Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slightly Married by Mary Balogh

Book Description:
Meet the Bedwyns… six brothers and sisters - men and women of passion and privilege, daring and sensuality… Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction… where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal… and where Aidan Bedwyn, the marriage-shy second son, discovers that matrimony may be the most seductive act of all.

Like all the Bedwyn men, Aidan has a reputation for cool arrogance. But this proud nobleman also possesses a loyal, passionate heart - and it is this fierce loyalty that has brought Colonel Lord Aidan to Ringwood Manor to honor a dying soldier's request. Having promised to comfort and protect the man's sister, Aidan never expected to find a headstrong, fiercely independent woman who wants no part of his protection… nor did he expect the feelings this beguiling creature would ignite in his guarded heart. And when a relative threatens to turn Eve out of her home, Aidan gallantly makes her an offer she can't refuse: marry him… if only to save her home. And now, as all of London breathlessly awaits the transformation of the new Lady Aidan Bedwyn, the strangest thing happens: With one touch, one searing embrace, Aidan and Eve's “business arrangement” is about to be transformed… into something slightly surprising.

Forced marriages are some of my favorites, though this was a different take on the scenario. Honoring the last wishes of one of his men, Aidan Bedwyn marries Eve Morris to save her from losing her home and those that depend upon her. He is a military man, a dour colonel in the British army who first meets Eve upon telling her of the death of her brother, the man who's dying wish was to ask Aidan to protect his sister, no matter what. Another thoughtful, moving and poignant love story and first entry into the Bedwyn family.

The theme is reminiscent of the first of the Bedwyn prequels, One Night for Love, in which a dying soldier's last plea is to protect his loved one, forcing two people who don't know one another to marry, although that is where the similarities cease.  Eve is no shrinking violet.  She is used to being her own woman, running an estate and taking care of those around her.   Although not of the aristocracy, she has been raised and schooled as a lady.  In her neighborhood she is all that is good and kind, taking on servants no else will hire, and even raising two orphans as if they are her own children.  Everyone goes to Eve for help - she is someone that can be counted on.

Little does anyone know she has a secret love (or rather, she thinks she is in love) with a young man, her neighbor, who's family has forbidden him to marry her.  In their eyes Eve is beneath them because her father, once a common Welsh coal minor, made his fortune in trade (and married the coal mine owner's daughter to boot). Not good enough for their bloodlines, they hurried their son off to the diplomatic corp in Russia.  Secretly engaged to Eve, he is unaware of the change in her fortune once her father and then brother's deaths cripple her.  It doesn't help she hasn't heard from him in ages either!

Now she is about to lose her house and estate to her odious and social climbing cousin - a dead ringer for Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice - unless she can marry someone within a few days.  She must marry within a year of her father's death, and that anniversary is coming up in less than a week!  What is she going to do?

To save her from her impending fate, Aidan,  as the brother of a duke, comes to the conclusion that there is nothing else he can do but to marry her himself - in name only.  They will formally marry in London, a private low key ceremony, but then go their separate ways never to see one another again.  By doing this, she will never be able to marry her diplomat fiance nor will he ever be able to marry a general's daughter he had his eye on at one point.  The marriage will be recorded in the marriage registry and no one will be able to refute it.  Aidan intends to keep the wee secret from his family as well.  It is the honorable thing to marry her, and it will carry out the promise he made to her brother as his last dying wish.  To protect her - no matter what.  There is no need for his family to know anything about it.  It's his private business - ha!

Of course nothing goes as it should and once they are married, one thing after another comes up that prevents Aidan from leaving her and getting on with his life.  The biggest impediment to his problem is when his brother, Wulfric, the Duke of Bewcastle, learns of the marriage.  As the head of the Bedwyn family, there is no way in hell he is going to allow Aidan to have a secret wife ignominiously hidden away as if there is something scandalously wrong with her!  She must be acknowledged by the entire family and welcomed as one of their own - no matter what her pedigree.  As a Bedwyn no one will dare to snub her due to her lesser origins.

Usually I don't picture an actor in my mind when I read a romance, but I couldn't help it with Aidan.  To me, he looked like Ciaràn Hinds as Captain Wentworth in the 1995 film adaptation of Persuasion.  Although Aidan is military rather than naval - you get the general idea!  Tall and handsome with a somewhat taciturn and commanding bearing, Aidan is all composure and honor - a true Bedwyn.  What he didn't count on was falling in love.  Little did he know how his life would change upon meeting Eve!  Quiet and unassuming Eve surprises him throughout the book!

Then, once his brother, Wulfric, comes to visit Eve after their marriage, and informs her that she must go to London and be presented to the Queen, well, everything changes in their marriage.  She meets the rest of his family - who she pretty much hates on first sight  - and all hell breaks loose!  I loved it!  She must be launched for the London Season and she makes quite the first impression!

Aidan is not a little put out by the whole thing.  He is torn, he has come to care for Eve, against his own better judgment, and he hates to see her forced to act as if their marriage is a real one.  Not that he minds it himself, but he keeps thinking that she will resent it.  It's not part of their original agreement.  He's thinking mostly from her point of view and resents the way his brother is forcing his family down her throat.  To makes matter even more sticky, Eve had to be presented to the Queen and then attend a dinner dance with the Prince Regent - and guess who she bumps into while in London?  Her fiance!  Who didn't even let her know he's been back from Russia for the past several months!  He's not at all happy to see she's now married into the Bedwyns, but by this point she warming up to Aidan - and his bed.  That old fiance of hers doesn't seem to be as important to her anymore.  Eve is full of surprises. 

Thus, why the book is called Slightly Married.  They're married, yet they're not married.  Even though Eve and Aidan share a bed (from time to time), both are under the wrong impression that neither of them wants to make their marriage real.  How wrong they are!  As time passes, they become closer and Aidan is realizing he no longer wants to be a military man with no wife or children in his future.  He wants Eve, her two adopted children and all her misfit servants.  Before long, he realizes - they already are his family!  How can he say good bye to them forever?  He can't.  Yet, does he tell this to Eve?  No!  So she runs off to her home in the country, convinced she'll never see him again - only to find he comes after her, ready to change his life and live there with her!  He's made his choice.  *sigh*  It really was wonderful! 

This story grew on me.   What started out as a simple forced marriage storyline became more about choices and deciding what's really important in life to make one happy.  Eve and Aidan keep each other at arms length most of the time, except during a few combustible moments when they can't help but fall into bed together!  It was so out of character for both of them - and sexy too!  Yet it also worked and was understandable in their circumstances.  While still in the country before London, their feelings for one another grow and grow.  We see through both their eyes how their marriage of convenience becomes a true love, yet neither is aware of it yet. They care for one another, they become important to each other until soon they realize they can no longer live without each other.  It comes on so gradually - before they know it - they're in love!

I thoroughly enjoyed this romance and am eager to read the rest of the Bedwyn's stories - primarily Wulfric's.  He's such a cold character - I can't imagine who will be the woman that can warm him up!  Of course his book is the last in the series!  I've heard about this series so much, I'm glad I've finally met the Bedwyns.  I even sort of grew to like Freyja (she came across as a real pill in the last book, A Summer to Remember!)  Balogh is a first rate romance author, her stories are more than just romance, they are thoughtful and tender.  This is no exception.  A fun read and I'm ready for more!


P.S. On a side note, now that I've read three romances by Mary Balogh, I've noticed she always has a sex scene involving swimming - do all her books have this??


HistoricalRomanceJunkie Rita said...

I love your blog!!!
Love love LOVE IT!
And this is one of my favorite books! bLoved Aiden so much. <3 <3 <3

I thought hima nd eve were just TOO cute together!
(And no, i'VE read a few MB's, and I know at least 3 of them don't have water in them at all. WHich other MB's did you read with the water?)

(Slightly Dangerous one? That book was GOLD!)

Great review, and I am swooning at your goodreds widget! So many great books!!
I see in your currently reading wdget the 2rd tasha alexander book. I read the first (my first ever historical fiction) and I just bought the seond one. I love the Lady Emily series!!!

Okay, that's all =)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Hey Rita, yeah I can tell you really like MB! LOL! The other MB books I've read are the first two prequels to the Bedwyn's, One For Love and a Summer to Remember - both have skinny dipping sex scenes! And so does Slightly Married!

Yes, I'm reading another Lady Ashley book, this is the third in the series, I like it better than the 2nd so far. If you like the Lady Ashley books, you'll also like the Lady Julia books starting with Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. I think they're crossovers between historical romance and historical fiction.

Penelope said...

I LOVE this book....there are some great, really memorable scenes here...especially the final "swimming" romantic! This might be my favorite book in this series...although I also liked Rannulf's book, too. Enjoy the series!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Penelope, well, as I said in my review, I'm eager to read Wulfric's story, but Rannulf definitely sounds like the most fun of the lot!

Penelope said...

I have to admit that I didn't totally "buy" into Wulfric's story. His lady love was an interesting character, and I liked the idea of him coming out of his gruff shell, but they were sort of an odd pair. Although I do love that he got an HEA...always the most important thing! I think my next fav is Rannunlf, and then Alleyne. This is an impressive series. The Bedwyn Family is one of the coolest families in historical romance, in my not-at-all-humble opinion. ;^)

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Pen, you've really piqued my curiosity now! I'll have to move the rest of the books up on my TBR list. I think my favorite family in HR's is the Bridgerton's, but my reading is still pretty limited, I have tons more to read!

Kelly Moran said...

Hve not read her. Will have to check out.great post.

I woke up Sunday a.m. to find my blog, my 500 plus followers, my 100plus author interviews, and my 200 plus reviews gone. Blogger gave no explanation, but I think the account was hacked. Change your password often!

I have reloaded the interviews and reviews, plus redesigned the blog. But if you could, please hit the "follow" button so I can reclaim the fellow bloggers I miss. I'm still following you, as my account remained--thank goodness!

Thank you!
Kelly Moran

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Kelly, how awful - losing everything, will go to your site now and add!

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