Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simply Love by Mary Balogh

Anne Jewell is the unwed mother of a 9 year old boy who, against the odds, has carved out a respectable life for herself teaching at a girl’s school in Bath.  Anne’s problem is that though she has many dear friends and a son she loves she is really very lonely.  

Sydnam Butler was horribly disfigured in the wars but against all odds has carved out a useful and productive life for himself as Steward on a Great Estate in Wales.  Sydnam’s problem however is that he’s lonely.  Hmmmm… are these two tortured souls meant to be together in a happily ever after?

This is the second Mary Balogh book I’ve read and I think it has convinced me that she is not the regency romance writer for me.  Sadly, our brief courtship is likely at an end.  I give her props in this book for tackling an unlikely hero and for bringing these two damaged folks together in a rather prosaic, i.e. not Grand, romance.  They have issues to deal with and she allows them to struggle with them…sort of.  But that’s pretty much where my admiration ends. 

That isn’t to say that Mary Balogh isn’t worth reading and I know a LOT of romance readers like her very much.  I think she is one of the more well-liked regency romance writers.  But as I’ve discovered somewhat recently about myself, I don’t like romances that take themselves too seriously and from a sample size of two, my impression is that Balogh writes very earnest romances.  Not my cup of tea. 

My unhappiness with this particular book may also have been related to listening to it.  I didn’t like the narrator’s voice (Rosalyn Landor) or way of speaking at all.  She’s obviously a gifted voice artist but the way she read Anne made her sound breathy and dreamy and her men, especially Sydnam sounded stuffy and too formal.  Balogh’s dialogue was incredibly flowery and showy which emphasized the too formal reading.  Anne shows a handful of seashells to Sydnam saying “Have you ever seen anything more exquisite?” 

Another big complaint was that it felt like Balogh was writing for the lowest common denominator.  She repeats herself over and over and over as if she doesn’t believe the reader will remember that Anne is an unwed mother and this is BAD.  Again the listening may have emphasized this and perhaps it wouldn’t be as noticeable in reading.  The point is, she writes like she must spoon feed her audience and fill in all the blanks for them.  I would have preferred a little less hand holding.

And perhaps the final blow was that the above flaws added together to really ruin the hero and heroine for me.  For all their “exciting” back story, I thought they could not be more colorless or boring.  I cared enough that I wanted to see how they would eventually come together and overcome the obstacles but if the cds had been stolen midway through I wouldn’t have tried tracking down the book or another copy. 

I want to emphasize that my major problem with the book is that it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  A lot of people love Mary Balogh and I’d be interested in hearing some recommendations from any of her fans.  I unfortunately can’t remember the one other of her books I’ve read, I just remember not liking it very much.  But perhaps I’ve just happened onto two of the duds?  Two is a very small sample size but I don’t really want to experiment any further unless someone has some recommendations?

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