Spotlight on Mary Balogh and …

The Web Series

mb tgw‘The Gilded Web’

STORY: All she wanted was to escape the hot, crowded London ballroom. But moments after stepping into the bitterly cold night, she is seized by a pair of strong hands and spirited away. Fully expecting to be ravished, sheltered Alexandra Purnell instead finds herself at the mercy of the man who saved her from certain scandal.

Edmund, Earl of Amberley, is bold and sensual, tempting Alexandra to be reckless for the first time in her life. But as passion ignites, Edmund’s offer of marriage takes Alexandra completely by surprise. Now a woman who craves her freedom above all else is about to discover how far one man will go to protect and possess the woman he loves.

REVIEW: I am a huge fan of Mary Balogh and I can safely say that she’s one of my all time favorite authors. She just has this incredible talent of sucking me into the story so deeply that I have a hard time coming up for air.

The Web series had been published awhile back, and it has been on my TBR forever, so it was time I dived in.

After many stories that featured funny, likeable and charming characters that I enjoy reading about, I was ready for some unique, intriguing and complex heroes and heroines to sink my teeth into, and let me tell you, Mary Balogh delivers on all the above in spades.

The first story is Edmunds who is the Earl of Amberley; second one is  one of the twins’ Lord Eden’s, and the third is Lady Madeline’s.

As the eldest and the head of the family, Edmund shoulders a lot, and has been since he inherited the title at nineteen after his father’s unexpected death. He is wise, loving and patient, as well as respectful and caring son and brother. He is brought up in a loving home, by caring parents who were not afraid to foster love in their children, as well as free thinking.

Quite by accident and brought on by his brother, who had best intentions and yet the worst timing, Edmund finds himself in the inconvenient circumstances that require him to offer marriage to our heroine. 

This story is without a doubt character driven and I loved it!

To watch the heroine as she slowly, and I mean very slowly, comes to think for herself and not blindly trust and follow her pious and domineering father was something to behold. I know that many might not have enjoyed her character much just because of that, but I thought it fascinating. The confusion, the  battle within this woman of what her deep, inner self desires and the love for her parents despite their lack of the same for her, was heartbreaking and painful to go through with her.

If you like conflict and struggle of any kind in your love stories, this is a book that will give it to you. It is not a book for the faint of heart, impatient and those that need a quick fix of ‘sugar & spice, and everything nice’.

I have deep respect and appreciation for all authors who take the risk and put their characters through an extreme, just to see how they’ll come out of it. Well played Ms. Balogh, well-played.

mb wol‘Web of Love’

STORY: He’d served with her husband on the battlefield—and secretly desired her for years. Yet for Dominic, Lieutenant Lord Eden, Ellen Simpson has remained tantalizingly out of reach—until she is widowed by the war. Suddenly pursued by the dangerously handsome nobleman, Ellen is stunned by the depth of attraction he arouses in her.

Soon their friendship flames into something deeper…and as scandal ignites, marriage seems the only solution. But Ellen has a secret—one she can share with no one—that prevents her from fully opening her heart to Dominic. Until he devises his own plan for the ultimate consummation of their passion—and the woman he is determined to possess at any cost…

REVIEW: In this second book of her Web series, Ms. Balogh tackles the story of Dominic, Lord Eden, Edmund’s mischievous, charming, and care-free brother.

Let me say this before I go into the reasons behind loving this book most out of the Web Trilogy.

As some series go, you are able to read them out of order and most of the time they can well stand on their own, but I found that this particular series is not one of them and I know for certain that my enjoyment would have been thwarted if I hadn’t read these stories in order.

In the first book we met Dominic as a young man full of mischief, willing to fall in love at a drop of a hat, filled with dreams of joining the fray of an imminent war with Napoleon. In this book we watch him as he finally finds his true heart’s desire and is faced with brutality and reality of the war.

For the first time we meet Ellen, a married, very strong, smart and courageous young woman that Dom met a few years ago in Spain. She loves her older husband who is Dom’s superior and his mentor. The three of them are close friends and it never even occurred to either Ellen or Dom that they would ever end up being lovers. She deeply respects and loves her husband and is wholly devoted to him and their marriage.

As this story opens, we welcome back Alex and Edmund as they arrive with his sister Madeline, Dom’s twin, into Brussels in support of their sibling who they haven’t seen in three years.

And here is where the story gets interesting for me. I loved the setting [think War and Piece movie with Audrey Hepburn!] and Ms. Balogh did an outstanding job in bringing to me this world of uncertainty, bravery and agony that surrounded our maine and secondary characters.

And speaking of those, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved those, from Jennifer, Ellen’s teenage step-daughter to Lieutenant Allan Penworth, a man who becomes very dear to Madeline; I loved Charlie Simpson, Ellen’s husband so much that I mourned him almost as much as Ellen and Dom did.

But what came through the most in this story was the way Ms. Balogh clearly showed her readers that great love can strike twice in a lifetime, and how hard it is to understand and accept that fact. That part touched me deeply personally.

I’m so glad I finally got to this series off my TBR!

mb tdw‘The Devil’s Web’

STORY: The last time Madeline Raine had seen James Purnell, she had been but a chit of a girl, and at his mercy. Purnell had held her helpless in his arms – but protectively above the abyss of her own dangerous hunger for him.

He had left her then, not taking her innocence but taking her heart, as he vanished from England. Since then Madeline had reigned as society’s most dazzling and heartless beauty, making all men pay for one man’s rebuff of her.

Now James was back, more handsome and arrogant than ever. And Madeline steeled herself not to fall under his spell again. But she soon discovered that the melting power of passion ignited by love would not easily die…

REVIEW: If you’ve not read the first two books, especially the first one, ‘The Gilded Web’, I guarantee you that you will not understand our couple’s past, present and future behavior. It really is imperative you at least read book one.

In this book we watch Madeline, sister of Edmund and Dominic, mature, yet when it comes to planning and mapping out her future, she hasn’t changed a bit. She is still kept back with her conflicting feelings toward James and is hurling herself from one plan to another, only to find out that she must face the reality of loving a man who will certainly drag her into darkness with him.

Talk about a man, James Purnell, brother of Alexandra and Edmund’s wife from ‘Gilded Web’, who is torn by the past and his feelings of unworthiness when it comes to his future.

This is the third and last story of the Web Series and if it was the hardest to read for me, I wonder if it was as hard to write for Ms. Balogh.

If you’re not into dark and complex characters, then this story will be wasted on you. But if you can appreciate the intricacies of a very complex relationship between James and Madeline, you will be rewarded tenfold with a story of deep, true, abiding and long lasting love that had to go through many trials in order to blossom.

I loved all three stories and Ms. Balogh’s writing is as strong as ever. The depth of the characters that she writes about is one that I will always appreciate. If you’ve never read this author, these may not be the books to start you on her wonderful writing, but once you do, please don’t miss out on these unique, complex and very interesting characters.

It comes as no surprise to me that she succeeded yet again in creating three romance stories that touched my heart. She weaved these with a historical event that helped the plot and shaped the characters that I was deeply touched by, and will stay with me forever. I highly recommend all three of these engrossing and wonderful stories.

*Melanie for b2b.

*Books provided by my local used book store.

‘The Arrangement’ by Mary Balogh

TA MBSTORY: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

REVIEW: This is the second book of the Survivors Club and it’s Vincent’s story.

The hero is blinded shortly after entering the Napolenanic Wars and while he convalesced, was cared for by his fellow survivors of the war who later formed the Survivors’ Club, a group that meets every year at Penderris Hall in Cornwell, country home of the Duke of Stanbrook, to give each other support while facing life after the war.

Vincent is finally ready to return home and be with his family at Middlebury Park in Gloucestershire, there to be coddled and smothered by his well-meaning mother and sisters. 

He had not been Viscount for very long, so the new-found wealth and the lifestyle that came with it is a bit overwhelming at times and while he appreciates their love and care, he decides to take a trip to Barton Coombs, the home he knew as a child for some quiet time for himself. 

Sophia Fry lost her mother when she was a baby and her father was a gambler whose life ended violently.  From an early age she was forced to live on sustenance in the home of her aunt who lives in Barton Coombs.  The woman resents caring for Sophia and treats her no better than a servant.  Small in stature and rather plain, she is known as The Mouse. 

Vincent and Sophia meet at a party thrown by the town of Barton Coombs in his honor.  When Vincent learns about Sophia’s predicament, he is determined to care for her and thus proposes marriage to her.

This is a novel about two damaged people – one physically and one mentally. The injuries they both suffered have left them deeply scared, and as they find one another, they learn to overcome the adversity they have known and are willing to find good in life as well as happiness.

After they marry and return to his home at Middlebury Park, Sophia’s and Vincent’s love for each other grows. 

Sophia is determined to help Vincent gain his independence in every way possible and with Vincent’s love; Sophia gains her own independence and ability to be his Viscountess in every way.

The sensitivity with which Ms. Balogh wrote this novel expressing the emotions of Vincent as a blind person and the hurt Sophia knew as a child are very well done.

As with her first novel of the Survivors’ Club, “The Proposal,” I was very pleased and look forward to reading more of her books.

Connie for b2b

*ARC Edition received from The Random House Publishing Group.

‘A Christmas Bride/Christmas Beau’ by Mary Balogh

STORY: ‘A Christmas Bride’

The very wealthy Edgar Downes has promised his aging father to finally take a bride—specifically, to wed a titled lady by Christmas. London is full of pretty, proper, and eligible misses, but it’s the widow Helena, Lady Stapleton, in a shocking red dress, who captures Edgar’s attention. Helena is intrigued by the seductive stranger—but he’s simply not in her class. Marriage, of course, would never do. But in a season of miracles, something wondrous is about to happen.

‘Christmas Beau’

Not even the warm, forgiving Christmas spirit can stop the Marquess of Denbigh from settling his score with Judith Easton: The beautiful young widow injured Denbigh’s pride years ago by jilting him for another man. Now that Judith is free from a nightmare marriage, the handsome marquess has her in his sights—and wants her in his arms. But to trust the tender words on his lips, Judith must not only see past the hardness of his heart, but learn once again to trust her own heart’s desire.

REVIEW: The above book blurbs are adequate in summarizing both stories, so I’ll just give you my thoughts on them.

‘A Christmas Bride’

This is how good the first story is. Before I finished it, I had gone to Mary Balogh’s website and searched all her books to make sure that one of the secondary characters had his own book. Can you imagine my surprise to find out that he indeed had his own story AND that I owned the book? ‘Christmas Beau’ needless to say, had to wait until I read the said book.

From time to time I’d encounter a hero, or in this case a heroine, whose actions I questioned and desperately wanted them explained to me in such a way that I could come to understand, excuse and accept, before I come to love them. This was the case with Helena. I give credit to Ms. Balogh for giving me such a character and putting me through a gambit of emotions.

Helena was such a complex woman who you needed, and I truly wanted, to know and to do that you had to finish the book and not give in to the urge of abandoning her and the story. At the start of it I just could not like her. There was not much to like. She was overbearing, snotty and just all around bitch!

However, in the hands of Mary Balogh, Helena grows as a human being and becomes someone our hero accepted even before he knew the whole story. I, on the other hand, had to read the story to the end in order to understand her reasons behind her atrocious behavior.

To some, this story might be off-putting because of the main character’s behavior, but I do ask of you to have patience and give this story your attention. It truly is a wonderfully touching story of real, true and unconditional love on the part of the hero, Edgar Downes, who is a true gentleman through and through, regardless of his birth and upbringing.

Everything in this story was well told and executed by the master herself, Mary Balogh. Highly recommend it!

*Side note: Mary Balogh’s A Precious Jewel is the book I was referring to earlier and it’s worth noting that Helena was the step mama of the hero of that book. I fell in love with Sir Gerald Stapleton and his precious jewel. Another MUST read especially if you’re craving a Beta hero.

***

‘Christmas Beau’

In this story, we have the hero that we’re not supposed to like because of the revenge he’s implementing upon the heroine, yet I had a devil of a time not liking him. Max, to his friends and family and to the ton known as the Marquess of Denbigh, was a recluse. After many years in seclusion and self-exile in the country after he was jilted by his fiancée, Max finally gets a chance to get even with Judith who jilted him a month before they were to be married. The woman is now a devoted mother of two and a widow who, in Max’s mind, is deserving of his hatred and wreath. He meticulously plans and executes his plan of revenge which after all makes him realize that there can indeed be a very thin line separating hate from love.

Judith was only seventeen years old when she decided that Max would be wrong for her and she falls for a man who was attentive, loving and charming, in other words a total opposite of Max, who at twenty-three was serious, nerves and too intense. She was too immature to realize that her feelings were not those of revulsion, but of passion and fear of it. For a very long time, she regretted not being strong enough, grown up enough to face him and tell him the truth, but now she feels that past should be left in the past, and as much as she still fears the man, she has made up her mind to at least give him the benefit of the doubt.

Some of you may find fault with both hero and heroine, as both at the start of the story are not much likable, but I found it very realistic and poignant. Max’s love for the heroine was portrayed so very deep and very touching even though it later turned into hatred. The battle between the love and hate within him raged on and it was such a joy to watch love win over! I admired Judith’s ability to forgive and understand Max’s motives while clearly seeing the love he had for her, allowed both of them to reconcile the past with the present.

*I bought the book