Desert Isle Keeper
Simply Love (#91 on AAR's Top 100 Romances)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
review originally published on August 16, 2006
It’s been some time now since I had a good cry over a book, but toward the end of Simply Love I had to get out several handkerchiefs. When Mary Balogh is on top of her game, she is hard to beat and she has a real winner here.
In A Summer To Remember we met Kit Butler’s brother Sydnam, once horribly tortured by the French. Syd lost an arm and an eye and he is covered with scars – his once beautiful looks are gone. Syd once hoped to become a great artist, but because of the loss of his arm and eye, he can’t paint what he sees – he can’t even see like he used to. Syd has taken a position with the Duke of Bewcastle as steward of one of his properties in Wales and there he has found a measure of peace and contentment. Syd loves the beauty of the countryside in Wales, he’s learning the language, he’s made several friends with the locals, and even hopes to buy one of the unentailed properties that Bewcastle owns. All in all, life is pretty good for Syd and he pushes feelings of loneliness away whenever they creep up to disturb him.
Ten years ago Anne Jewell was engaged and hoped to marry as soon as she finished her stint as companion to Prue Moore. Anne had come into a terrible situation in that household. Prue was mentally slow and her brother Albert attempted to molest her. Since neither of Prue’s parents were any help, Anne tried to distract Albert, and he raped her. She was left pregnant, but Joshua Moore (a cousin) came to her rescue. He and his wife Freya Bedwyn (from Slightly Scandalous) got Anne a position as teacher in Miss Martin’s School For Girls and she and her son David have lived there ever since. Anne loves her job, she loves her son, and she pushes feelings of loneliness away whenever they creep up to disturb her.
One day when Anne and David are visiting Joshua and Freya, he proposes that David come with him to his brother-in-law’s (the Duke of Bewcastle) home in Wales. The duke and duchess are having a reunion of all the Bedwyn family and it will give David a chance to be around other children. David is wild to go, but Anne, never having been parted from him before, is uneasy. When Joshua asks her to go along with them, she accepts.
At the duke’s home, Anne sees Syd one evening and is struck by the beauty of his profile. When he turns and she sees his scars, she gasps then runs. Later during another evening, she is ashamed when she meets Syd, so she tries to apologize and they begin to talk. Syd and Anne meet and talk almost every night, and these two people who think themselves unworthy of love, find love.
Simply Love is a character driven romance – there is little external conflict. When Syd shows Anne the home he hopes to buy, the loneliness they both feel overwhelms them and they make love. Anne becomes pregnant and she and Syd marry. At first they are both uncomfortable with their situation, but gradually both of them begin to warm to each other. While they have both suffered deeply, neither Syd nor Anne are downtrodden or depressing characters. For the most part, they have accepted what has happened to them…and gone on with their lives. That’s not to say they have no leftovers from the past – they do. Syd mourns that he can’t paint like he used to, and Anne has not made peace with her family. Together, they find that they are stronger than they were separately and together they find the happiness they yearn for. I read the last couple of chapters with tears flowing freely.
If I have any quibble with Simply Love, it’s that at times the character’s internal monologues get a bit florid, but when they quit soliloquizing and talk to each other, the dialogue is perfect. I loved the both of them since they were mature and sensible people and not silly chits, and I am a total pushover for a Beauty and the Beast tale. As always, Mary Balogh’s love scenes are not just there to titillate, instead they wonderfully illustrate the growing love and intimacy between Syd and Anne.
I’ve been remiss in the past few years with Mary Balogh’s books – I’ve bought all of them but they are sitting in my TBR pile. I plan to remedy that as soon as I can – she is truly one of the best of the best when it comes to historical romance, and this book shows just how good she can be.