REVIEW: Irresistible by Mary Balogh
Dear Ms. Balogh,
Earlier this year, I blogged about Indiscreet and Unforgiven, the first two books in your Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse series, which features four cavalry officers who served in the Napoleonic War. Irresistible is the third and final book in the series, concerning the last two horsemen, Sir Nathaniel Gascoigne, baronet, and Eden Wendell, Baron Pelham.
The main romance involves Nathaniel, a baronet who has come to London to marry off his youngest sister Georgina and his twenty-four year old, independent –minded cousin Lavinia Bergland. In London Nathaniel reunites with Rex, Ken (heroes of the previous two books) and Eden, his three friends from his military days, and with Sophie Armitage, another friend from the war, a widow who followed the drum.
Sophie lives on a military pension in a house that was given to her by the government due to her late husband’s heroism. At first glance she is plain and even dowdy, but amiable and difficult to perturb, even after Eden promises to find Nate a courtesan in her hearing. But the truth is a bit different from the impression she gives.
Nathaniel finds that he’s no longer interested in prostitutes, and while he is not ready to settle down, he would prefer an affair with an equal. One night he kisses Sophie, and then asks whether she’ll slap him or invite him to her bed. Sophie, having for years loved him from afar, invites him upstairs.
Nathaniel doesn’t know that Sophie is being blackmailed by Boris Pinter, another army acquaintance who does not like her friendship with Nate and the other horsemen. But Nate soon catches wind of it and his attempts to protect Sophie from Pinter complicate his and Sophie’s relationship and give rise to a conflict that makes Nathaniel aware that his feelings for her are shifting.
There is also a secondary romance involving the occasionally rude and somewhat immature Eden, a rogue determined to sow his wild oats for as long as possible, and Lavinia, who refuses to dance with him when he asks her in a conceited manner. Sparks fly whenever these two are together, but will either of them ever agree to settle down?
Initially Nathaniel annoyed me slightly because he saw his affair with Sophie as one between equals, by which neither would be harmed, while I could not see it that way. Sophie was financially strapped and had none of his social rank and power, and her gender put her in a precarious position as a respectable woman inviting a gentleman to her home late at night.
However, I quickly grew to like Nate because of his perceptiveness and his care for Sophie. Bonus points: He was perhaps the only Balogh hero I’ve come across who actually discusses preventing a pregnancy with the heroine. Even more points were earned when, following a conflict with Sophie, he apologized and tried to resolve the problem in an adult and mature manner. And when he remained determined to be there for her no matter what in the face of multiple difficulties, I began to see him as a true hero.
But oy, Sophie. She never struck me as worthy of Nathaniel. Sophie spent a great deal of the book passively resigned to the fate her blackmailer had decreed for her: that of the victim.
While there were some reasons for this, it took her an awfully long time to do anything proactive about her situation, even after it became obvious that Pinter would never back off and that he fully intended to ruin her and her family after he’d bled her of all of her funds.
Sophie also dressed in a dowdy way for much of the book and did not view herself as attractive. There were reasons for this, as well, but they, and her backstory, were not fully revealed until the last 10% of the book, and that felt too late. Then, too, some aspects of her backstory (such as her late husband’s actions on their wedding night) were hard for me to buy.
What I liked best about Sophie was her years of following the drum, which gave a bit of character to an otherwise lackluster woman. But other than that, it was hard to see what it was about her that attracted Nathaniel’s passionate protectiveness and devotion.
Spoiler (spoiler): Show
The resolution to the secondary romance between Eden and Lavinia was more satisfying. Eden starts out too immature and socially inappropriate for my taste, but he grew up some under Lavinia’s influence. And Lavinia was a loyal friend to Sophie, instrumental in assisting her, as well as a strong woman in her own right. In many ways, she was the true heroine of the book.
Grading this book is tough because some parts of it were very emotionally affecting and Nate was a wonderful hero. Lavinia was a wonderful secondary heroine. Eden and Sophie were more middling-to-annoying characters for me, so I have to conclude that if only Nathaniel had been paired with Lavinia, this could have been a stellar book. As it is, it was worth the time it took to read it, but I doubt I will read it again.
Indiscreet remains my favorite book of the trilogy, Unforgiven remains my least favorite, and Irresistible lands in the middle, with a C+/B- grade.