Book 2 in the Bedwyn Saga series
Author Mary Balogh
Narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Publisher: Tantor Media
Publication date Dec 20, 2016
Running time 11 hrs 29 min
I voluntarily reviewed a publisher-provided, review copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
With his laughing eyes and wild, rakish good looks, Lord Rannulf Bedwyn is a hard man to resist. To Judith Law, a woman in need of rescue when her stagecoach overturns, Rannulf is simply her savior, a heroic stranger she will reward with one night of reckless passion before she must become a companion to her wealthy aunt. Imagine Judith’s shock when the same stranger turns out to be among England’s most eligible bachelors . . . and when he arrives at Harewood Grange to woo her cousin. Certainly, they had made no vows, no promises, but Rannulf never did forget his uninhibited lover—nor did she forget that one delicious night. And as scandal sets the household abuzz, Rannulf proposes a solution. But when Judith refuses to have him—in love or wedlock—Rannulf has only one choice: to wage a campaign of pure pleasure to capture the heart of the woman who has already won his.
An underlying theme in this book is appearance in regard to beauty and making assumptions regarding how someone will behave not only based on their appearance but because of that appearance. For example (and not one from this book) we might look at a large man and say he would move clumsily through a china shop because he is large and thus finds navigating small spaces more difficult than a smaller person would. But, we may also assume that his attitudes towards himself and his locomotion are influenced by the way he is perceived, we believe him to be clumsy and this belief, projected back at him through a lifetime, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Beauty and jealous competition between women is part of this. In this book a beautiful woman, whose beauty has been denied and the “offending features,” like a large bosom and red hair, covered, believing herself to be of less worth than the rest of her family, volunteers herself for life as a poor-relation and companion to her aunt’s wealthy family to help her nuclear family’s financial situation. When she arrives at the aunt, whose daughter has recently debuted her covered beauty is obscured even more so she will not outshine the debutante.
It is assumed that if Judith knew she were beautiful she would use that beauty to tempt men to sin. Her physical beauty and how others treated her because of it would turn her into a Lillith or Salome; that her beauty in and of itself would predict her attitudes and behavior. How sad that parents would assume that how she was treated at home would make so little difference to her character.
It is also assumed that all men would prefer the poor but gorgeous Judith to the attractive but not stunning rich debutante.
This is a theme that I haven’t often seen as a theme, per se, and not just as a device. I thought it was an interesting choice. The beauty idea reaches very deeply into our psyches creating all sorts of self-esteem issues. There are also theories floating around that suggest the beauty principle is hard-wired and is an evolutionary selection mechanism. And, when you believe someone beautiful will be competition, well, people can be mean.
Another theme is historical and probably still pertains: Expectations of a woman’s morality, in this case as an alleged actress. Apparently, females on the stage were considered a step, and not a big step, above a prostitute. They were considered, as unescorted females displaying themselves on the stage, to be of loose morality — ruined. They were often steering their own courses and thus, not demure and deferential. They worked! For money!
Beauty probably also plays a part in this. (see the Lillith and Salome idea above).
No longer are women on the stage automatically considered thus. But, we still make a lot of assumptions, and by “we” I mean all of us, on how women should behave in order to fit into the ever, and never, changing construct of “woman.” I think we hold over the idea of celebrities, especially beautiful women, being promiscuous.
Rosalyn Landor does a great job with her rich voicing of the many characters. In the same way that Davina Porter is the voice of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Landor is the voice of all the Mary Balogh books I have heard,
But, this is the first book by Balogh I found weak. The same “stuck at an inn because of the weather” scenario was used in the SIMPLY UNFORGETTABLE the first book in the SIMPLY series. The woman is also a performer in that book. And, this set up becomes contrived when the plot hinges one more coincidence.The SIMPLY series and the BEDWYN SAGA eries are both re-issues in audio. This book was published in 2003 and SIMPLY UNFORGETTABLE published in 2006 so while the order is reversed for me it is because I read SIMPLY UNFORGETTABLE first.
Another issue I had was that the first part of the series is based in lies told to escape the Regency proprieties and miscommunication on both sides but the couple has bigger issues to manage than that.
At the beginning I was put off Ranulf’s character; I thought him wolfish and cavalier. At one point he refers to paying for services and while Judith fluffs it off I was insulted on her behalf. I found Judith to be too much a doormat, unrealistically so.
I generally adore Mary’s books, but this one had a few bobbles for me and would not stack up as my favorite. I felt it was thematically strong, and brings up important issues but found the plot too coincidence dependent. It doesn’t mean I won’t throw myself right into the next one that becomes available though!