Desert Isle Keeper Review

Simply Unforgettable

Mary Balogh
2005, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Delacorte, $22.00, 343 pages, Amazon ASIN 0385338228
Part of a series

Grade: A-
Sensuality: Warm

Iím going to say it right up front. Ms. Baloghís books have always been hit or miss for me, with a few more misses then hits in the mix. So what prompted my request to review Simply Unforgettable? Can I tell you a secret? A colleague, who generally loves most of this authorís work, didnít like this one at all. And since many past Balogh books that are hits for her were misses for me, I wanted to see if the reverse were true. Turns out I made the right choice. Her miss was a definite hit for me.

A recurring storyline in many of this authorís books (and one that seldom works for me) is that of the downtrodden heroine meeting an attractive stranger and deciding the have sex with him because sheíll never have the chance again in her even more downtrodden, miserable, and lonely future. My beef with this kind of behavior is that I just generally donít believe it. Notice that I said seldom at the beginning of this paragraph. Iím here to tell you that you should never say never. In this case, it worked. Ms. Balogh set up the perfect circumstances and wrote people whose decisions are thoughtfully made. The very real complications that inevitably arise out of even thoughtfully made choices are what make this a wonderfully emotional read.

After spending the Christmas holidays with her elderly aunts, Frances Allard is returning to Bath and her teaching position at Miss Martinís School for Girls. Though she could have wished for more socializing during her visit, Frances is relatively content with her return to work. But her journey is interrupted when a heavy snowstorm and a handsome - if irritating and arrogant - stranger force her to shelter in a nearly deserted inn. The two must make the best of things while they wait out the storm. As she gets to know him, she comes to realize that maybe she can make this an interlude sheíll never forget. Once the storm is past, Frances will have her memories - but be on her way and never see her the man again.

Lucas Marshall, Viscount Sinclair, is cursing his fate. With his grandfather sick, Lucas, heir to the earldom, feels pressure to continue the line. In a moment of stress during his Christmas visit he promised to settle down and marry the woman most of his family thinks will be perfect for him. Eager to return to his own home, Lucas is angry and frustrated by the snow that is keeping him pent up with a shrew of a woman. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself increasingly attracted to the shrew - who he has now realized is a beautiful and intelligent woman. When they eventually make love, Lucas is the one who has a hard time letting go, much to his own bewilderment.

Francesí choice to sleep with a man she barely knows is one that would normally make me groan. Sheís a single woman living in Regency England. How could this possibly be a well thought out decision? And thus how do I like a woman who makes stupid decisions? In this case, itís not all that stupid. I could certainly imagine myself reacting in exactly the same ways - were I this Regency miss stranded with this gorgeous guy. Though she has little family and not much money, Frances does have a support system in place. She makes her decisions with eyes wide open and she believes sheíll be able to live with and handle any complications. Her only miscalculation is an emotional one. Frances falls in love with a man sheís convinced sheíll never have.

Lucas makes some colossally arrogant and stupid decisions in his pursuit of Frances and I understood, even when I didnít like, every choice he made. Whatever problems Iíve had with other books written by Ms. Balogh, Iíve never doubted her skill. That skill is evident on every page. Lucasí struggle to figure out his own feelings and the frustration he feels in having to feel them was what kept me reading until the wee hours. He fumbles badly at times, but that made him all the more real. So many of the heroes who populate the genre are the kind of perfect men we could only find in a book. Lucasí efforts to win Frances, good and bad, are what make him so appealing.

When I began this review my grade was going to be a B+, but writing it has made me want to sit down and start the book all over again, which is nothing if not a sure sign of a DIK. And if I thought Frances did a little too much "Iím not worthy" self-flagellating and that Lucas should have listened to what she said a couple of times when he didnít, Iím still going to open it up again the minute I send in this review. And when I'm done, I'll impatiently wait for the second book in what will be a quartet of romances centered around Frances' fellow schoolteachers at Miss Martin's School for Girls.

-- Jane Jorgenson

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