Book 2 in the Simply Quartet series
Author Mary Balogh
Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Publication date Jun 28, 2016
Running time 11 hrs
Audiobook provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
She spies him in the deepening dusk of a Wales evening—a lone figure of breathtaking strength and masculinity, his handsome face branded by a secret pain. For single mother and teacher Anne Jewell, newly arrived with her son at a sprawling estate in Wales, Sydnam Butler is a man whose sorrows—and passions—run deeper than she could have ever imagined.
As steward of a remote seaside manor, Sydnam lives a reclusive existence far from the pity and disdain of others. Yet almost from the moment Anne first appears on the cliffs, he senses in this lovely stranger a kindred soul, and between these two wary hearts, desire stirs. Unable to resist the passion that has rescued them both from loneliness, Anne and Sydnam share an afternoon of exquisite lovemaking. Now the unwed single mother and war-scarred veteran must make a decision that could forever alter their lives.
Contains mature themes.
First Published in print by Dell in 2006 (as far as I can discern) the new audio release of SIMPLY LOVE is very well done.
Readers of her later, SURVIVOR’S CLUB series, will find it presages and develops many of the same themes and traumatic events of the Late Regency and post-Napoleonic wars period. It also inhabits a similar, seaside, cliff setting in parts and also has unusual, eccentric, characters.
It also deals with something they do not: the aftermath of a violent assault, a bold and provocative subject for any romance novel. It offers a similar emotional jolt as ONLY A KISS in the Survivors’ Club series did.
In choosing to focus on a single mother, Balogh either did some great research and found examples of women who were single mothers and still managed to live, at least on the fringes of, society. Or, my understanding of nineteenth century single parenthood is totally off. We cannot help but look at the period through the lenses of Victorian sensibilities and may be mistaken in seeing only one way for society to react to people on the fringes thereof.
As late as, I believe, the 1970s a woman who was a single mother without benefit of a husband might not have been completely shunned, but the position of a teacher in an elite private girls school would have been difficult to obtain even then.
The themes of post traumatic stress, torture, disfigurement, disability, depression and such all reappear in Balogh’s later series. This leads me to believe that these are themes for her career as a writer of historical romance. In an article titled “Foundlings, Orphans and Unmarried Mothers” on the British Library’s website Ruth Richardson writes:
To become pregnant before being married was regarded as a source of shame for a woman in the early Victorian era, and in the novel Oliver’s mother left home so that her family did not suffer from her disgrace. – See more at: http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/foundlings-orphans-and-unmarried-mothers#sthash.HY2oJAnZ.dpuf
In a 2011 Article on Jane Austen’s World Vic writes:
A woman’s chaste reputation owed much to the urgent necessity of her not getting pregnant before marriage. Conceiving a child out of wedlock turned a woman into a pariah. https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/to-conceive-or-not-to-conceive-that-is-the-regency-question/
It is a shame and disgrace that men didn’t really suffer the stigma associated with their actions, and that women who were raped were blamed for their rape. In this story that is the case with Anne who has been shunned by her father who believes she must have incited her rapist. As a single mother with continuing amicable relationships with her son’s father’s family, she is also worried about her son being somehow adopted into their family. And, she is reluctant to marry and have her husband legally responsible for her son.
The handicap of her compromised social position and his post-war disabilities and disfigurement somehow brings parity to these two complicated characters.
As a painter, I loved Balogh’s exploration of art and creative inclinations as sources of pain, healing and building connection. Art is a personal challenge, a way of facing one’s flaws and developing strengths as much as any meditative discipline or physical exercise. Her discussion of expression and impression show a deep sympathy for an artist who may be unable to physically work in the same way as before and how coming to grips and adapting can open the door for true healing.
Rosalyn Landor does a great job with the assorted characters; imbuing each with their most essential traits: honor, cheer, steadfastness, or gentle forbearance. It adds a lot to the story and makes it a delightful tale of strength, redemption and forgiveness.
Mary Balogh stands out as one of the best writers in the Romance genre as she balances romance and sex with morals and morality.
MARY BALOGH on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Balogh/e/B000APVMYI/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Mary Balogh’s Website: http://www.marybalogh.com/