Mary Balogh’s backlist is huge. This author — whew. She writes mostly Regency era England, with a couple of forays into Georgian era and mid-19th century Wales. Her heroines range from age 19 to 35, and most of them are not fiery spunky young virgins but real people with individual personalities and histories. She writes quite a lot of beta males as heroes, rather than tall massive rippling muscle marble manhood types. And when she’s on, she’s on. I love so many of her characters as people, and the naked emotion in her writing, and how her sex scenes are always about character development as much as titillation. I am unashamed to say her books frequently make me cry happy tears.
But Tangled…I bounced hard off of this one.
It came recommended and I checked it out based on a premise that sounded like it would be right up my alley: the heroine was married before, her husband died in battle, and her husband’s foster brother comes home and marries her (he’s secretly loved her all along and has never told her that her husband was a philanderer). I mean, pining from afar, the right one being in front of you the whole time, the healing power of love — sounds awesome, no?
But I ended up hating several things about the execution of this premise: (a) all the Super Noble and Honorable secret-keeping to protect the heroine’s precious love for her first husband, (b) the heroine professing her undying love and devotion to said husband right up until the bitter end, even when she finally knew the whole truth and admitted to herself he was going to keep having full-on affairs with other women (and not just ~slaking his lust~ with prostitutes or whatever), and (c) the heroine getting to take the easy way out when it came to the Happily Ever After with the right guy and never having to do the hard work of actually choosing him.
I did appreciate that the H/H cared about their tenants and laborers and created a purposeful life with each other — especially because I’d recently read Philippa Gregory’s Wideacre which also focuses on the landowner/tenant relationship but in an OMGWTF!!! kind of way. And I liked that Balogh was trying to show you can love more than one person in your life (I mean, I guess that’s what she was doing?). But then the Stupid Romance Novel Plot shenanigans just spoiled it all.