Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
Slightly Dangerous is the sixth book in Balogh’s beloved Bedwyn Family Saga. True to my tendencies, it’s the second Bedwyn book I picked up. Yeeeeeah. Incapable of reading romance series in order, that’s me.
I actually got Slightly Dangerous from the library because in the course of writing my thesis, I ran into an interview where Balogh named Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle as her favourite of her own heroes. As many of her books and series are interconnected, I have encountered this duke and his reputation in other novels. Wulf, as his family call him, is cold and haughty, the consummate aristocrat.
And I didn’t particularly like him. Let me explain. I’m all for lofty, reserved aristocrats thawing and falling in love and finding their softer side (as indeed they must if the romance is to work), but it did not feel quite authentic. However, this might be a question reading order: if you have read the previous five Bedwyn books, you will have seen Wulf many times and heard of him through his siblings and their partners; I lack that experience. Wulf is just another hero to me, whereas to a Bedwyn reader this is a long-awaited look into this troubled hero.
Now that I’ve dispensed with the disclaimer, I can continue. While I’m not very interested in Wulf, whose “I was trained to be duke at a young age and therefore don’t quite know who I am as a person rather than a title” conflict is pretty standard, I do like the heroine, Christine, very much. Now, her internal barriers and troubles are much more fascinating. Having first married young into a higher class than her own and having endured a slowly regressing marriage until the death of her husband, Christine has undergone and is still undergoing the social repercussions of her husband’s doubts and her own lowly origins. She is a very good heroine, with sense and benevolence to spare, but she is none too pure and has inner conflicts she needs to resolve.
It becomes evident very quickly that Slightly Dangerous is, essentially, a Pride and Prejudice retelling. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this: the execution borders on too direct an adaptation, but manages to stay on the side of not-too-much. The balance is very fine, and I prefer my adaptations a little farther away from the original, but the use of a familiar plot allows Balogh to concentrate more on character development. Keeping in mind that character development and the depiction of emotions are Balogh’s strongest suits, this solution works. I would also like to point out that an event towards the end and the way it is developed and discussed reminded me very much of Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck – I think this is on purpose. It sets Slightly Dangerous nicely within the continuum of traditional Regencies and adds an almost adventure-y element, although this might be simply my association to the Heyer novel.
I give this novel three stars out of five. I appreciate what it does on a technical level, but would prefer not to see quite so many of the mechanisms. I also recognise that for the Bedwyn fans this book must be a very different experience than it is for me. I’m somewhat disappointed, but perhaps I will return to this book after trying the other novels in the series. (I have previously read Slightly Scandalous and consider Lady Freyja Bedwyn one of my favourite female characters of all time. Read that book. Freyja is wonderful.)