note at the bottom of my review saying The Plumed Bonnet wasn’t a DA Recommended Read. And in that case I had just not read The Plumed Bonnet and when I did read it a few weeks later I recommended it too. It’s hard to know what to do with reviews of 2-in-1 editions where only one book is being reviewed, but I think in the future I’ll try to make the postscripts to those reviews clearer with regard to the status of the second book in the same edition.

    @Cecilia Grant: Tough question for me since I loved them both, but based on the fact that it’s been ten years since I read The Ideal Wife, and also, that more readers seem to adore The Temporary Wife, I lean toward recommending you start with the latter.

    If it helps, I found The Ideal Wife a lighter Balogh, amusing but still touching, and The Temporary Wife more angsty in its dealing with the thorny issue of Anthony’s family. OTOH, The Ideal Wife is part of a series that includes A Precious Jewel, another classic Balogh which stands out partly for having a prostitute heroine. It’s very hard for me to choose, but I have the feeling most readers would steer you toward reading The Temporary Wife first.

  9. Diane
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 18:22:20

    These are two stories in re-print right?

  10. Janine
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 18:31:47

    @Diane: Yes, The Temporary Wife (reviewed above) and A Promise of Spring (to be reviewed the week after next), are reprinted and bundled together in this one book.

  11. Susan/DC
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 21:21:42

    I loved “The Temporary Wife” and it’s one of my more frequent rereads. While the initial premise might be unrealistic, I had no problem accepting that an estranged son would want to thumb his nose at his snobbish father in this way and proclaim in no uncertain terms that his father did not control him.

    I also think this book is a wonderful example of using sex to reveal the characters and further the relationship. It is most definitely not a Tab A into Slot B book. When they arrive at Enfield and Anthony comes into Charity’s sitting room that night, she can’t concentrate on the letter she had begun to her family. She realizes that the tension in the room is sexual tension, and when they do make love it is a powerful experience for both of them. Anthony, who is quite skilled, finds he is too lost in the moment to consciously use those skills. And one of my favorite romance novel quotes comes near the end of that chapter, after Charity has achieved release: “Then he drove himself to the place where he longed to be, the place where he had always longed to be. Always. All his life. Though it was not a place exactly . . .” While his mind may not yet realize it, his body and his heart are falling in love.

    One minor correction to the review: Anthony notices Charity’s blue eyes at the end of their first interview before the marriage, not after. He has thought she was the perfect demure brown mouse — brown hair, brown clothes, brown everything. Then she looks up, and he is struck by her eyes, his first hint that she is not what he initially thought.

  12. Janine
    Feb 29, 2012 @ 23:51:37

    @Susan/DC:I’m glad you stopped by. I had remembered you were a fan of The Temporary Wife and was thinking earlier today that if you did comment, you would have something interesting to say.

    I can see an estranged son thumbing his nose at his father in all sorts of ways but going so far as to actually marry an impoverished governess when he is a marquess and the heir to a dukedom is pretty extreme. He could have hired someone to pretend to be his wife or done any number of other, less extreme things. But I was willing to suspend disbelief because the characters and setup were so involving and I wanted to know what the outcome of that decision would be.

    The scene you describe is wonderful. I love the way Charity (and Anthony too, I think?) are unable to concentrate because of the potent attraction between them. For me, that line you quoted is very touching in context, but it is also a little bit sappy/jarring out of context — maybe because I recall similar lines in weaker books by other authors.

    You are correct that Anthony first notices Charity’s blue eyes during the interview, but I don’t think I stated otherwise! He notices them again when they first sleep together, and that was what I referred to.

  13. Patricia Eimer
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 08:04:45

    I haven’t read any of these and I’m in the mood for a historical so I might have to give this a go. Just a dumb question– why are people against 2 in 1′s? I’ve always sort of thought it gave you a chance to see something else by the same author.

  14. Lynn S.
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 12:15:19

    Sorry, I’m going to be somewhat off topic of the review.

    The best thing about the Balogh reissues is that it makes her older books legally available in digital form. Also, considering the fact that the original paperbacks are currently going for $12.00 and up, this 2 in 1 is a bargain, even if you don’t want to read one of the stories, and anything that helps new readers discover the charms of her traditional regencies is a good thing.

    I remember reading and enjoying The Temporary Wife when it first came out, but that was back in my inattentive reading days, so I don’t have any recollection, other than general enjoyment. I’ve read many of Balogh’s full-length novels but have just started reading/rereading her traditionals from the beginning (yes, even A Masked Deception) but haven’t made it to The Temporary Wife yet. My favorites so far are A Chance Encounter and The Wood Nymph. Hopefully they will be bundled together when reissued, since they work beautifully as a duet. I appreciate that the Dear Author comments section stays open; so, if I come back with my thoughts on The Temporary Wife about a year from now, even if it will be peculiar, at least I will be on point.

    @Susan/DC: Just wanted to say I read your comments over on the Simply Love post and agree with you regarding Sydnam. A Summer to Remember is my favorite of Balogh’s full-length novels and the portrayal of Sydnam is exquisite. What the heck happened?? I had several problems with Simply Love, but thought it was mainly doomed by the pairing of Sydnam with Anne. Of course, that was my reaction to the entire Simply series, heavy-handed and preachy.

  15. Janine
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 12:34:15

    @Patricia Eimer: I don’t mind the 2-in-1′s at all — hopefully Keishon will come back to reply to your comment.

    @Lynn S.: I loved A Chance Encounter! The Wood Nymph wasn’t perfect but I liked it. Agreed on Simply Love, too — one of my least favorite Baloghs. I think I reviewed all three of those here.

    BTW, I don’t mind a little off topic conversation, I just didn’t want to go into the merits and weaknesses of A Promise of Spring yet, since my review of A Promise of Spring hasn’t posted yet and since it took a lot of writing to explain all my problems with that book.

  16. cbackson
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 16:02:08

    I bought this last night after reading this review and really liked it. It really highlighted for me what sets someone like Balogh apart – she takes worn-out tropes and characters and makes them breath again. Her plots aren’t particularly inventive, but the subtlety and sensitivity of the characterization is what makes the stories work.

    The duke is a great example – he’s a fairly awful man, but he’s also truly capable of love. He grows to care for Charity but isn’t above using her to wound his son terribly. What’s revealed about the dynamic between the duke and duchess, and what the hero comes to realize about his own childhood relationship to his mother, really blew me away. Without getting overly self-revelatory, I’ve seen that very triangle play out in real life (ex-husband and his parents), and it’s awful. And yes, had sewed years of discord in their family.

  17. Janine
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 16:10:17

    @cbackson: So glad you enjoyed this. I agree that it’s the characterization that makes Balogh stand out as an author.

    The duke is a great example – he’s a fairly awful man, but he’s also truly capable of love. He grows to care for Charity but isn’t above using her to wound his son terribly. What’s revealed about the dynamic between the duke and duchess, and what the hero comes to realize about his own childhood relationship to his mother, really blew me away.

    Yeah, the dynamic between Anthony’s parents was twisted, and with the duchess dead, it was hard to know which of them was more in the wrong and whether or not she had lied to Anthony about all of it. One of my favorite lines in the book came when:

    BIG SPOILER
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    Anthony’s father was dying and Anthony told his father that he loved him and hated him. I thought it was great that Balogh didn’t just make it all sugary and sweet — there was closure but it wasn’t pat. Anthony still had mixed feelings even at the end, but he took the opportunity to tell his father what those feelings were.
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    END OF SPOILER

  18. etv13
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 16:17:25

    I read this last night and it is now among my very favorite Baloghs. I really loved Charity, and Anthony is a fine example of an embittered hero who doesn’t just walk all over innocent people in pursuit of his revenge. (The six thousand pounds a year he’s willing to settle on Charity for her participation in his scheme is a fantastically HUGE sum. Surely he could have found somebody willing to do it for a tenth that amount.) And I thought the sex scenes were reminiscent of those in A Precious Jewel in how they advanced the relationship of the characters. I often find Balogh’s descriptions of sex chilly and off-putting, and even here I didn’t find the sex scenes sexy, but they worked as part of the story.

    Seconding all the people who advise starting with this one rather than The Ideal Wife.

  19. etv13
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 16:25:00

    I meant to add: There was a stretch reading this where it seemed reminiscent of Heartless rather than The Ideal Wife.

    Carrying over the discussion of names/titles from the Sophia Nash thread: Withingsby? It may not be completely unrealistic, but it sure is uneuphonious.

  20. Janine
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 16:37:46

    @etv13: Glad the book worked for you. I think Balogh’s depiction of sex is one of the most interesting aspects of her writing, especially in her trads. There is often a contrast in her books between the early sex scenes (often loveless) and the later ones. And yeah, she’s not afraid to make the sex a little off putting in its awkwardness at times.

    Though I didn’t find it that way here, I thought there was still a welcome oddness to it by which I mean that the scenes really reflected the quirks of both characters’ personalities — Charity’s generosity and courage and Anthony’s more reluctant generosity that warred with his closed aspect.

    The first sex scene is one of my favorites in the book for the way Anthony goes from irritated with Charity’s proximity and inability to sleep to blown away by her responsiveness. There is a really nice emotional arc for both characters in that scene, and when it’s over their relationship is in a different place than it was before.

    I would never classify Balogh as being among the more erotic writers in romance because there is at times almost too much realism in her sex scenes (friends of mine have noted the occasional mentions of sucking noises and the heroes’ propensity to straighten the heroines’ legs) and yet, in her ability to show the characters’ personalities and attitudes through these scenes, and to portray a shift in their position toward each other, I consider her a master of the sex scene.

    (I chose not to use the word love scene because these scenes aren’t always about love).

    I haven’t read Heartless yet, but I really liked Withingsby!

  21. Keishon
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 18:35:19

    The best thing about the Balogh reissues is that it makes her older books legally available in digital form. Also, considering the fact that the original paperbacks are currently going for $12.00 and up, this 2 in 1 is a bargain, even if you don’t want to read one of the stories, and anything that helps new readers discover the charms of her traditional regencies is a good thing.

    Good point but still I prefer the individual stories rather than the 2 in 1. That’s not just for her books but ebooks in general. I prefer separate files. No biggie. I started reading her in the mid 90′s when she was issuing these gems new and I’m just being selfish. I’m content to keep my mouth shut about the bundling and just not buy them and enjoy my paper copies. I’m def. not a fan of the agency pricing where these would sell for $7.99 a pop. Her current success has def. allowed for her backlist to be reprinted for new readers to discover her and I’m happy about that.

  22. becca
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 19:00:01

    I enjoyed the Temporary Wife a great deal, and will look up more of her backlist… but A Promise of Spring is making me teary.

  23. Lynn S.
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 19:37:01

    @Janine: A Chance Encounter was definitely the better of the two. Although I found the awkwardness of the couple in The Wood Nymph endearing, I can see how the book could present problems for readers. My favorite thing about The Wood Nymph was the way Balogh wove in glimpses of the marital bliss of Elizabeth and Robert, the couple from A Chance Encounter. After all the suffering they went through in their own book, this was a delightful lagniappe.

    I’m at the point in my reading where analyzing a writer’s style and structure contributes almost as much to my enjoyment of a book as the actual story and Balogh, being a premiere stylist, is one of my favorite conversation topics. By the time I’ve finished reading her backlist, I’ll be officially incorrigible.

    Regarding Balogh’s sex scenes, I think this is probably the most difficult part of the romance novel for many authors. There is a tendency of authors in general to use specific phrases and descriptions across their works with regard to sex scenes and the only historical author who comes readily to mind where I don’t notice this is Loretta Chase (though she does have a fondness for unusual locations). I find that sameness with Balogh, especially in her later works and most noticeably as it pertains to the interior thoughts of her heroes during sex, so much so that I’m often left with the disturbing notion that male British aristos all think the exact same thoughts during sex. Even erotic romance authors, who you think would be more comfortable and inventive regarding the topic, sometimes have this quirk, and I don’t think it can all be laid at the feet of lazy writing.

    @etv13: For a Balogh read where the sex is on the sexier side, you might try More Than a Mistress. There is a painful quality to the later scenes when the relationship is disintegrating, but Jane and Jocelyn very much had the hots for each other and Balogh showed that.

  24. Susan/DC
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 21:35:36

    @Janine: sorry if I misread the review. I think the import of Charity’s eyes is that Anthony sees her as merely a prop until the end of their interview. When she looks up at him and he sees her very blue eyes, he realizes that he may have made a mistake; it is his first clue that she is a person and not just a tool for revenge.

    And you are of course right that it’s a drastic step to actually marry her. The book even has Anthony say that he thought of hiring an actress but rejected it. I think that I believed it was possible, even if unlikely in RL, because his bitterness went so deep and because he knew how important the title was to his father. Marrying a “brown mouse” was Anthony’s way of saying that he did not care for his father or anything that his father valued. He is also so estranged from his own emotions (Charity comments on this several times) that he can’t believe he’d ever care enough about anyone or anything for it to matter that he would be locked into marriage with a stranger. I think it’s telling that he does not kiss his lovers on the face, as it shows too much intimacy — another example of how Balogh knows how to use sex to demonstrate character.

    I very much enjoy your reviews of Balogh’s books and the resulting conversations, do keep on.

  25. etv13
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 03:32:22

    @Lynn S: “Balogh being a premiere stylist” — I guess this is true. Certainly it only takes a sentence or two to know you are reading Balogh. I know I’ve read too much in a short time when I start noticing the way she piles on “x and x and x” type phrases, and the slightly stilted way her characters talk. Also the repeated references to a character as “the Earl of Amberley” or “Baron Dunsmore” as opposed to just Lord Amberley or Lord Dunsmore. I didn’t notice those stylistic quirks in The Temporary Wife, but I just finished A Promise of Spring, and they were all over the place (even though, for the most part, I enjoyed it).

    As to sex scenes being difficult to write, yes, definitely. I think I’ve yet to read a satisfactory description of an orgasm, especially from the point of view of a character who has no prior knowledge or experience of one. I tend to skim or skip the sex scenes in most romance novels, though I like the ones written by Chase and Carlyle, and by m/m writers like Thom Lane and Josh Lanyon. I tend to read Balogh’s, too, even though I often find them far from sexy, because they so often tell you about the characters and their relationship.

  26. Janine
    Mar 02, 2012 @ 19:45:51

    @Keishon: I’m not crazy about 2-in-1 electronic files either but in this case (because of the agency pricing and the out of print prices) I think they are a bargain.

    @becca: Glad you enjoyed TTW. APOS wrung tears out of me as well in the early scenes.

    @Lynn S.: I think Elizabeth from A Chance Encounter is my favorite of the Balogh heroines I’ve read about so far. She has a “Still waters run deep” quality that really gets to me. I agree with you re. The Wood Nymph — I can see why so many readers don’t love it, and the middle section didn’t work so well for me, but I loved the first third or so and found it a fascinating character study.

    @Susan/DC: I agree, the blue eyes during the interview are Anthony’s first clue that Charity is a person — and also, IMO, the first clue that she stand out more than he thinks she will. But he ignores this clue, so while loved that scene, I also loved the way the love scene makes it harder to ignore who Charity is, and since it really stood out for me, I wanted to highlight that in my review.

    He is also so estranged from his own emotions (Charity comments on this several times) that he can’t believe he’d ever care enough about anyone or anything for it to matter that he would be locked into marriage with a stranger.

    Yes, and that’s a big part of what makes his falling in love with her Charity so satisfying.

    Glad you are enjoying the Balogh reviews. I am really glad that the books are being reprinted and readers can actually get their hands on them.

    @etv13: I think “good style” is subjective. Balogh’s writing style was an acquired taste for me — when I first tried her I had a difficult time with it because of its repetitive, almost sing-song quality and the stilted aspect you describe. Judith Ivory is closer to what I think of as a premiere stylist, as is Patricia Gaffney in her later books. I love Laura Kinsale’s style, though I know some readers find it dense. Cecilia Grant’s style is marvelously fresh and creative, and Eva Ibbotson’s has a lot of charm. On the spare side, I’m also fond of Anne Stuart’s style. But I’ve known readers who didn’t like any of these authors’ styles, and prefer something less showy. It’s just a subjective thing.

    I think of Balogh’s biggest strength as being her ability to evoke strong emotions through her depiction of her characters’ thoughts and reactions. Her books are very interior, and she can be so sharply observant. Her characters’ acute distress in difficult social situations really comes through to readers and few authors are equally strong in that arena.

  27. Kaetrin
    Mar 04, 2012 @ 04:56:52

    I loved this one too. I wasn’t reviewing when I read it so I don’t have anything now than a grade. I want to say that I attributed Anthony’s reasoning for actually marrying Charity rather than hiring someone as twofold. In no particular order, I think he wanted to be able to be honest rather than lie to his family. The other reason is that I thought he knew he couldn’t back out if he’d gone ahead and married Charity (or whoever). It’s very possible I’m remembering it wrong or at least with rose colored glasses, but my recollection is that Anthony had some struggles keeping up the hate consistently. I could be confusing books here though, but my feeling s that marriage locked him into the plan no matter what.

    In general however, I had much the same thoughts as you Janine.

    I liked that Balogh doesn’t cop out with sparkly butterflies. What happens to the Duke happens and it’s not perfect and fairy tale. it’s one of the reasons that I love Balogh’s writing so much.

    I am delighted the older books are being reissued. I paid ridiculous prices on eBay for many of my old Balogh Signets. 2in1 is all good IMO.

    Finally, I keep saying that Heartless is my fave Balogh. I’d love to know what you think if you ever read it Janine. It has one (in particular) of those sex scenes which isn’t terribly sexy but (I thought it was terribly romantic) which marks a major turning point in the relationship. Heartless isn’t a perfect book, but I love the romance between Luke and Anna so much I’m happy to overlook them. It’s still a comfort read for me.

    Thank you so much for reviewing the books. Its nice to be able to share my Balogh love with others! :)

  28. Dear Author Recommends for March
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 07:55:06

    [...] REVIEW: The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh [...]

  29. What Janine is Reading in February and March 2012
    Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:02:08

    [...] recently reissued in a 2-in-1 edition with A Promise of Spring and I took the time to reread and review it. I found that it was even more enjoyable the second time around. What I love about it is the [...]

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