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This is a new series called “If You Like” which will be hosted by various readers, authors and bloggers of Dear Author. The purpose of the post and the comments is to explore what we like about a particular iconic author and what other authors have books like the iconic author. If you would like to host an “If You Like” post, please email me at Jane at dearauthor.com

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If you like Mary Balogh

In 1996, Beth Pattillo did me a great favor when she told me that I must read a Mary Balogh novel. It was love at first read. At that point, Mary Balogh had been published for ten years. Since then I have read at least 55 of her nearly 70 novels to date and several of her novellas. I would have read all of them if I could have found copies. Some of the quotes in this piece may include spoilers.

Setting (era and geographic): Mostly Regency England

book review Mary Balogh has set the vast majority of her stories in Regency England (early nineteenth century) – in London or the English countryside with lots of house-party settings. The Napoleonic Wars have played a part in some of her stories as well. The exceptions to this setting are her two Georgian England novels, one Victorian and two novels set in Wales.

Balogh uses history as a source of inspiration and conflict for her stories. While still appealing and relevant to twenty-first-century readers, her novels feel historically accurate and display an appreciation for history. Social mores have a profound influence on her heroes and heroines.

Heroine Type: A lovely variety of English Misses

There is no stock Balogh heroine as Balogh is one of the best there is at characterization. Her characters have psychological and emotional depth, and her heroines are likeable, competent, strong, appealing, and smart. They often are outsiders in some way. Balogh portrays her outsiders – the prostitutes, the governesses, the old maids, the poor relations, the disabled – as she portrays nearly all her characters – with full appreciation for their humanity, their life experiences, their hopes, fears, wishes, needs, desires, dreams, foibles, weaknesses, and strengths. This makes each of her heroines unique.

"I can live without your approval," she said coldly. "I do not know what you have done that is so heinous. I do not want to know. I want you out of this room, and I want you out now. Find somewhere else to cower in fright."

"Fright?" He laughed and set a hand over his heart. "You wound me, my charmer."

He was standing very close, quite close enough for Freyja to realize that the top of her head reached barely to his chin. But she always had been short. She was accustomed to ruling her world from below the level of much of the action.

"I am neither your sweetheart nor your charmer," she told him. "I shall count to three. One."

"For what purpose?" He set his hands on either side of her waist.

"Two."

He lowered his head and kissed her. Right on the lips, his own parted slightly so that there was a shocking sensation of warm, moist intimacy.

Freyja inhaled sharply, drew back one arm, and punched him hard in the nose.

"Ouch!" he said, fingering his nose gingerly and flexing his mouth. He drew his hand away and Freyja had the satisfaction of seeing that she had drawn blood. "Did no one ever teach you that any ordinary lady would slap a man’s cheek under such scandalous circumstances, not punch him in the nose."

"I am no ordinary lady," she told him sternly.

From Slightly Scandalous

Hero Type: Mostly Arrogant Aristocrats

Balogh’s heroes come from privileged backgrounds and have the arrogance that comes from that. For example, Balogh writes deliciously arrogant dukes. Yes, one year of historical romances feature more dukes than were probably alive throughout the entire nineteenth century in England, but Balogh’s dukes are unique. Each is his own complete self. The Duke of Bewcastle is nothing like the Duke of Tresham, who is not interchangeable with the Dukes of Handon, Bridgewater or Tenby.

Perhaps this was, after all, just the thing for him, Wulfric thought as he settled into conversation. He would enjoy two weeks of interesting company and then be ready to return to Lindsey Hall for the rest of the summer. After all, one could not become a hermit simply because one’s brothers and sisters had all married and one’s mistress had died.

book review And then the door opened again and he heard two extremely unpleasant sounds-feminine giggles and male laughter. Male and female voices mingled in a flurry of merry sound. The ladies went on their way; a large group of gentlemen came inside the room. And there was not one among them, Wulfric estimated, who was above twenty-five years of age. And not one of them-if he was to judge by their laughter and posturing and swaggering-who had a brain in his head.

From Slightly Dangerous

While Mary Balogh’s heroes aren’t often outsiders like some of her heroines are, each is distinctive and has his own reasons why falling in love with the heroine is a challenge. Her stories are often about two lonely, damaged souls finding love, healing and a better life through the new relationship.

He did not look forward to the summer.

He would stay out of the way as much as he was able. He would try at least to remain out of sight of the children. He did not want to frighten them. The worst feeling in the world was to see fear, revulsion, horror, and panic on the faces of children and to know that it was his own appearance that had caused it.

One month, Bewcastle’s secretary had written. Thirty-one days, if that statement was to be taken literally. It seemed like an eternity.

But he would survive it.

He had survived a great deal worse. There had been days-and nights-when he had wished he had not done so. Survived, that was.

From Simply Love

book review Anne Jewell helped Sydnam Butler heal, and Sydnam helped Anne. The heroines see the real self behind the heroes’ social masks, help the heroes discover, acknowledge and value the hidden parts of themselves and vice versa.

Plot (action-oriented / character-driven): Character-driven

It’s the romance, stupid, or at least it is in a Mary Balogh story. She writes character-driven love stories. Yes, she’ll have some kind of an external plot, stuff always happens in her books, and some of her books even include a suspense subplot, but the main focus and narrative drive of her novels come from the developing romance between two, well-developed characters who grow and change as they fall in love. No two Balogh characters fall in love the same way. This path to love is unique in each of her stories based on her characters.

"It is the word "like,’" she said. "I did not know that what I had always thought was liking was really love. I have been very foolish."

He felt rather as if someone had just punched him in the stomach again. He felt robbed of breath.

"Give me an example," he said, risking further pain by lowering his cheek to the top of her head.

"When I met you at Highmoor," she said, "I liked you so terribly much, Hartley. After each meeting I lived for the next time, and when I had to leave early with Aunt Aggy, there was a dreadful emptiness in my life where you had been. I thought you my best friend in the world, and I thought I would never know such friendship again. Town and the Season were flat because I did not have my friend to share them with. And then when I saw you again, I was so happy that I thought I would burst. I wanted you to kiss me and I wanted to say what I said to you afterward and I wanted to marry you-because I liked you so much. After we were married, for those three days, I-I have never been so happy in my life. And afterward, I wanted to die, I wanted the world to end because I thought you did not like me any longer."

"Ah, love," he said.

"Have I given you enough examples?" she asked. "Do you see what I mean?"

He swallowed and rubbed his cheek against her hair.

"You see," she said, "when I went through that horrid experience during my first Season, I called it love. I thought that was what it was, that horrible obsession, the dreadful guilt, the-oh, everything. And all I have clung to since is the conviction that I wanted nothing more to do with love. I saw Jenny and Gabriel together and other people, too, but I did not believe in it for myself. So when I met you, I think I was afraid to call my feelings what they were. I thought everything would turn ugly. I wanted to like you and you to like me so that we could be happy together."

"I like you, sweetheart," he said.

From Lord Carew’s Bride, ISBN: 0451185528

book review While Balogh has written suspense and secondary romance subplots, the majority of her subplots tend to be about other important relationships for the hero and heroine and how they influence the developing romance. Her secondary characters are well-developed, and she often writes about their romances in subsequent novels. I do like to read her books in a row as there is some character development across novels or series, but each of her books can stand alone. If you have never read a novel by Mary Balogh and would like to start with one that is not connected to any previous novel, I recommend More than a Mistress.

Plot (slow / medium / fast): Medium

I’m following loongrrl’s example from her analysis of Judith McNaught’s novels and going with medium. I can’t put these books down and I’ve stayed up very late to finish them, but emotions, sexual tension, romance, character growth and relationship-stuff are moving the story forward for the most part, and I think the label fast-paced applies to more plot-driven books.

Writing style (simple vs. ornate): Emotional

I think of Balogh’s writing style as deeply emotional. Balogh uses language to help her tell her story better, show her characters’ emotions and even evoke those emotions in her readers. She uses deep point-of-view to increase intimacy with the characters and help the readers identify with them. She includes all five senses in her love scenes. She’s never wordy. Her prose never gets in the way of my enjoyment of her stories. I think her writing is beautiful, and it powerfully evokes the emotions of her stories, but I don’t know what to call it. What do you think?

Dialogue: (lots / little / balanced): Lots

book review Balogh has lots of dialogue in most of her novels. I like the hero and heroine to talk to each other, and they certainly do in a Balogh novel. Their communication improves as their relationship deepens, and Balogh writes some of the most beautiful "I love you" scenes when the hero and heroine confess their love and express what the beloved has added to his or her life.

"Come back to me," he said. "Please, Priss. Marry me. Or if you don’t want anything so permanent, well, come back to me anyway. And when you want to leave, I will provide for you and the child. I know I’m not much, but I will look after you. If only things had been different, I know you could have done so much better for yourself. You are so intelligent and knowledgeable and accomplished. I know I have nothing much to offer someone like you, but-"

"Gerald!" she said, and her hands were rubbing hard against the lapels of his coat. "You have everything to offer me. Everything in the world. In the whole universe. Your love. A loyal and a warm and kind heart. Yourself. You are so very worthy of being loved, and all I can offer you is a soiled life."

He covered her hands with his and held them flat against his chest. He was shaking his head. "You survived, Priss," he said. "You worked for your living. And I am glad you did or I would never have met you. It is in the past, those months at Kit’s. In the past, where it will stay."

"You are a baronet," she said. I will never be accepted, Gerald. Never received."

"I think you are wrong," he said. "There are perfectly respectable people in society who have a far more scarlet past than yours. But even if you are right, it does not matter. It’s you I want, Priss. Only you. We will live it through together, whatever may be facing us. And I know Miles will receive you and the countess, too. She hugged me when I was leaving and even kissed my cheek. I was never so surprised in my life."

"Gerald." She looked at him with troubled eyes. "Are you sure? Are you very sure?’

He smiled at her suddenly, more radiantly than she had ever seen him smile before.

"You are going to say yes, aren’t you?" he said. "I know that you are. Say it, Priss. I want to hear it. I have dreamed of this moment for months and never believed that it would really come. Say it. Will you marry me?

She leaned her head forward and rested her forehead between her hands against his chest.

"Yes," she said.

From A Precious Jewel, ISBN: 0451176197

Humor (Yes / No-serious / Some): Some

Balogh can be funny. A few of her Signet regencies were farces, and A Summer to Remember and Slightly Scandalous had very humorous beginnings. I smile or even laugh several times during the majority of her novels. She’s never silly or slap-sticky, and her humor comes from her characters. There is always a lot of emotional and psychological depth to her characters, and often her characters’ humor masks pain. In some of her earlier, full-length novels (e.g. the signet super regencies and first single titles), I think she might have had too much dark in her stories.

Emotional Angst (high / medium / low): High

book review If you don’t like angst, Balogh may not be for you. A lot of Balogh’s characters are wounded in some way, and their path to true love and healing can be painful and rocky. Balogh is able to convince her readers to doubt whether these two people will be able to make their relationship work while realizing, at the same time, that these two people must be together.

Yet, for all of the emotional angst in a Mary Balogh story, the loving relationship developed between the hero and heroine never seems unhealthy. It is emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual, equal, passionate, but never unhealthy. Often, this new relationship has helped to heal the hero or heroine. The reader knows that this couple is good for each other, one side has not had to lose something important to make it work, falling in love often heals them in some way, they are each better people because of this new, loving relationship, and it will last.

"Kit, why are you here?"

"There is something I need to tell you," he said. "Something I should have told you before you left Alvesley. Something you ought to know whatever you decide to do with the knowledge. Once I have told you, you have only to say the word, Lauren, and I will walk back along this beach and up to the cliff top and into the village and I will never trouble you again, never try to see you again. It is a promise."

"Kit-"

He set one finger across her lips and looked into her eyes.

"I want to marry you," he said. "I want it more than I have ever wanted anything else in my life. For many reasons. But only one of them really matters to me. It is the one I did not tell you of because it seemed somehow dishonorable after you had carried out your side of the bargain so sweetly and so well. I love you. That is it, you see, the part I omitted. Just that. I love you. I do not believe it can really hurt you to know. It lays no obligation on you. I just needed to say it. I’ll leave now if you wish."

She said nothing, just pressed her head back harder against the rock and gazed at him with her lovely violet eyes. The drizzle was turning to light rain. It was running in droplets down her face. But it was not raindrops that were welling in her eyes.

"Tell me to go," he whispered.

She started to say something and then swallowed. She tried again. "I do not need you, you know," she said.

"I know." His heart was down in his boots somewhere.

"I do not need anyone," she said. "I can do this alone, this living business. All my life I have shaped myself into being what others expect me to be so that I will belong somewhere, be accepted somewhere, be loved by someone. When I knew I could not belong to Neville, I felt as if I had been cut adrift in the universe. I anchored myself by retreating into an even more rigid gentility. I don’t need to do any of that any longer. And I do have you to thank. But I don’t need you any longer, Kit. I am strong enough on my own."

"Yes." He bowed his head and closed his eyes again. "Yes, I know."

"I am free, you see," she said, "to love or to withhold love. Love and dependence need no longer be the same thing to me. I am free to love. That is why I love you, and it is the way I love you. If you have come here, Kit, because you think you owe me something, because you believe I might crumble without your protection, then go away again with my blessing and find happiness with someone else."

"I love you," he said again.

She gazed at him for a long time, her eyes still swimming in tears, and then she smiled, very slowly, and very, very radiantly.

He wrapped his arms about her waist, lifted her off her feet, and twirled her about in circles, while she braced her hands on his shoulders, flung her head back to expose her face to the rain, and laughed.

Kit whooped, and because the echo from the cliffs was so impressive, he threw back his head too and howled like a wolf.

From A Summer to Remember

Conflict (externally-driven / internally-driven / both): Internally-driven

Her conflicts are internally-driven. A Balogh hero is not able to fall in love with the heroine at the beginning of the novel and vice versa. It’s not possible until they have changed and grown in some way, and this growth is driven by the developing relationship and the healing and transforming power of love. She entwines the character arcs of the hero and heroine with the relationship arc and makes all three stronger in the process. This is what gives power to her love stories. When there are external sources of conflict, it often comes from society, usually represented by family members, and its social mores, class differences and expectations. She occasionally has a suspense subplot.

Heat level (kisses / warm / hot / scorching): Warm

book review Some of you who are fans of traditional regencies may disagree with the warm rating as Mary Balogh was very revolutionary in her inclusion of loves scenes in traditional regencies, but her love scenes are more sensual and emotional than graphic and athletic. I speculate that the reason why Signet allowed her to include those love scenes in her traditional regencies was that the stories would not have made as much sense if you took those bits out. A Mary Balogh love scene furthers the plot. You can’t skip the love scenes as they change the relationship and the direction of the story in significant ways. The physical aspect of the hero and heroine’s relationship is an important part of them falling in love.

"What I think, Jane," he said, narrowing his gaze on her, "is that I will see your hair down now at last. Take out the pins."

It was not dressed with its customary severity. It was waved and coiled in a manner that complemented the pretty, elegant dress she wore. But he wanted to see it flowing free.

She removed the pins deftly and shook her head.

Ah. It reached to below her waist, as she had said it did. A river of pure, shining, rippling gold. She had appeared beautiful before. Even in the hideous maid’s dress and the atrocious cap she had been beautiful. But now-

There simply were not words. He clasped his hands behind him. He had waited too long to rush now.

"Jocelyn." She tipped her head to one side and looked directly at him with her very blue eyes. "I am on unfamiliar ground here. You will have to lead the way."

He nodded, wondering at the great wave of-oh, not desire exactly that washed over him. Longing? That sort of gut-deep, soul-deep yearning that very occasionally caught him unawares and was shaken firmly off again. He associated it with music and painting. But now it was his name that had aroused it.

"Jocelyn is a name that has been in my family for generations," he said. "I acquired it when I was still in the womb. I cannot think of a single soul until now who has spoken it aloud to me."

From More than a Mistress

A Mary Balogh hero and heroine are deeply in love at the conclusion of the novel. She consistently delivers what I call the "ah moment". This is when you say, "ah," as you shut the covers of one of her novels after you’ve finished reading it because the hero and heroine are deeply in love, they’ve acknowledged and treasure this new relationship, all is right in their lives and all is right in your world for that moment.

"Luke," Anna said, "I have always been fortunate enough to be able to enjoy happiness when it presented itself. I have always had hope and I have always had the ability to see and appreciate the little things that can make life worth living. But I know now that it has been years and years since I have felt totally happy. I am happy now at this moment. Totally, wonderfully happy. No matter what the future has in store for us, I want to remember that there has been this moment. And that even this moment, with no more preceding and no more to come after, would make the whole mystery of living worthwhile."

He rubbed his cheek against the top of her head. "We will live life from moment to moment," he said, " thankful for each one we have together. Look, Anna, the world is turning gray beyond the windows. Dawn is coming."

"Ah," she said, "daylight and hope."

"And sunshine and laughter," he said. "Let us watch the sun come up, shall we? Together?"

She sighed with contentment. She did not need to answer in words.

At the end of Heartless (ISBN: 0425150119), I felt and believed this moment. I felt it for Anna and Luke, but I also felt it, in some ways, for myself.

Mary Balogh always entertains me. She often moves me. In every one of her novels, she always shows me and makes me feel the how and why these two interesting, unique and appealing people have fallen in love with each other, and how this new relationship has vastly improved their future lives. In my favorite of her novels, she’ll take me even further.

She can inspire me to think about the great questions of life and its meaning in a positive way. She can make me ponder life, love, relationships, God, hope, redemption, justice, gender relations, the role of women. She digs deeper in her stories, inspires me to do the same in my life and fills me with hope and belief in the healing power of love.

If you like Mary Balogh, you’ll like-

If you like a strong sense of history in your historical romances, I recommend Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Loretta Chase, Liz Carlyle, Madeline Hunter, Candice Hern, and almost any author who once wrote traditional regencies.

While the sensuality level is much, much hotter than that of a Mary Balogh novel, Passion by Lisa Valdez reached Baloghian heights in terms of emotional angst. You may also want to try Gaelen Foley, Judith McNaught or Lisa Kleypas.

If you prefer Mary Balogh’s lighter novels and farces, you may want to read some Julia Quinn or Loretta Chase novels. Other possibilities include Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Anne Gracie, Eloisa James, Barbara Metzger, Julie Anne Long, and Amanda Quick.

Honor is important to Balogh’s characters, especially her heroes. A similar devotion to honor can be found in a Carla Kelly or a Lois McMaster Bujold hero.

My favorite romance novels deliver a satisfying romance, provide an emotional reading experience, and inspire me to think deep thoughts. Mary Balogh consistently delivers. Some of my other favorites who can deliver all three – across the sub-genres of romance – are Mary Jo Putney, Carla Kelly, Emilie Richards, Barbara Samuel/Ruth Wind, Laura Kinsale, Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Brenda Novak, Gayle Wilson, Kathryn Shay, Tara Taylor Quinn, Kathleen Korbel/Eileen Dreyer, Margot Early, Cheryl Reavis, Marilyn Pappano, Curtis Ann Matlock, Judith Duncan, Janice Kay Johnson, Catherine Anderson (some of her historicals), Lorraine Heath (particularly her westerns), Megan Chance, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, other classic girl stories-

I highly recommend everyone I just mentioned, but I do believe there is nobody just like Mary Balogh. Which authors would you recommend for a similar reading experience?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

32 Comments

  1. Estara
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 06:59:30

    What a lovely analysis. I can’t do anything but agree.

  2. Tabitha
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 07:08:41

    I see her books all the time in the stores but never read one. I might just check one out now. Thanks.

  3. Karen
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 08:19:23

    I am a huge fan of Mary Balogh. I started reading her back when she was first writing Regencies, and I’ve loved her ever since. The only author I might add to your list is LaVyrle Spencer, particularly her historicals like Morning Glory and The Endearment. Balogh’s books are very emotional, but her characters are often quiet, expressing their emotions in small ways, and I think Spencer has the same qualities.

  4. Michelle
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 10:52:46

    Thanks, Estara! Karen, thanks for the tip about LaVyrle Spencer. I like her novels a lot too. My grandmother actually gave me a copy of Years and said it was her mother’s story.
    Tabitha – I hope you try a Mary Balogh novel and ultimately, enjoy it.

  5. MB
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 12:17:47

    LaVyrle Spencer is a great recommendation!

    I want to mention Sheila Simonson as well. If you can find her books in your library or in a used book store, they would be well worth your time. She wrote a few regency romances with lots of strong interesting characterization, emotional growth, angst and complications.

    They are probably more comparable to Mary Balogh than any of the others already mentioned.

    Ooops! And don’t forget Jo Beverley! Wonderful stuff! Many of her book are well up to Mary Balogh’s quality. Some of them are better.

  6. Jessa Slade
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 13:42:25

    Mary Balogh’s were among the first romances I read and I loved them. For some reason, I’ve fallen away (the downside of so many titles on the market) but I think I’ll circle back for ones that I’ve missed. Thanks for the in-depth review & the reminder.

    Maybe Betina Krahn would fit on the list too?

  7. Janine
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 14:29:44

    What a wonderful article. I would recommend following authors: Carla Kelly, Mary Jo Putney, Liz Carlyle, and Lisa Valdez’s Passion. I would also recommend Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows — honor is very important to the hero in that book, and if I’m not mistaken the RT reviewer thought it would be a good fit for readers of Balogh and Putney. I don’t generally think of Loretta Chase as writing books similar to Balogh’s, but Not Quite a Lady has an outsider heroine and a lot of emotion, so that one might be a good fit.

    In addition, I’m working on an “If You Like Laura Kinsale…” article that will hopefully run a week from now, and, though I think it’s a bit of a stretch, I recommend Balogh’s traditional regenecies and early single titles there, because I think they had a similar emotional punch to most of Kinsale’s books. On that same basis I agree with your inclusion of Megan Chance — another writer of emotional and fresh historicals, though hers are set in the Americas. I don’t know if you’ve read Patricia Gaffney but actually I think her romances (the later ones) would be a good fit too. Except for a couple of lighter farcical ones, most have high angst and her heroines also act according to the mores of their time periods.

  8. Keri M
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 15:01:02

    Although my time period is probably off, you might like early Jane Feather or early Amanda Quick(Jayne Ann Krentz) to me both of these authors early historical works had a bit more depth to them then they do now. Keri

  9. RStewie
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 16:23:01

    Janine,
    I’m on the lookout for that article. I don’t absolutely LOVE many authors, but Kinsale is on the list.

    It seems like my most favorite authors are also the most given to unreliable muses…I love Robin McKinley, too, and have given up hope of a sequel to Sunshine. :(

  10. Janine
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 16:30:21

    RStewie — I hope my upcoming article is a help to you! I don’t love all the books of the other authors I listed there as much as I do my favorite Kinsales. Since her books pack such a powerful emotional punch, it was hard to find authors that match it. All I could do was list the ones whose books came close, or reminded me of her work in other ways.

  11. Tumperkin
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 16:51:26

    Couldn’t agree more. I adore Mary Balogh. Generally I’m a fan of a more verbose style of writing but there’s something about the spareness of her prose that is very effective – and her dialogue is just amazing. It just flows, conversationally, sometimes quite long tracts of it.

    Funnily enough, More Than A Mistress was the first Balogh I read and if I hadn’t had another on order already at that point I doubt I would have read another. My reaction was that it was good but nothing special. The book that arrived a couple of days later was One Night For Love and is possibly my favourite Balogh (or possibly Slightly Dangerous?)

  12. Janine
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 17:02:41

    Tumperkin — That is interesting because One Night for Love almost turned me off her books. My favorites so far (I have yet to read her entire backlist!) include:

    The Obedient Bride
    The Ideal Wife
    A Precious Jewel
    A Christmas Promise
    (possibly my favorite)
    Dancing with Clara
    Dark Angel
    Lord Carew’s Bride
    Snow Angel
    Longing
    Indiscreet
    (possibly my favorite too — so hard to choose!)
    Thief of Dreams
    Slightly Married
    Slightly Dangerous

  13. Keishon
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 17:27:33

    I don’t much read Mary Balogh anymore. The titles I loved were The Temporary Wife, The Last Snowdrop, Indiscreet, Snow Angel, Thief of Dreams, Heartless (my first book by her) and The Notorious Rake.

  14. Laura
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 17:46:46

    Great article, Michelle! I used to be a big Mary Balogh fan, but for some reason, I haven’t kept up with her more recent releases. (She did one trilogy that’s been on my keeper shelf for years… I think it was the Four Horsemen or something like that? The heroes were four military officers who served together.) I will definitely have to pick up her latest!

    Thanks for contributing this article. I’m really enjoying the “If You Like…” series!

  15. Meanne
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 17:48:35

    Thank you for such a wonderful post…

    Mary Balogh came to my reading radar about 7 years ago with More Than A Mistress which blew me away. Unfortunately her No Man's Mistress was a DNF for me. But A Summer to Remember restored my faith in her and became the 2nd book of hers to be on my keeper shelf…Somehow though, her Slightly series doesn't appeal much to me and neither does her Simply series. But I had heard a lot of positive things about her earlier regencies so I wanted to give them a try…I can still remember feeling stunned sometime early this year after reading the first few pages of The Notorious Rake, which continued to be a stunning piece of work right up to the very end.. I had a similar experience with The Trysting Place, A Promise of Spring, A Precious Jewel, The Plumed Bonnet, The Temporary Wife, The Ideal Wife, A Counterfeit Betrothal, The Obedient Wife and Irresistible…My goal is to get all of her backlist and just savor them one by one. And once I'm through with her earlier works, then I'll go give her Slightly or Simply series another try. Just this afternoon I finished a short story of hers The Porcelain Madonna and it was simply magical…

    I quite agree that there's nobody that writes like Mary Balogh but happily enough there are other authors that can provide that same wonderful ache in your heart and in your throat experience with their fabulous talent like: Carla Kelly ( almost all of her stories ), Loretta Chase ( Lord of Scoundrels ), Barabara Samuel ( Heart of a Knight ), Lorraine Heath ( Texas Destiny ), Gaelen Foley ( The Duke ), Judith McNaught ( A Kingdom of Dreams, Once and Always, Almost Heaven ), Laura Kinsale ( Flowers from the Storm, For My Lady's Heart ), Anne Gracie ( The Perfect Waltz ), and all the other authors mentioned above by the other posters….

    I would also like to add Connie Brockway ( All Through the Night ), Deborah Smith ( A Place To Call Home ), Laura Matthews ( The Nomad Harp ) Diane Farr ( The Fortune Hunter ) and Katherine Allred ( The Sweet Gum Tree).

  16. Michelle
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 19:19:23

    I’ve never heard of Sheila Simonson or Katherine Allred. I just looked them both up on Amazon. I see that S.S. also wrote a bunch of mysteries. Do you prefer her regencies, MB?

    Thanks, Janine. I really look forward to your Laura Kinsale piece. Three of her books are some of my all-time favorite books. I always forget Patricia Gaffney now that she writes women’s fiction. Historical romance is still my first love. I agree about her – particularly To Have and to Hold and To Love and To Cherish.

    Keri M – I really used to love Jane Feather and Amanda Quick. I’m not sure if they’ve changed or I have.

    Jessa – Thanks for the tip on Betina. A friend of mine raves and RAVES about her The Book of True Desires.

    RStewie – I’m pretty sure I read that McKinley has no plans to write a sequel to Sunshine. It breaks my heart.

    Thanks, Tumperkin, Meanne and Laura! When I find other over-the-top Mary Balogh fans, we always talk about what novels of hers are our favorites. What is so interesting is that they almost always are never the same. Half of Beth Patillo’s favorites were my least favorite and vice versa.

  17. Michelle
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 19:21:50

    Janine – I don’t think I’ve ever read A Christmas Promise. Perhaps I’ll get lucky and that’s one of the regencies Bantam plans to reprint.

  18. Brenna
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 19:37:57

    I've stopped reading Balogh because I felt that her current books are not as good as some of her older traditional regencies. Her The Notorious Rake and Temporary Wife were marvelous. Same with the interrelated stories she did starting from Dark Angel up to The Christmas Bride. Those were beautifully done as well. Unfortunately, her Bedwyn series did not take off for me. By the time I read the second to the last book of the series, I was so fed up with all things Bedwyns that I just can't read anymore. It put me off reading Balogh up to now.

    I've currently discovered Dorothy Dunnett and all I can say is WOW! I'm currently in a Lymond obsession. I hope somebody can do an “If You Like Dorothy Dunnett” piece also.

  19. Michelle
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 19:46:50

    Brenna – The last Bedwyn book – Slightly Dangerous – may be my favorite Balogh book of all time. If you have any desire whatsoever to try Balogh again, you may want to read that one. I also LOVED Simply Perfect, but I have to admit that I haven’t found anyone else who loved it as much as I did.

    Thanks for the Dunnett recommendation. I’ve tried to get into the Lymond series a couple of times. A friend even sent me a Lymond guide with all the foreign quotations translated. I’ve read the first book and the first 20-30 pages of the 2nd, but I was always so frustrated that I had no idea what Lymond’s motivations were. Why was he doing all that he was doing? I know I’m missing something great bc folks just rave about this series. Quite frankly, it makes me feel a little bit dumb that it doesn’t wow me.

  20. Liz in Australia
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 20:14:28

    I’ve been rereading Balogh and still enjoy the Ah moment at the end.
    Simply Perfect is the best of her recent titles. Those of you who have lost interest in the last few series titles should find this one a lot better.

  21. Brenna
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 20:49:09

    Michelle, I did try to read Slightly Dangerous two times. For the first time, I didn't buy a Balogh book and borrowed it from the library when it came out. Since it was close to the release of the last Bedwyn book, I couldn't finish the book. Also, because I didn't like Wulfric. Somehow, I kept comparing him to Rothgar (from Jo Beverley's marvellous Malloren series) and found him falling short. Then, after a year, I tried to borrow it again with the hope that this time maybe, just maybe, I'm so over my dislike of anything Bedwyns. Unfortunately, it just reinforced it again. That's why I've kept away from the Simply series also.

    It is very sad because I was a Balogh fanatic. I've spent large sums of money buying her backlists. Her older books gave me a lot of joy and I reread them most of the time. Hopefully, someday, I will find be able to pick up a new Balogh book and rediscover that old spark I once had for her writing.

    The Dunnett books are a bit daunting to read. And they are books that make you think hard. But if you can get the hang of it, there’s something just special about these books. I can’t adequately describe how much I love this series. And the romance between Francis and Philippa………

    Just an add-on: Lymond was trying to clear up his name in the first book and trying to find the person who can help him do so. Queen’s Play was a slow starter for me but the third book up to the sixth were very good. Pawn in Frankincense (4th) is the most heartbreaking read I ever had, particularly the chess game.

  22. Michelle
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 21:00:02

    The Bedwyns do show up in all of the Simply titles, I believe. Brenna, you may have more luck with her Huxtable series that comes out in 2009. I’m looking forward to it – though the name does make me think of the Cosby Show.

    Liz – I’m so glad you liked Simply Perfect too. I stayed up very late – and suffered much at work the next day – so I could finish it.

  23. Kaetrin
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 02:44:27

    I love Mary Balogh – I went to great trouble to buy the Web trilogy on eBay from the US (I am in Australia) because I didn’t want to wait 3 years for the reprints. My favourite of hers is Heartless. I go back to it time and time again. I love Luke and I really enjoyed the sequel Silent Melody – mostly because I got to see Luke again. I don’t usually go for the slim, not too tall hero, but Luke, well, he was my ideal for a while! I also loved Irresistible (2nd fave) – Sophie and Nathaniel were so lovely together and Eden and Lavinia – I laugh out loud when they get their “ah” moment.

    “Eden,” she said, tightening her arms about his waist when he would have drawn away, “say it”.
    “It?” he grimaced.
    What you would not say earlier,” she said. “Say it. I want to hear it.”
    “You certainly enjoy taking your pound of flesh, do you not?” he said, frowning.
    Lavinia smiled her dazzling smile at him.
    “Lord,” he said, “you had better not do too much of that until we are standing beside – or better yet – lying in our marriage bed. I have enough to cope with. Now let me see – it.” He cleared his throat. “Here we go, then. I love you. Was that it? I hope I have not been through that torture only to find it was something else you wanted to hear.”
    Don’t you just love him?

    Anyway, I would heartily agree with others’ recommendations of Jo Beverley (Rothgar!), Mary Jo Putney, Laura Kinsale, Madeline Hunter, Gaelen Foley and I’d add Stephanie Laurens (although hers are a bit samey now).

    Balogh has a “flavour” to her writing. You can read a paragraph and know she wrote it. I love that.

    Thanks for the great review Michelle.

  24. MB
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 11:01:12

    Sheila Simonson’s mysteries are quite good, but they are not, except for the first one (Larkspur, I think), particularily romantic. I would maybe compare her mysteries to Margaret Maron’s. Her regencies are very good! I wish she would have written more. I especially recommend “The Bar Sinister”, “Lady Elizabeth’s Comet”, and “Cousinly Connexion”.

    I did see, on Robin McKinley’s blog, that she was open to writing a sequel to Sunshine, but at this time, she hasn’t come up with an idea for a plot. (At least that’s what I think she meant.) So, at least there is hope for us!

    Slightly Dangerous is definitely my favorite of the Bedwyn Saga! I love Christine and how she interacts with Rothgar. I like her strong character and how she stays true to herself. She brings out Wulfric’s best qualities and tones down his harshest. I like the fact that they are better together than separately. Theirs is one romance that I “believe” lasts past the HEA.

    Yay to the recommend of Betina Krahn — a woman who doesn’t get nearly enough mentions. I love her “Test” series set in medieval times about women from a nunnery. They are wonderful! Witty and funny and just plain sweet.

  25. RStewie
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 11:48:34

    Oh, I’m not sure who mentioned her, but Connie Brockway’s older historicals are excellent. She has a wonderful way with “showing” and not “telling”, down to the subtlest physical reactions. Wonderful storyteller.

    Michelle, I know about Sunshine! She is always saying it’s up to her muse, so I hold out hope. Like an idiot.

    I notice that the three of those authors, though, (Kinsale, Brockway, and McKinley) are all SO good at telling a story through the actions and reactions of their characters. They also have fairly distictive (although not as much lately for Brockway) writing styles. I love getting lost in a wordy book that still tells a wonderful story.

  26. Keri M
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 12:19:57

    Oh how could I have forgotten Betina Krahn! The Perfect Mistress and The Last Bachelor is two of my all time favorites of hers. The Test series is in my TBR pile. I guess I had better get to cracking on them. :-)

  27. Michelle
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 13:32:17

    Kaetrin – The last time I read Heartless what I found most interesting about Luke was how Balogh was able to get across what he was like before he was exiled, how different he was when he returned to England, and in the end, how the “new” Luke reconciled those aspects of himself. I also wondered how the young Luke was able to make that social clim in Paris – that would be quite a story.

    MB – thanks for the news about McKinley. That’s the most hopeful thing I’ve heard about a potential sequel.

    RStewie – Have you ever read anything by Judith Ivory/Judy Cuevas? I think of her as an author with an extremely distinctive writing style who can tell – or more importantly “show” – a great story.

  28. Gini
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 11:54:26

    Fantastic post Michelle!
    I’ve only recently discovered Balogh and have been reading the Slightly and Simply series and didn’t realise she had such a huge backlist – yippee!
    I agree with all that you have said and would add that in Heat Level, the sex is more realistic than in many novels and it isn’t always perfect straight away e.g. Simply Love which is a plus in Balogh’s favour IMO. I don’t know if this it true throughout her earlier books?

    You asked for comments on the writing style, and for me the writing style is simple rather than ornate and whilst a lot of the writing is devoted to building the characters emotionally and in dialogue like you said Michelle, she also writes moving and beautiful descriptions about other things, for example in Slightly Tempted, the heroine, Morgan Bedwyn loves painting and this is how Balogh describes what painting means to Morgan. In this scene she is outside painting by a river accompanied by the hero Gervase.
    Ch 19, Pg316. ‘She was inside the water of the river. She knew that the water was a thing in itself with properties of its own that made it different from anything else. But it was not independent of everything else. It needed the sun and the sky to renew itself. It gave itself to the grass and the willow tree that leaned over it. It was colourless in and of itself. Yet it picked up colour from its surroundings-gray and brown from the stony, gravelly bed, blue from the sky, green from the willow tree, sparkle from the sunlight. And later today, tonight, tomorrow, next week, next winter, it would look quite different.
    There was no river, no grass, no willow tree – nothing at least in any permanent form to be understood by the mind or captured with paint on canvas. This was the marvellous challenge of painting – to catch joy as it flies, as the poet William Blake had phrased it.

    -Morgan speaking-
    “And everything blends into everything else…There is sunlight in the water and willow branches in the sky and water in the tree roots. Everything is connected…And I am there too, painting it from the inside, and you, observing it. All, all connected.” ‘

    In the two series that I’ve been reading a strong element of these books is the thoughtful commentary (usually through the characters dialogue) of a lot of life experience and observations on the nature of relationships and general behaviour of people that she intertwines within the characters conversations and it adds to the story rather than detracts from it. I can’t think of anyone else that does this in quite the same way so consistently, it’s the sort of thing that often tends to be crammed into a first book. (I borrowed the books from the library so can only refer to the bit of Slightly Tempted that I copied out into my “favourite quotes” book), but this one is from the same Chapter 19 as above, although unfortunately it isn’t an example of how she uses it in dialogue and is therefore a poor example.
    ‘People could never be fully understood. They were ever changing, different people at different times and under different circumstances and influences. And always growing, always creating themselves anew. How impossible it was to know another human being. How impossible to know even oneself.’
    Again, I don’t know if this is reflected in her earlier books.
    P.S. To Michelle. You recommended lots of authors in the ‘If you like Judith McNaught’ post for me that I’ve been working my way through, one being Eloisa James who has been a real hit and I will be gloming her backlist, so a big thank you to you!

  29. MB
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 12:21:37

    Gini, that was a wonderful analysis. I just had to respond because you put it so much better than I ever could. I quote:

    In the two series that I've been reading a strong element of these books is the thoughtful commentary (usually through the characters dialogue) of a lot of life experience and observations on the nature of relationships and general behaviour of people that she intertwines within the characters conversations and it adds to the story rather than detracts from it. I can't think of anyone else that does this in quite the same way so consistently

    She is one of the WISEST romance authors I’ve come across to date. Her writing is insightful and caring in how her characters interact with each other and with their world. (Sometimes the depth of emotion is almost painful to read.) I don’t know of anyone else to compare to her in that depth of emotion. Maybe Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Ain’t She Sweet) or LaVyrle Spencer come the closest.

  30. Gini
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 18:17:35

    You know MB, you saying that makes me wish that these books had been written ages ago so I could have read them in my early 20’s, then I would have lapped up all the wise relationship talk even more and in a completely different way to now. When you’ve got a whole lifetime of relationships to look forward to and to stumble your way through, I think Balogh makes a really good guide to take with you on that journey and you get the bonus of it all being wrapped up in a wonderful story.
    Yes, I totally agree with you about Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Ain't She Sweet, which has the added bonus of having such funny dialogue between the heroine and hero when she starts off being his housekeeper, and I laugh out loud everytime I remember her saying
    “Yes, your Lordshit.”

  31. Michelle
    Aug 20, 2008 @ 23:31:57

    Thanks, Gini!

    I’m so glad you liked the authors I recommended. I agree with your analysis of her descriptive skills. I had such a hard time deciding between simple and ornate because the results of her writing are not simple at all – but the way she strings words together is not ornate or wordy.

    You wrote:
    I agree with all that you have said and would add that in Heat Level, the sex is more realistic than in many novels and it isn't always perfect straight away e.g. Simply Love which is a plus in Balogh's favour IMO. I don't know if this it true throughout her earlier books?

    It is true throughout her earlier books. She hasn’t changed her style that much. In a lot of ways, I think she writes her single-title historicals the same way she wrote her traditional regencies – they’re just longer and she has room for more story and character development.

    You also wrote:
    In the two series that I've been reading a strong element of these books is the thoughtful commentary (usually through the characters dialogue) of a lot of life experience and observations on the nature of relationships and general behaviour of people that she intertwines within the characters conversations and it adds to the story rather than detracts from it.

    Yes! I totally agree. I think that adds a depth to the whole story and characters and makes them feel more real. I agree with MB’s suggestions of SEP and LaVyrle Spencer. Other authors who come to mind are Carla Kelly and Kathleen Korbell. (Read Some Men’s Dreams if you can). I’ll think about this more.

  32. The Healthy Writer Blog
    Sep 27, 2010 @ 02:09:27

    […] to make a list of my top ten favorite books as I had learned a lot from a piece I had written about why I loved Mary Balogh’s books, but I needed to play well in the sandbox so to speak.  I may have cheated a little in that 5 of […]

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