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REVIEW: Simply Love by Mary Balogh

Dear Mrs. Balogh,

Most of us have been eagerly awaiting Sydnam Butler’s HEA for years. I know I have. I just wish that I could have gotten it without dragging the whole Bedwyn and Butler clans into the story as well. Having read, or in the case of Lady Morgan, attempted to read each of the individual Bedwyn books, I can assure you I have read a gracious plenty about the Bedwyns. I neither need nor wish to have each and every one, plus spouses and children — both natural and adopted — along with all the members of the Ravensburg Butler family, trotted out in every book to convince me of their felicity and fecundity. But it did make reading the book much easier when I could skip whole scenes of sugary sweetness, Bedwyn style.

“Simply Love” involves two characters familiar to long time readers of Mary Balogh’s single title “Slighty” series. Anne Jewell is the unwed mother introduced in “Slighty Scandalous” who became a teacher at a school for young ladies in Bath. Sydnam Butler is the younger brother in “A Summer to Remember.” He had wanted to be a painter but headed off to the Peninsular Wars to prove his manhood. There he was captured and tortured by the French leaving him with one arm, one eye and scars bad enough to repulse strangers. Now he works as a land steward for the Duke of Bewcastle, head of the Bedwyn clan, in Wales. Anne is gently coerced into coming along with one of the Bedwyn couples to their annual summer get together, held this time in Wales. Naturally Anne and Syd meet, get to know each other, are manipulated by the Bedwyns, then do something that forces them to get married. Yes, in a classic “you know it’s coming” scene, Anne and Syd indulge in “that one afternoon together” which has long term repercussions thus forcing them to get married. Now they must work out some kind of marriage, face their individual demons and find true love.

As my first paragraph indicates, enough with the Bedwyns. I’m sick of them. I’m also tired of young, unmarried Regency women hopping into bed with men then refusing their proposals of marriage for high flown ideals. Anne, more than any heroine, should have been aware of the unintended consequences of sex. True, the first time she was raped but unprotected sexual intercourse whether desired or not can, and in this case does, lead to pregnancy. Anne faced public censure for years before landing her cushy job as a teacher, worries about her bastard son in society and should be the last woman to do this especially since she’s still not over her fear of intimacy. Poor Syd offers to do the right thing by her at the time then has to race around 2 months later to secure a quickie marriage which fools no one.

And then there’s the whole acceptance of Anne in society. You have a token mention of one pupil pulled from the Bath school due to Anne and her illegitimate son but then have enormous numbers of high society people not only accepting her but matchmaking to get her married to Syd. As a friend of mine once said about another of your books, it negates the whole issue of what Anne went through to suddenly have it seem to mean nothing. This is an era when unwed motherhood was a disaster. But the only people who appear to truly be upset about it are Anne’s family and even then we all know that a reconciliation is coming.

Along with happy families, we also know that Syd will overcome his aversion to picking up a paint brush and trying to continue his painting. As you set up scene, I could see exactly what was coming and how each little hurdle towards peace and happiness would be overcome. I know you’ve written so many books that it must be hard to find a new way to write things but I could honestly see the resolutions from miles way.

All the complaints aren’t to say you can’t write. Your style is as smooth and polished as ever. Maybe I’m just getting tired of reading the same book in a Slightly Different version. C for this one.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

27 Comments

  1. Marg
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 04:51:34

    Ohh..sounds disappointing! I should be getting my copy from the library in the next couple of days. I really wanted to LOVE Syd’s story! Guess I’ll find out soon enough

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  2. Jayne
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 07:54:09

    Marg, I think this book falls into the category of “I would have enjoyed it more 5 years ago.” I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when Balogh first annouced the “Slightly” series. Just what the romance world needed:another series about a Regency aristocratic English family with multiple siblings and a high ranking brother as the head of the family. As if that hasn’t been done to death. Well, as my review of this book states, I ended up trying all of them (but really only liked 3 of them).

    Then Balogh announced this “Simply” series all about governesses who find true love in English upperclass society. Well, hasn’t that been done as well? And far too many times. The first book was OK if nothing new. But this one, with all the characters from previous books just hit me wrong. It’s time to write something new, with new characters and leave these alone.

    From the responses and reviews of it at other review sites, it seems I’m in the minority again. I guess it just depends on if you’re ready to read more about the Bedwyns or want to move on to something new.

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  3. Phyl
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 08:35:57

    From the responses and reviews of it at other review sites, it seems I’m in the minority again. I guess it just depends on if you’re ready to read more about the Bedwyns or want to move on to something new.

    I’m not so sure you are in a minority. The Balogh fangirls have come out gushing, but I’ve seen plenty of other reactions that indicate the same kind of disappointment. I’m waiting for a library copy of this, although I’ll probably eventually buy the paperback since I own all of her other books. I’m not in a hurry to read it now as I suspect my reaction will be similar to yours. I don’t want to revisit old characters; I want to read about new ones.

    I loved Slightly Married, but I never got why others thought Slightly Dangerous was so wonderful. Mary Balogh seems to writing totally different books than she did as recently as 5 years ago. She has admitted as much on the Yahoo group of her fans. Well, that’s her choice of course, but disappointing because few authors do angst as well as Mary once did.

    Phyl

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  4. Jayne
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 08:54:12

    I’m not so sure you are in a minority. The Balogh fangirls have come out gushing, but I’ve seen plenty of other reactions that indicate the same kind of disappointment. I’m waiting for a library copy of this, although I’ll probably eventually buy the paperback since I own all of her other books. I’m not in a hurry to read it now as I suspect my reaction will be similar to yours. I don’t want to revisit old characters; I want to read about new ones.

    It was at the halfway point of the “Slightly” series where I finally decided that I was going to break from keeping every Balogh book and Alleyn’s (or however you spell his name) book that broke me from thinking I had to buy (new or used) all of Balogh’s books. Honestly, if I had read the AAR review first, I doubt I would have even tried this one.

    I loved Slightly Married, but I never got why others thought Slightly Dangerous was so wonderful. Mary Balogh seems to writing totally different books than she did as recently as 5 years ago. She has admitted as much on the Yahoo group of her fans. Well, that’s her choice of course, but disappointing because few authors do angst as well as Mary once did.

    I liked the first two Slightly books and the last one but as for the rest…pffft. I hated Morgan’s book with the hero spouting “Cherie” all the time and as for the Disney whores (wonder if they whistled while they worked?)…sheesh what a ridiculous plot.

    This book does have angst in it but it’s telegraphed way ahead of time and I felt as if I was being manipulated with it.

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  5. Wendy
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 10:40:30

    I only tend to read Balogh when she falls in my lap (ie. Wendy gets a review copy) – but like you find the series-itis thing really annoying. Just. Leave. The. Characters. Alone. And. Move. On. Seriously, what happened to stand alone books – or even the glory days of trilogies? How I miss them so.

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  6. seton
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 13:56:27

    Word to everything you wrote.

    Sick of the Bedwyns (aka Second Rate Mallorens).

    Sick of Regency misses going to bed out of wedlock and refusing to marry the chap. (Hello, Stephanie Laurens!)

    I think Balogh is in a creative rut. She is talented enough that she doesnt need original plots but then you need to crank out the wit or the angst to make up for it and Balogh hasnt done either. I dont like her more steamline generic style at all.

    Seton, who has been reading Balogh since 1986

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  7. Kristie(J)
    Aug 24, 2006 @ 18:54:46

    I quit reading Balogh part way through the Slightly series. Just too many of them and I also noticed a change in her writing style. She just became too generic after a while and I have this 4 book in a series limit. It used to be 3 but then along came the Compass Club series and I needed to read all four of them to make the complete compas, so I relented and changed it to 4. Sadly though, once I get annoyed at an author, I never go back to them so *dramatic sigh* I doubt I’ll ever read another Balogh.
    Then again though just thinking on it, I’ve read every JD Robb book so far, so I guess there are a few exceptions to my 4 books in a series rule

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  8. Deb
    Dec 26, 2006 @ 16:18:11

    I’m new to this site, just wanted to comment on Simply Love, Agreed, very dissappointing. I did enjoy Simply Unforgettable but I too am tired of the idea of entire families having to be married off….where you get to revisit the same characters over and over. Kind of ruins the whole idea of happily ever-after.
    No Man’s Mistress is a favorite of mine but the follow up on the brother (again) was a bore.

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  9. Jane
    Dec 26, 2006 @ 17:22:21

    [quote comment="16651"]
    No Man’s Mistress is a favorite of mine but the follow up on the brother (again) was a bore.[/quote]

    Welcome! I loved No Man’s Mistress and agree with your assessment on the follow up. I wonder if Balogh’s suffering a bit of a writers’ block in terms of creativity due to increased pressure to output so many books. I also wonder at bringing her out again in hardcover.

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  10. Jayne
    Dec 26, 2006 @ 18:37:21

    I have vague memories of Balogh thinking about writing the sister’s story in the “No Man” series. Did anything come of this or did that storyline die when the Bedwyn saga began?

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  11. Phyl
    Dec 27, 2006 @ 11:03:23

    [quote comment="16662"]I have vague memories of Balogh thinking about writing the sister’s story in the “No Man” series. Did anything come of this or did that storyline die when the Bedwyn saga began?[/quote]
    I’m on Mary’s Yahoo group and fairly recently she said that she still has it mind to write the backstory for the sister. She’s got another quartet in the works (I *think* this time they’re cousins or something like that) and then she’d like to write the sister’s story. That could be years from now and who knows what else could intervene. If it’s true that publishers prefer contracts for multiple books, it’s hard to imagine that this one would see the light of day.

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  12. Vivian Ogino
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 00:08:42

    Well, after reading the above comments I’m surprised any of you people even want to read “Regency Romance” novels! Amazingly those of us who continue to enjoy Mary’s books want to read about romance and “happy endings”. I enjoyed all the Slightly books and found both Morgan and Alleyne’s stories to have real poignancy. Perhaps you should try reading past the fact that they are all related and realize that they are simply stories. I have read all of her books and never tire of the fact that the hero and the heroine will end up together. As far as Anne’s acceptance in society you may be correct in historical fact, however these stories are fictional and are meant to be uplifting, otherwise her story would never have been told.

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  13. Jayne
    Mar 17, 2007 @ 05:47:36

    Vivian, welcome and I’m glad you posted. Why do I read Regency novels? Because sometimes I enjoy not having sex in the books (this would apply to trad regencies). As for longer books, despite the glut of Regencies over the past few years, a good one will still draw me in.

    And I have loved Mary Balogh books in the past (and still bring out some of my favorites for rereads when I’m down and need a lift). Which is why I’m so disappointed when she seemingly goes into “auto-write” and churns out the same old same old. I agree with you that I want HEA for my heroes and heroines but I’m tired of taking the exact same drive through the countryside to get there. As for reading past the fact that the stories are related, it’s impossible when all the past characters are written into each new book.

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  14. romancefanreader
    Apr 18, 2007 @ 20:56:45

    Wendy replies:
    August 24th, 2006 | Quote
    I only tend to read Balogh when she falls in my lap (ie. Wendy gets a review copy) – but like you find the series-itis thing really annoying. Just. Leave. The. Characters. Alone. And. Move. On. Seriously, what happened to stand alone books – or even the glory days of trilogies? How I miss them so.

    I miss them too! Why does every author today write trilogies? or Series?
    The one exception is Stephanie Laurens CYNSTER NOVELS. Those were great but…afterwards it seemed to me that other authors followed her.
    SIMPLY LOVE and SIMPLY MAGIC were both as boring and dull as everyone has said here in their comments. Ms. Balogh writes regencies so well but her latest are completely uninteresting. I could not finish SIMPLY MAGIC…and I was sad about it too!

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  15. romancefanreader
    Apr 18, 2007 @ 20:59:19

    As for longer books, despite the glut of Regencies over the past few years, a good one will still draw me in.

    Yes! There is nothing like the feeling I get after having just finished a well written satisfying regency romance!

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  16. romancefanreader
    Jun 25, 2007 @ 18:48:41

    How do I find Mary Balogh’s YAHOO group? Thanks

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  17. Joanna
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 05:07:36

    I adored this book. It was only the second Balogh I’d ever read (and I didn’t like the first one so I’m not being a fangirl). I just loved the characters. I did read 4 of the 6 Bedwyn books after that and admittedly, I didn’t like them nearly as much – except Slightly Dangerous which I really liked.

    But whatever you think of Mary Balogh books, the woman can write. There are so many authors out there writing awful, substandard prose yet garnering decent reviews. It just astonishes me that you could give this a C

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  18. Jayne
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 06:14:45

    Joanna, I definitely agree with you that the woman can write. Can still write after all these years in the business but I can’t tell you how tired I am of reading the same book from her. Have you tried her older traditional (shorter length) regencies? Now those are some fantastic books. Check out my reviews of “Dark Angel” or “Lord Carew’s Bride” to see my love letters to Mrs. Balogh.

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  19. RfP
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 10:10:17

    I adored this book. It was only the second Balogh I'd ever read

    I think this is like the Stephanie Laurens/Cynster issue–if the books are new to you, they’re a lot more enjoyable, because yes–Balogh really can write. Unfortunately, by the 6th near-identical book in the series, it gets tired.

    Like Jayne, I enjoyed a couple of the Bedwyn books (though I agree, they’re Malloren Lite). But in ANY series, even if I adore every single book, I hate it when the plot stalls while the author catches us up on the previous books’ characters. Don’t weigh down the current novel with extraneous characters–write an epilogue if you must, but don’t insert a boring Christmas letter in the middle of the book (“and Johnny’s at college, and Jamie’s had a baby, and June’s engaged, and…”).

    you may be correct in historical fact, however these stories are fictional and are meant to be uplifting

    I can accept a fictional world where some historicity is lost. But Jayne hit on a really important point: in this case, downplaying the social reality reduced the tension in the story (“it negates the whole issue of what Anne went through to suddenly have it seem to mean nothing”). I care more that Anne’s situation lost emotional authenticity, than that it lost historical authenticity.

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  20. Joanna
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 06:10:53

    I hear what you’re saying – even having read 8 or so fairly recent Baloghs I can see the similarities and I suppose you can only review a book based on your own reading experience rather than what someone new to this author would think. Nevertheless, I think it’s a shame that someone new to Balogh might be put off reading this book because it’s received a C review when that grade perhaps does not reflect the quality of the book itself but rather its place in the author’s whole body of work. Personally, I would have given Simply Love a B+ (with minor deductions for the Bedwyn bits).

    I would love to read some of Balogh’s older, shorter books but they’re impossible to get (at least here in the UK). Some of them are selling for £80-100 on Amazon. A few re-releases would be a good thing methinks.

    What I would say is that I’ve read a couple of her older ones (from the Web trilogy) and to my mind, the quality of writing in those was not so good as the more recent ones I’ve read. Those might just have been weaker books but perhaps Balogh’s skills as a writer have improved over the years and you are viewing her old Regencies through rose-tinted glasses? I’m certainly not prepared to pay £80 to find out. But if there is anyone in the UK with a stash of old Baloghs they don’t want any more, let me know!

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  21. Jayne
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 07:13:05

    Joanna, I haven’t read the Web trilogy but from what I’ve been told, they are weaker than a lot of her older books. I’ve been lucky in finding a lot of her out of print books at my local half-price stores which put the price at
    about £1-2 each. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of her books there lately.

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  22. RfP
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 09:51:22

    I found The Gilded Web not up to her later standard–the writing is flat, and the hero and heroine have very little emotional connection. (Balogh wrote a Dear Reader letter acknowledging a change in her writing style.)

    Joanna, I see your point:
    I think it's a shame that someone new to Balogh might be put off reading this book because it's received a C review when that grade perhaps does not reflect the quality of the book itself but rather its place in the author's whole body of work.

    but at some point I think the sameness of the whole body of work should affect the overall ratings of the books. It’s a tricky balance. If I find an author’s going stale on me, I generally stop reading her for a while. When I pick her up again, sometimes I find I enjoy her anew, but sometimes the books really have lost steam.

    (Though I rated Gilded Web low as a stand-alone work, not because of any comparisons with other Balogh books.)

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  23. romancefanreader
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 17:48:20

    How do I find Mary Balogh’s Yahoo group?
    I do not know the name of the group.

    Thanks,
    Marie

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  24. Jayne
    Sep 07, 2007 @ 18:37:22

    Marie, try this one. Link to Mary Balogh fans at Yahoo Groups.

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  25. romancefanreader
    Sep 09, 2007 @ 15:46:20

    Jayne wrote:”Marie, try this one. Link to Mary Balogh fans at Yahoo Groups”

    Idid! Thanks Jayne…I so appreciate the link.

    Marie

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  26. Joanna
    Sep 27, 2007 @ 15:00:52

    Well – I’ve now had the pleasure of reading a few old Baloghs which came my way thanks to my last post (Thank you!!!)

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the quality of Balogh’s writing has been pretty consistent but her plotlines and characters are sometimes – repetitious. I think that’s natural – all prolific writers have particular stories and character types that interest them – but in light of this, I’m not surprised that some of her longtime readers have become impatient with more recent efforts. However, for my part, I don’t think the earlier books I’ve read are any better than the ones she’s produced more recently.

    More generally, I have to say I’m impatient of lengthy series like the Bedwyns and Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons. I’m not averse to a sequel but 6 siblings is frankly taking the piss.

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  27. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2007 @ 15:23:46

    Joanna, I think you’ll find most people agree with you re: repetitious plots and character types. I thought she was doing that even before she began writing the expanded single title books and starting these 4-6 book series. She’s also mentioned in various interviews that she’s not writing so much of the “dark” stuff anymore. And given the number of regency era books she’s turned out over the years, I’d have trouble dreaming up new stuff too.

    And I know people want happy, happy stories for all the various relatives and friends of the couple in the first book of a series but I agree that 6-8 siblings finding eternal bliss with partners in a limited social group is asking a bit much to believe. ;)

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