Beginning in late February 2009, Mary Balogh will publish four – that’s right four – new books over four consecutive months.

The series will follow the existing pattern familiar to Balogh readers with the first three published as paperback originals, followed by the big hardcover wrap-up in late May.

Here is the breakdown of titles and pub dates:

First Comes Marriage February 24

Then Comes Seduction March 24

At Last Comes Love April 28

Seducing An Angel May 19

Holy cow, that’s a lot of Balogh! Next question: What’s the series going to be about? According to the Bantam Dell press release I got last week, the books will follow the exploits of the “fiery, sensual” Huxtable sisters, commencing with the story of Vanessa. (Okay, let’s just get it on the table: It is impossible to read that name and not think of The Cosby Show.) Here’s the publisher’s blurb for the first one:

“The arrival of Elliott Wallace, the irresistibly eligible Viscount Lyngate, has thrown the village of Throckbridge into a tizzy. Desperate to rescue her eldest sister from a loveless union, Vanessa Huxtable, a proud, spirited, widow, offers herself instead. In need of a wife, Elliott takes the audacious widow up on her unconventional proposal. But a strange thing happens on the way to the wedding night. Two strangers with absolutely nothing in common can’t keep their hands off each other. Soon Elliott and Vanessa are discovering that when it comes to wedded bliss, love can’t be far behind.”

My first reaction to the news? Joy. My second? Honestly, I’ve got to wonder what effect this kind of compressed writing schedule – four books are…well, four books – might have on the quality of the series. Mary Balogh has published at least an original book a year for a while now so she didn’t go to ground to finish this series as many authors do when publishing multiple titles over consecutive months.

Still, we’re talking Mary Balogh here and, even though not every book hits it out of the park for me, my respect and affection for her work remains undiminished. For what it’s worth, I’ve just begun reading the ARC of First Comes Marriage and – though it’s still w-a-a-a-y too early to tell – I’m catching a Mr. Darcy and Wulfe-type vibe from the hero. And, from where I sit, that’s just all around good news.

So what do you think? Are you looking forward (as I definitely am with some trepidations) to the upcoming Mary Balogh feast? Are you at all concerned about the possible effect the rushed publication schedule might have on quality? And, more generally, are you series-d out or do you fall into the still can’t get enough category?

-Sandy AAR