Most helpful critical review
One Good novel and one Also Ran
on 7 January 2015
I discovered Mary several years ago when I read her Slightly series which is excellent. I am now reading the republished books of Mary as they come out and have been amused to see Wulfric appear in the guise of a different character in many of her earlier works. In fact, many of the stories appear to be re-writes of her earlier works with a bit more of a twist and more interesting character development. I really hope I don’t find a re-working of A Promise of Spring, unless it has undergone a massive improvement.
I have always loved Mary Balogh’s books. I have read them over and over, pre-ordered, even written to her as I love her books so much. How pleased I am I didn’t read The Promise of Spring first.
I bought this book as part of a two book compilation. I really liked the characters, Grace and Perry and kept reading hoping something was going to happen. I had wondered at the start when they married within the first several pages what the ‘fly in the ointment’ was going to be and already had a sinking feeling. I trudged through the first few chapters which is so unusual for me with a Mary Balogh book but it was simply boring, page after page describing what the characters had felt over the past several weeks and how they now felt. I thought it had to get better so pushed on, having to re-read paragraphs over again when my thoughts had strayed into what I was going to cook for dinner. Surely it had to improve, it was a Balogh book for goodness sake and they never disappoint.
Mary’s books usually deal with problems between the couple which they sort out prior to getting wed, usually after the lady has refused the gentleman at least once before he persuades her. When you read Mary’s books you know this will happen – always does – he always changes her mind and it doesn’t matter. That’s part of Mary’s style. Mary must have been developing her style with this novel.
The thing is, historical romance of this kind always end happily. It’s why we read them. For drama we may watch current affairs which don’t always have happy endings. It’s good to read something which may be relied upon to end happily. Therefore, you know Grace and Perry will have a happy ending. So, when Gareth put in an appearance my heart sank. You see I really don’t like romance stories which use ‘the other man/woman’ as the only thing to create a storyline and drama. The end of the book is already known. You know who the hero/heroine is going to stay with and to be honest I find ‘the other man’ stories frustrating and contrived. Gareth was already shown to be a cad and completely unprincipled and Grace was intelligent enough to work this out in a heartbeat. She already loved Perry and despite her past with Gareth, which he used to try and manipulate her, we know she will ultimately tell him to ‘take a hike’.
The ‘other man’ was used by Mary in another of her works, can’t remember what the name was but the hero was a Marquis with a limp. It worked then because the heroine and hero were still finding their way with one another and although you knew how it would end it was an interesting walk through their lives building up to the hero giving the anti-hero his comeuppance. You knew it was going to happen but weren’t quite certain how the hero would achieve his goal and it was good to see the cad of storyline beaten to a pulp.
I almost gave up when I realised this was the plot line in A Promise of Spring as I felt Perry loved Grace too much to hold on to her if she wanted to leave. I flipped through the pages and speed read until the last couple of chapters. They way Grace eventually came to her senses was in the ‘blink of an eye’ and I found it difficult to believe such a change happened overnight. Surely she should have come to her realisation more quickly and there would have been hints of it before. But no, it seems the pages had to be padded out and dragged on or it would not have been novel but a pamphlet. In the end it was great to see Grace pregnant with her husband’s child although to be perfect she should have produced a son. I believe Perry would be a terrific dad anyway.
If this is the first Mary book you ever read, don’t give up on her. She has written some terrific books. If it is part of the compilation then her works more readily follow the path of the first of the two books – only better.
If you want gratuitous sex scenes there are countless authors out there to ease your frustration but you won’t find that with Mary who has to put the sex in these days but handles it tastefully; although she has had to bend to modern standards and drag it out a bit more than she used to. Waste of pages to me but it seems to be what publishers think we all want and perhaps they are right about the majority. However, if that is the case, why are Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer still so popular.
Sorry folks, going off on a tangent.
To sum up, not one to keep but her others most definitely are.