Indiscreet

Irresistible

The Last Waltz

More Than a Mistress

No Man's Mistress

One Night for Love

A Regency Christmas Carol

Silent Melody

Slightly Married

Slightly Scandalous
Slightly Wicked

A Summer to Remember

The Temporary Wife

Thief of Dreams

Truly

 
Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh
(Dell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-440-241106-5
****
Lady Morgan Bedwyn is enjoying her first Season in Brussels when Napoleon, Waterloo, and a mysterious man’s plans for revenge change her life forever. A mere girl of 18, she practically had to beg her older brother, the Duke of Bewcastle, to allow her to come to Brussels with the threat of war looming on the horizon. But Morgan is determined to live life to the fullest, speak her mind freely, and enjoy all the Season has to offer. If only her chaperones and beaux would stop telling her to not worry her “pretty little head” over such lofty political matters.

Gervase Ashford, Earl of Rosthorn spies Lady Morgan at a ball and is taken with her beauty, but ultimately dismisses her because she looks straight out of the schoolroom. That is, until a gentleman informs him of who Lady Morgan is, and more importantly who she is related to. Gervase has been in exile from England for nine long years thanks to a scandal that the Duke of Bewcastle played a part in. He immediately sees Lady Morgan has a means to an end, and ultimately concocts a scheme to disgrace the Lady and exact revenge on the Duke.

Then Waterloo happens, and everything changes. Gervase finds himself liking Lady Morgan – for her beauty, wit, intelligence, and bravery. It is this budding friendship that ultimately causes scandal and sullies Morgan’s reputation. By this time though, the Earl is in love with the Lady – even if he doesn’t know it yet. The ultimate question is – will she forgive his betrayal?

This 4th book in Balogh’s well-received Bedwyn series ultimately works because of her characters, most notably Lady Morgan. Here is a girl so unlike some of her Regency Miss counterparts. The author almost has to remind me that the girl is only 18, because Morgan is so refreshingly forthright that it’s hard to imagine her hiding behind a fan and flirting coyly with gentlemen. I hesitate to call her “ahead of her time,” if anything she’s too intelligent and practical for the societal nonsense that the ton and a Season entails.

Gervase is a little harder to get a grip on, mainly because his character is so contradictory. He’s one part oily Frenchman, calling Morgan cherie and hosting moonlight picnics to win her attention. On the other hand, he’s a stoic wounded hero who ultimately needs Lady Morgan to make him a better man. His character really shines when Waterloo gets underway and he admits to himself that he honestly likes her.

The historical setting here is fantastic. More often than not, Waterloo is treated as a wallpaper backdrop or an afterthought in Regency romances – but Balogh really dives in whole hog. It was refreshing to read some actual history, seeing the preparations, and more importantly, reading about the aftermath. The romanticism of the period can often gloss over the fact that Waterloo was a battle with horrific causalities.

The first 75 pages of the story do drag a bit. It takes a while for the plot to actually show up. Those first several chapters basically consist of various Season entertainments where Gervase is trying to woo Lady Morgan. The characters shine early on; there just isn’t a whole lot for them to do. Luckily, the author introduces Waterloo at this point, and that’s when the plot, conflict and the romance really begin to take hold.

I should confess that this is my very first read by Mary Balogh, so I can state with confidence that while Slightly Tempted is a book four it stands alone very well. The author does introduce the entire Bedwyn family, including those that have already had their books, but she writes them in such a way has to not completely baffle newcomers.

While a bit of a slow starter, Slightly Tempted features a truly remarkable and refreshing heroine, some interesting history, and a wonderful sense of place. The author gives her forthright heroine a worthy advisory in a hero who starts out despicable, but who quickly charmed his way into this reader’s heart. Watching them go from flirtatious sparring partners, to friendship, then ultimately to love was sweet and satisfying. The ultimate question is though, why did I wait so long to read Balogh?

--Wendy Crutcher


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