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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
Summery from GoodReads: Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.
Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.
When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.
I can't even bring myself to come up with a decent summary for this. I just did the lazy thing and pulled the one from GoodReads, as you can see. I feel like this novel had too much going on for me to summarize it. I don't even think the above summary is appropriate because that particular conflict doesn't appear until very late in the novel. In fact, though-out the whole thing, I kept waiting for that particular conflict to occur and just kept waiting.
Onward to the characters! Agnes was someone I didn't love instantly. This may be because she falls prey to instalove and that immediately made me roll my eyes at her. She seems like a smart, level-headed character and then she goes to a ball, shares 2 dances with a handsome gentleman, and dead sweet baby jesus, she's in love.
This is particularly annoying considering just before she falls so suddenly in love, she makes a mental speech about how she has no desire to do so. She finds love to be fickle and useless. I never seemed to let go of that annoyance. I never really liked her or related to her in a way that allowed me to connect with the story. She never does anything after that particularly bad, I just couldn't forget the insta-love.
Flavian was no different. Though insta-love wasn't an issue, I just didn't connect with his character. He...I...
I was indifferent to him. He didn't inspire major swoons, but nor did he inspire major annoyance. He was just there, fulfilling his part of the story. He should get the sympathy vote because the poor man has been through a lot, but he doesn't even get that.
I think my issue with this was the first half was incredibly slow and choppy. When my review copy of this arrived in the mail, I was very excited. I have heart great things about Mary Balogh and she is a celebrated historical romance author. The premise of the novel didn't sound wholly original, but we all know originality isn't what we read romance for, so it wasn't a big deal. Then I started it and was instantly bored. I read a lot before bedtime and it's never a good sign when a book makes me sleepy before my normal lights out period. For the first half, I struggled through. The whole thing was so abrupt. She sees him and is instantly in love. They keep meeting randomly to make out but have no real conversation and he literally marries her more or less just to be able to bed her. He admits that outright.
Then, once they are finally married, we get no smut. There is no wedding night scene, or any real smut later. This is a romance novel, smut is part of the appeal. It wasn't even so much that it was smut-free (because I didn't have a problem with The Baron Next Door being smut-free), it's the moment she chooses to skip ahead. They are going at it and things are getting steamy and then....they have apparently gotten it on and finished and we get none of the glory.
After that, the plot issues originally broached in the synopsis finally arrives. Our Agnes learns that part of the reason Flavian married her was to thwart an attempt from his family to set him back up with his previous fiance. She flips shit and he grovels and fixes it. There is obviously more to it than that, but that's the gist. Then there was his whole memory issue and the actual ex-fiance herself and I just felt a bit overwhelmed. I think that was another problem, it felt like she was trying to put 2 different stories together here, but didn't give either of them enough room. If this book had started on page 150 or even 200, and skipped the beginning, I'd have probably loved it, but that was not to be.
So, what you need to know is that I found this disappointing. I won't say bad because I'm sure my bias on insta-love ruined part of it for me, but it wasn't great by a long shot. As excited as I was to finally get my hands on a Balogh novel, I can't say I'll go out of my way to do so again in the future. If this is what all the fuss is about, then I must say, I'm unimpressed!
****Thank you to Piatkus for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****