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.