A kindhearted young gentlewoman, in financial straits through no fault of her own. An unrepentant rake, titled, of course, who doesn’t believe in love. A marriage of convenience. A gruff Papa duke. A country estate brimming with relatives and old grudges.
A cornucopia of Regency cliches, yet one of the most enduring Traditional Regencies ever written. Such is the shining talent of Mary Balogh.
Anthony Earheart, the Marquess of Staunton, decides to acquire a shabby wife to spite his domineering father. And while Anthony appreciates that marriage is permanent, his wife’s presence is only temporary. Once his family is suitably vexed, he will pension her off with a generous income. He offers the position to the apparently colorless Charity Duncan.
Charity recognizes Anthony’s offer as the chance to provide her siblings with a decent life. She accepts and the two of them set off to meet the family he hasn’t spoken to in eight years.
So begins a love story that makes you smile, sniffle, and sigh, no matter how many times you reread it. I know, because I’ve probably reread it about a hundred times. Why? Because The Temporary Wife is virtually a manual on how to write a character-driven love story. There’s Balogh’s usual exquisite expertise in describing an alpha hero falling in love against his expectations. There’s the tidy elegance of the hero and heroine’s motivations: Anthony marries because he hates his family; Charity marries because she loves hers. Which sets up the smooth segue into how Charity’s love of family makes her show Anthony the value of bringing love back into his. And then there’s the subtle way that Balogh manages to gradually reveal Anthony’s backstory so that we begin to have sympathy for his anger, at the same time that she makes us desperately want him to get over it and make his peace.
All useful things to learn about writing romance. But The Temporary Wife has more fundamental guidance for anyone trying to write a romance between intelligent grown-ups. Traditional Regencies are relatively short, and Balogh has Anthony and Charity fall in love in the space of less than a week. Believably. Irrevocably. How she does it is why The Temporary Wife deserves a place of honor on every romance writer’s bookshelf.
- Every word counts. In every scene, the dialogue, actions, even the elements of setting Balogh describes in each point of view, everything, reveal the characters of Anthony and Charity and moves the love story forward. There isn’t a single wasted word or irrelevant transaction.
- Character is everything. Plot cliches are perfectly acceptable. Cliched characters are not. Both Anthony and Charity are complex characters and their actions match their character and drive the plot.
- Intelligent heroes fall in love for intelligent reasons. Anthony grows to love Charity because she shows him how to change his life for the better. The more he learns who she really is, the stronger grows his attraction. Charity falls in love with the caring man behind the indifferent façade he presents to the world.
- Intelligent people change their introspection to reflect their new experiences. This book is heavy on introspection, but it’s never whiny or repetitive because both Anthony and Charity’s opinions evolve based on their experiences.
- Intelligent heroines are, in fact, intelligent. They don’t pout, sulk, or misunderstand and misconstrue. Nor do they act solely in reference to the hero. When the hero acts like a jackass, they point it out to him. Anthony and Charity have meaningful conversations about his relationship with his family and when Charity thinks he’s hiding from the truth, she tells him so and doesn’t let his denials stop her from doing what she knows is right.
- Hot has nothing to do with sexual gymnastics. Balogh writes explicit sex scenes, but it’s not the mechanics if sex that matter, it’s how they feel about it. The hottest line ever in a Trad Regency? When Balogh lets you know why Anthony selected the location of the second time he and Charity make love.
There’s so much more! My dog-eared copy of The Temporary Wife is full of margin notes about the use of point of view, introspection, actions, transitions, character-appropriate metaphors. . .until about page 100. Then, every time I reread it, I forget that I’m supposed to be deconstructing it and instead just bliss out on a great romance.
I can’t think of higher praise for a book.
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