Sunday, September 28, 2008

THE IDEAL WIFE by Mary Balogh

“If you could set before me the plainest, dullest, most ordinary female in London,” Miles Ripley, Earl of Severn, said, “or in England, for that matter, I would make her an offer without further ado.”

I love openings like that. You just know he’s going to get what he wants, but not quite the way he planned. Miles wants an ordinary woman who won’t put many demands on him; who will be happy rusticating in the country with his heirs while he lives in London. He feels that beautiful women are invariably vain, and think men were created to fetch and carry for them. So a plain, dull lady would be satisfied with a title and an estate and leave him alone. He could then get out from under the schemes of his mother and sisters, who have plans for him to wed one of the creatures he so fears.

Enter one Miss Abigail Gardiner, a strong, witty lady who is a companion to an older woman prone the vapors. Her best friend, governess in the house, was being molested by the woman’s lecherous husband. Abby stood up for her friend and was summarily dismissed on the pretext of ogling the eldest son. She has a ne’er do well brother and two young sisters to care for, so she plays on a distant family relationship with the Earl of Severn and asks him for a reference.

She dresses and acts unassuming and demure for the interview, though in truth she is neither. Miles, who can feel the matrimonial noose tightening, pictures of him constantly voicing “yes, dear,” and “no, dear,” to a beautiful harridan the rest of his life dancing in his head, offers marriage instead. With precious few options, she accepts.

This regency, from master Mary Balogh, is full of her trademark sharp dialogue, vivid settings, and emotional complexity. She is so gifted in details and descriptions; she can make the very familiar romance regency world seem authentic. THE IDEAL WIFE is highly sensual but very classy, and I loved losing myself in her clever, witty story. Thanks, Mary!


Kimber An said...

Awesome job, Robyn! The dialogue sounds very Austinian.

Mfitz said...

Sounds fun.