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REVIEW: Red Rose by Mary Balogh

Dear Ms. Balogh,

I've been reading your earlier traditional regencies lately, with varying degrees of enjoyment. So far Dark Angel and A Chance Encounter are the two I have enjoyed most of the ones I've read this year.

I lucked into a copy of Red Rose, one of your out of print books, through Paperbackswap.com. I had high hopes for it because I remembered hearing good things about it from friends years ago.

The following description of the book is taken from your website:

The Earl of Raymore is as determined to marry off his newly acquired ward, Rosalind Dacey, as she is never to marry at all. They hate each other with a passion until they discover a bond in their shared love of music.

Red Rose Mary BaloghRaymore is one of those old skool heroes whom some woman wronged in the past and as a consequence, he decided to hate all women . In Raymore’s case I think it was both his mother and his fiancée whose actions convinced him that all women must be faithless sluts. I rarely have sympathy for misogynistic heroes, no matter the catalysts that got them started on their woman-hating, so I was surprised that you were able to evoke some sympathy for Raymore in me during a flashback scene in which he is painfully in love with his fiancée while she tells him that she doesn't intend on being faithful to any man.

His reaction is to break it off and become a rake, keeping a string of mistresses who prove to him that all women are exactly what he expects them to be. Things change when Raymore inherits Rosalind and her cousin Sylvia, two orphaned young women, from Sylvia’s father who passed away. It’s Raymore’s responsibility to bring them out in society and ensure that they catch good husbands.

Sylvia is excited about her first season but Rosalind wishes she had been allowed to stay in the country. She is disabled due to a leg that healed badly after it was broken in a riding accident when she was a child and she’s convinced no one will want to marry her because of it.

(The novel begins with a carriage scene of Rosalind and Sylvia arriving in London and discussing the mysterious reason Rosalind will not be able to marry unless she finds a man who will overlook her flaw. I was hoping the flaw would turn out to be that Rosalind wasn't a virgin, so that Raymore would be confronted with his greatest aversion, but alas, this was not to be. Rosalind's perceived flaw was her "lame" leg).

Raymore forces Rosalind to submit to having dresses made and plans to have her sit on a sofa rather than dance during her coming out ball, so that she might attract some older man who needs a mother for his children. He is surprised when Rosalind she defies him by crossing the room on the arm of the young and handsome Sir Bernard Crawleigh and flaunting her injury to a scandalized ton.

In fact, Rosalind defies Raymore more than once, and he responds by being dictatorial and oppressive. The two clash over and over, and the only time Rosalind feels at peace is when she is playing the piano and singing. She doesn’t know that Raymore is eavesdropping from a nearby room, and secretly admiring her skilled musicianship.

It isn’t long before Rosalind ends up betrothed to Sir Bernard, but she starts to have second thoughts when her fiancé pressures her to sleep with him before they marry. Raymore supervises Rosalind and Sir Bernard closely, and realizes too late that he wants Rosalind for himself.

Meanwhile, Sylvia has also betrothed herself to a man she doesn’t love, and realizes it after the fact. Can the two young ladies and their guardian untangle themselves from their snarl of mixed feelings before it's too late?

I liked Rosalind, who shows more spirit than many of your heroines and I thought the conflict between her and Raymore had the potential to be exciting. Unfortunately, that potential never fully materialized. Raymore and Rosalind clashed until quite late in the story, and there wasn't much in the way of courtship between them.

One thing I really liked the scenes where Rosalind played the piano and Raymore secretly listened. I felt that they showed that there was a side of him that secretly appreciated Rosalind's spirit and passion even though he would not allow himself to reveal that for most of the book.

I also thought the subplot about Sylvia was mildly amusing and I liked that it showed a hidden facet of Sylvia's character. But I wish that Raymore hadn't taken as long as he did to show his caring side to Rosalind. I liked that side of him very much when it was finally revealed, but by the time it emerged, I didn’t fully root for him, though I did want Rosalind to be happy.

This is one of those books that was a decent way to pass the time but not one I would reread. C for Red Rose.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

This book is out of print.
ISBN 10: 0451141571
Pub Date: March 4, 1986
Amazon link: Red Rose

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.

16 Comments

  1. Sunita
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 15:10:19

    I vaguely recall reading this back during my initial Mary Balogh glom and being annoyed by all the bickering back and forth. You make it sound better than I remember it, though.

    The early Baloghs are pretty hit and miss for me. I also really like Chance Encounter, but most of the others range from meh to downright irritating.

  2. WallySue
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 15:12:57

    Yup. I remember this one. It reads like a Diana Palmer story — but all dressed up for Almack’s.

  3. shelly
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 16:39:13

    I recently re-read this and most of her others and I lowered a lot of her earlier books a couple of notches. She comes into her own for me now IIRC right around The Ideal Wife. There really isn’t enough attraction between the two, and though the characters were different enough that my interest was piqued, it wasn’t enough to overcome the lack of substance as far as the romance went.

  4. Jo
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 17:19:13

    It’s been a thousand years since I read this book (or at least it seems that way), but I still recall the feeling that MB was able to evoke in me when Raymore secretly listened to Rosalind play. How lovely to be reminded of that.

  5. DS
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 17:49:14

    I’ve always been amazed at the fiancées who make that particular statement to their not yet leg shackled men. It’s a lot like the villain who blabs his entire plan to the heroine or hero because he is going to kill the person any way.

    You just know that is not going to turn out well.

  6. Janine
    Sep 15, 2010 @ 19:31:36

    @Sunita: I will say this, the book kept me reading. Right before I read this book I finished Balogh’s first book, A Masked Deception (review to come) and that was one that made me wonder why I was bothering as I read it. This one was a big improvement over that one, so maybe I was a little too easy on it for that reason.

    @WallySue: LOL. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I read it back when I was in high school. At that time I was gobbling up Diana Palmer’s Silhouettes…

    @shelly: I really liked The Ideal Wife. Need to reread that one… Agree completely as far as Red Rose.

    @Jo: Those scenes (Raymore secretly listening to Rosalind at the piano) were the best part of this book IMO.

    @DS: LOL!

  7. Jennie
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 01:14:32

    This is one of those ones I don’t remember that much, though I think I was a bit disappointed in it, if only because I remember a lot of Balogh fans raving about it as the time.

  8. dick
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 08:43:18

    I think most of Balogh’s “trads” are so replete with bitter events before the autorially manipulated HEA that it’s almost impossible to call them romances.
    Remarkably astute character studies, as with Freddy in “Dancing with Clara,” but not very romantic.

  9. Janine
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 10:53:02

    @Jennie: Yeah, it’s not one of her most memorable books IMO.

  10. Janine
    Sep 16, 2010 @ 14:38:26

    @dick: I missed your post before. I wonder if it went into the spam filter by mistake?

    Anyhow, I loved Dancing with Clara even though I can see why others might feel it is unromantic. One of the things I admire about many of Balogh’s trads is the psychological insights into the characters and those characters’ complexities. Some of those books are quite powerful and absorbing to me.

    This one felt like a weaker one to me, though. I don’t think it was that strong in the character study department and it also wasn’t that romantic, but it did keep me reading to see what would happen next, which is something a lot of books can’t manage to do, so I give it some credit for that.

    I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this one at the crazy prices it is going for now that it’s out of print, unless you’re a die hard Balogh fan, but I hope to see Balogh’s entire backlist reissued.

  11. Bella F.
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 01:38:17

    Mary Balogh’s Huxtable series was my first introduction to historical romance recently, and so far I’ve loved them :) Haven’t read any of her older books yet…

  12. Janine
    Sep 17, 2010 @ 13:11:28

    @Bella F.: Her newer books are somewhat different from her older books. I tend to like her mid-career (1990s-early 2000s) books best.

  13. Nifty
    Sep 18, 2010 @ 18:35:52

    I love the old Signet Regency covers.

  14. Lisa R
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 03:58:49

    “I was hoping the flaw would turn out to be that Rosalind wasn't a virgin, so that Raymore would be confronted with his greatest aversion…”
    That does sound like a very intriguing plot twist! Do you know of any romances that feature this “problem”?

  15. Janine
    Sep 19, 2010 @ 16:02:58

    @Nifty:One of my favorites is the old Signet cover of Balogh’s Dark Angel, with the hero and heroine dressed for a masked ball.

    @Lisa R: I can’t think of any offhand, but there may have been books like that written back in the early nineties.

    On further thought, I think it would be hard to pull off such a plot without having the hero fall into judgmental “What s slut!” thought patterns, which would, I suspect, turn off a lot of readers, myself included.

  16. Susan/DC
    Sep 22, 2010 @ 21:18:10

    If you are looking for a book with that specific flaw, Balogh herself has one: “Secrets of the Heart”. Unlike Dick, I very much believe in most of Balogh’s HEA, but not for that one, which is probably my least favorite of her books. It also has one of those awful old school covers, where the supposed Regency aristocrats look like refugees from a 1963 prom.

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