Mary Balogh is, I will admit, one of my very favorite authors. She has a gentle, sophisticated style to her writing that never fails to charm me. Although this was perhaps not my very favorite of all her books, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Vincent and Sophia are young and a tad naïve, but on the whole very likeable people.
The book opens with Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, fleeing from his own home. His womenfolk—a mother, a grandmother, and three sisters—have found him a wife, and had Vincent remained in his home any longer he’d have been married to the poor girl. Normally a twenty three-year-old man could defend himself against such nonsense, but Vincent is blind and has allowed himself to be coddled the past few years as he adjusted to life without sight. Unsure of how to take charge of his future, Vincent flees to his childhood home to relax and ponder how to become master of his own life.
However, Vincent’s stay in his home town is not destined to be as peaceful as he might wish. Several nosy townspeople notice his presence, and before he knows it he’s been persuaded to attend a ball and nearly trapped into marriage. Luckily for Vincent, Sophia “the mouse” Fry comes along to save him from marriage to her annoying cousin. Unfortunately for Sophia, all this heroism earns her is a slap in the face and a shove out the door by her uncle and aunt. Left all alone with no money and no other relatives to turn to, Sophia heads to the town church to seek one night’s refuge and some time to think.
It is here that Vincent finds her and offers her an arrangement. He feels responsible for her current situation—were he not so easily tricked, she wouldn’t have had to come to his rescue. He proposes marriage to her at first, but when Sophia refuses to force him to be shackled to her for the rest of his life, he suggests a compromise. After one year of marriage they will part ways and live two separate, peaceful lives…well, unless they have children, in which case the circumstances would be different.
Sophia agrees, reluctantly, and is whisked off to London to be married and then to Vincent’s home to meet his family and set up a life. With time Vincent and Sophia come to know each other better, and to love each other. Their story is sweet, if not particularly heart wrenching.
I debated long and hard as to whether or not this would be a DIK read for me. The book was wonderful, the writing wonderful, the characters wonderful. Vincent and Sophia were lifelike people—both very young and excited to explore the world together. They reminded me some of a few young men and women I know.
However, at the end of the day it was this very quality—the tangible youth present in both Vincent and Sophia—which kept me from considering this a DIK. There is a difference between youth as a recording of the time you’ve spent on earth and youth as a measure of your naiveté. Vincent and Sophia end a little too prepared for the future, if that makes sense. Sophia’s mind is full of wonderful projects and adjustments that can be made to the estate to bring it alive for her blind husband. Vincent has finally settled into his spot as lord of the manor, and there looks to be no trouble on the horizons—just sunny blue skies.
Unfortunately, real life is not like this. Marriage takes work, and I believe Vincent and Sophia end the book without realizing quite how much they’ll need to do. I loved their story, every bit of it, but it seemed to me they ended it a little too together, a little too prepared. I’m not saying I wish this had been a dramatic, heart-wrenching tale of woe and potential marital problems, but perhaps I could have done with fewer rainbows and rays of sparkling sunshine.