Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TBR Day -- One Night for Love / Mary Balogh. 1999

About 5-6 years ago I was reading some fiction reviews in Library Journal when I ran across a brief review of Mary Balogh’s A Summer to Remember. I decided to check it out of the library and a day later my love of the romance genre was reborn. I loved this book and I loved the way Ms. Balogh created a book with such emotional depth. I proceeded to buy (and read) every other MB book I could get my hands on, although for some reason I never really wanted to read the precursor to ASTR, One Night for Love. I think because I “knew” what happened in that book, it was not a priority to read it. So it’s been in my TBR pile for all these years.

With Mary Balogh’s newest release (Simply Perfect) due next week, I decided it was finally time to read ONFL. This is the book where SP’s hero, Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, makes his first appearance. It seemed appropriate that I finally read it before reading SP.

ONFL is the first book in what has become a rather massively connected series known best as the “Slightly” and “Simply” books. I don’t think Ms. Balogh intended to spend so many years with this group of characters when she first wrote ONFL and ASTR. Some of us wish she’d quit some time ago. But that’s a topic for another day…

One Night for Love is the story of Neville, the Earl of Kilbourne, and Lily Doyle, daughter of a commoner who had served with Neville in Spain during the Peninsular War. Neville and Lily had married in haste when the Sergeant is killed during a skirmish. Less than 24 hours after the wedding, Neville and his small band of men are engaged again. This time Lily is shot and presumed killed. Neville, also wounded, ends up leaving Spain and going home to take up the duties of Earl. He never tells anyone he’d been briefly married and indeed goes on to prepare to marry his childhood friend and cousin by marriage, Lauren Edgeworth.

The book opens with Neville and Lauren’s wedding ceremony just getting ready to start. Lily comes in, the proceedings are halted, and everyone, Neville and Lily included, must come to grips with the fact that Neville is not only married, but married to a commoner who is illiterate and uneducated. She is definitely not countess material.

Neville is wracked by guilt because he 1) left Lily behind, 2) caused deep hurt to Lauren who genuinely loves Neville and had been looking forward to their life together, and 3) totally upsets his family and friends by this unexpected news.

Lily is conflicted because she loves Neville, but feels totally out of place in Neville’s world. She had grown up first in India and later in Spain and nothing in either place had prepared her for the kind of grandiose wealth and society that was Neville’s real life at home in England. In addition, Lily suffered severe trauma when she was left behind in Spain. She had been captured by Spanish partisans and held there and abused until she was finally released and manages to find her way to England and Neville.

There’s a rather large cast of secondary characters and even a secondary romance, but they serve a purpose to show the difficulties that lie ahead for Neville and Lily if they wish to have a life together. They still love one another, but they don’t fully understand one another.

The book takes on fairy tale overtones when Lily begins to learn how to become established in the aristocracy. There is also a surprise connection between Lily and one of the secondary characters. While this connection lends itself to the fairy tale, rags-to-riches feel of the book, I think it makes the ending too sugary and weakens it. Ms. Balogh has always seemed at her best when she goes for angst. Here she chose sugar. Nonetheless, I’m glad I finally read this book. And it prompted me to re-read ASTR which remains one of my favorites by her.

Meanwhile there’s nothing terribly significant about Attingsborough’s role in ONFL that makes it necessary to have read this before picking up SP next week. I’ll give it a qualified recommendation. Read it if you’re a fan but beware of the super-sweet ending.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Oak Leaf & Reel wall hanging finished

This is the kit that I finished quilting while on my retreat 2 weeks ago. Here it is all bound with a hanging sleeve. Another UFO out the door. Yippee!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I'm not reading, I'm re-stocking my cognitive reserve.

The YOU docs have the following to say about reading:

On cognitive tests, book lovers outperform people with lower reading levels. No surprise there. But the big news is that people who read regularly may develop a "cognitive reserve." What’s that mean? That they’ve got extra brainpower to keep the mind rolling when brain cells are under attack. In a study of factory workers, the brains of the big readers functioned just fine on cognitive tasks, despite on-the-job exposure to toxic substances, like lead.

So next time I feel guilty for reading instead of cleaning the bathroom, I'll just remind myself that my cognitive reserve might be running low and I should stock up. Besides, do you have any idea how toxic those bathroom cleansers really are?