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Lady Muir's Story,
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This review is from: The Proposal: Number 1 in series (Survivors' Club) (Kindle Edition)
I have read several reviews of this book which all suggested Mary Balogh was back to form (some of the more recent books have been less appealing than her earlier works in many readers' minds) and so I looked forward to reading `The Proposal'. In fact I read it twice with a month's gap in-between. And as much as I enjoyed the book I didn't feel it was actually all that special.
There was lots of potential in a story about Lady Gwen Muir who has featured as a minor character in many of Balogh's other books including the Bedwyn (Slightly) series and the Simply series as well. All we knew about Gwen was that she had a limp and was a widow who had chosen not to remarry. In this story we find that Gwen's marriage was certainly not easy and that she had no real intention to look for another husband - even after she meets Lord Trentham, the former Major Hugo Eames, hero of the army for fighting a Forlorn Hope at Badajoz.
Gwen and Hugo are from different social classes and a relationship between them seems impossible. But in this story we follow them as they get to know one another and as a proposal is suggested - that Hugo court Gwen - to see where it leads. Is there a chance for a happy ending between two such different people?
I'm struggling to identify what it was about this book that left me dissatisfied. One minor aspect is that Balogh seems to have recently got into the habit of italicising words in reported speech to presumably give you an idea of the stresses in what people are saying, but very often the way I am reading the sentence in my mind doesn't work like that, and the excessive italicisation just annoys me. The other aspect I find in this story is that we are continually being told what people think, there's a lot of repetition throughout the book, rather than seeing what they think by their actions. I also felt that the pacing wasn't always that effective, there were dull sections where nothing much happens except people think about things, often with italics.
We meet lots of characters from previous Balogh novels. I have read the books so know who they are but I do wonder about new readers and what they will think - there are lists of people and it can get confusing. Is this really necessary, except to encourage readers to buy her backlist perhaps?
Both hero and heroine in this story are almost perfect; in fact, the only imperfection we see in Gwen (apparently) is her limp. Hugo's main disadvantage is that he frowns a lot. Balogh's earlier books tended to be peopled with far more human characters who had many faults and made many mistakes in their book. I found the characters in this story almost a bit too good to be true and the `baddies' unrealistic in their portrayal.
Although I do still like Mary Balogh's books very much I don't find the more recent stories nearly as satisfying as some of the earlier ones (`More than a Mistress', `The Secret Pearl', for example). However, having read many reviews of this book it seems I am in a minority in this view - so go ahead and read it yourself!
Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2012