Mary Balogh: SLIGHTLY TEMPTED

Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh
Bedwyn Family Saga #4
Piatkus 2004
386 pages
4/5 stars

I’m now officially done with the Bedwyn books. I would say I feel hollow, except I don’t, because I’m just going to reread the lot, and then reread them again. So you know. Not really a loss.

Let me preface by saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s not my favourite – that will always be number 3, Slightly Scandalous – but this definitely comes up to top three. Although I have a reason for docking one star from my review, this book has the tenderest relationship between hero and heroine that I’ve ever seen.

Some people may feel a bit queasy when I tell you the heroine, Morgan, is only eighteen, and the hero, Gervase, is thirty-three. Yeah, that’s a bit of an age gap, and even if it’s not ridiculous in terms of numbers it is quite a lot when one of the pair is only in her teens. Trust me, I frowned and had doubts, too, but I should know better than to doubt Balogh. Morgan is a rather mature young lady, and, being thrown into the middle of war when the Battle of Waterloo erupts – Brussels when it sizzles, as it were – she matures even further through the book.

I really like Morgan. She’s everything in moderation: bored with society but willing to play along, sociable but also an introvert, enjoys entertainment but is not frivolous, brave but not foolhardy. The only thing she is to the fullest extent is herself, and she’ll stick to the truth and won’t hide from what is right or what ought to be done. All in all, an excellent heroine, full of resolution but with a twinkle in her eyes. I’m not quite as fond of the hero, but the way Gervase falls for this young lady is heart-warming and credible.

And let me just screech about every time they kiss; I have never EVER seen such natural tenderness and just… sense of rightness that Balogh manages to create here. There’s nothing in the world more normal than these two helping and comforting each other, and it’s clear all the way through that there’s no lust in this, just love. I haven’t seen many romances that simply don’t even mention lust, and I find this remarkably refreshing. (Side note: when I say there’s no lust I don’t mean there’s no sex. There’s sex. In case you were worried.)

What are my complaints then? While taking notes of this book, I realised I was noting down a lot of familiar things. This might just be because there are things I’ve been using as textual evidence before and therefore they stand out to me, but I have a distinct feeling this book in particular uses many of the same things Balogh has utilized earlier, or again in later novels. This comes up in terms of plot – this is a fairly unusual plot of “You’re strongly connected to my enemy and I will get my vengeance through you OH NO turns out you’re a person” which Balogh also used also in Dark Angel. That’s just one example of about four in spotted.

But even despite seeing some of the same things from the same author before, Slightly Tempted is still a unique work, because it’s not about the tropes or codes or any of the other stuff, it’s about the relationship and its development. Even after I became aware of repetitions I never lost interest in the book or felt like I had read it before. I relished in it and didn’t want it to end. And then she throws in the rest of the Bedwyns (FREYJA! WULF!) and I’m just in love with this family all over again.

All in all, I loved this book. I need my own copy. (I need my own copies of all of the Bedwyn books.) Once again Balogh proves that she’s on top of her game and constantly developing towards better and more nuanced romance story telling. Especially chapter five of this book in such wonderful stuff that I had to put the book down and stare at a wall and then continue to enthuse at assorted friends over it. (It’s the chapter of the Richmond ball, right before Quatre Bras. I’m a sucker for that historical moment, and then Balogh does it and makes me cry on the bus.)

Do yourself a favour and read the Bedwyn books. I recommend reading them in order, because yours truly did not and therefore didn’t appreciate the last one (Slightly Dangerous) the way she suspects she will on rereading. Bedwyns are the best.

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