4 Months -- 4 Baloghs

Mary Balogh’s last series of connected books, her “Simply” books, were released 1 per year from 2005-2008. As I understand it, she actually wrote much faster than that. Her publisher saved up her most recent books in order to release them at a rate of 1 per month from February through May of this year. And now we’ll wait another year for the next new book which will conclude this latest series.

1. First Comes Marriage. Feb. 2009
2. Then Comes Seduction. March 2009
3. At Last Comes Love. April 2009
4. Seducing an Angel. May 2009

It’s a strange move by the publisher on a number of levels. And I’m not entirely certain that I liked it. And I'm a huge fan--it was certainly nice to get some new books by her more often than once a year. But once a month? Obviously, it’s a blatant ploy to generate so much interest that those of us who bought books 1-3 (issued as MM paperbacks) would then happily plunk down the big bucks for the hardback. Phooey. I bought 1-3 and then put my name on the library wait list for 4. I'll buy it next year when it comes out in MM. The other disturbing thing this publishing decision creates is an awful long wait for the concluding book to the series. I think Con's book won't be published until the 2nd half of 2010. I suppose the upside is that we MB fans got a huge, huge fix this spring.

Personally, I think it would be really nice if we could just count on a new MB book every 6 months or so.

But that’s not how it went, and it was rather interesting to read these books so close together. When something like that happens, certain idiosyncrasies of structure and style become way more obvious than they might ordinarily. And for me, those idiosyncrasies became a tad less charming when I saw them again and again.

I think most readers would agree that Mary has a very unique voice among romance authors. I wish I were schooled in the art of literary criticism, because maybe I’d have the words to describe what makes her voice unique. Most of her books are not action-packed. Rather they are character-driven. The plots move along through the actions and inter-actions of the main characters. Along the way we are treated to the thoughts and feelings of the characters and we’re emotionally drawn in. Mary’s writing is—for me—very successful at this. And even though certain aspects of her plots have become more predictable, I still find her writing very engaging.

One thing I’ve noticed is that every one of her books going back to before the Simply series has a wedding scene. You can probably go back before that, but I’m not going to bother. Most of the Slightly series and A Summer to Remember also had full church wedding scenes. That’s a lot of weddings. And friends, that’s overkill. Because you can only describe the walk down the aisle so many times before it sounds rote. If you want to have a wedding scene in each book, how about some variety? A special license (which I think, but won’t swear to, was last done in Slightly Married—13 books ago) here and there would be interesting. Or an elopement (I know—terribly scandalous). Or gosh, end the book with a betrothal. My imagination can fill in the rest.

Something else that is repetitive in many of these books is some kind of philosophical discussion on the meaning of happiness and living happily ever after. I think this is a theme that is meaningful to the author. In all honesty, I appreciate the discussion she generates between her characters because I agree with her that we are responsible for our own happiness and that happiness is the cumulation of many small moments. But it just seems strange to see a variation of the same conversation show up in each book. It tends to negate the things she's done to create some differentiation between her characters. How can they have distinct personalities if they spout the same verbage?

These things said---As long as Mary Balogh keeps writing romance, I’ll keep reading it. The introspective nature of her writing really does appeal to me. Her plots are usually different enough to keep me engaged. But her style and structure has become…. well….. very structured. And I really don’t think I care to read back-to-back-to-back-to-back releases again.

I'll end this post with a picture. Tucked in my closet with some of my sewing supplies is my “Complete Works of Mary Balogh Shelves”:




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