Unforgiven is the second in a series about four friends from the army. The first book in this series was Indiscreet, which I enjoyed very much. I bought this one with a feeling of pleasant anticipation since Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors. I was very disappointed.
Unforgiven begins with Kenneth Woodfall, Earl of Haverford, returning to his home in Cornwall. His family and the Hayes family, who have a baronetcy there, have had a long-standing family feud ever since an Earl of Haverford sentenced a Hayes for smuggling. The feud did not prevent Moira Hayes, her brother Sean, and Kenneth from playing together. Kenneth and Moira had been childhood sweethearts, but a later incident between Kenneth and Sean resulted in them becoming totally estranged. Later, the boys joined the army and Sean was killed in battle. The baronetcy passed to Edwin Baillie, a distant cousin who is now engaged to Moira Hayes.
Edwin Baillie is the most interesting character in the book. He is a pompous, silly ass who manages to be haughty and obsequious at the same time. He isn’t cruel or mean; he’s a mama’s boy. Edwin is determined to end the family feud, so he toadies to Kenneth. He and Moira are invited to a Christmas party at the Haverford mansion. While there, Edwin is called home and leaves early. When it’s time for her to leave, Moira refuses an escort and starts walking home, when a blizzard forces her to take shelter in an old hut. She is found by Kenneth; to avoid the cold, they decide to share their body heat. One things leads to another, and they end up having sex to stay warm. Afterward, Kennth offers to marry Moira, but she refuses until she discovers she is pregnant.
On their wedding night, Moira miscarries, they quarrel bitterly, and Kenneth leaves for London alone. In a couple of months, he asks her to join him. While they are in London, they act in ways that made me want to shake the both of them. Moira gets mad at everything. If Kenneth buys her a present, she gets mad. If he asks her to go somewhere with him, she gets mad. Kenneth reacts by freezing up as cold as ice and treating her with haughty formality.
All the while, they keep telling themselves – instead of each other – how much they are in love. Also, all of their friends keep telling them that they really love each other. How can they tell? Oh yes, that incident I mentioned between Moira’s brother Sean and Kenneth? Kenneth finally tells Moira exactally what happened and all misunderstandings are cleared up. But he tells her practically on the last page of the book! By then, I couldn’t have cared less.
This book was a major disappointment, and would have received an even lower rating had it not been for the humorous characterization of Edwin Baillie and the appearance of Kenneth’s friends from Indiscreet. Other books by this author have had marriages begun under less than perfect circumstances, but the hero and heroine always grew closer as the book progressed. Kenneth and Moira never seemed to love or even like each other that much. I closed the book feeling very pessimistic about their future which is not how I want to feel at the end of a romance.