Here, then, is an abbreviated list of the things in Slightly Tempted that make me happy.
- It's exquisitely plotted. I can't say much more than that -- there are things it's best not to say -- but nothing seemed out of place, contrived, inexplicable, stupid, or hastily pasted together. Characters acted in ways that seemed consistent with their personalities, while remaining human: both flawed and heroic in equal measure.
- Lady Morgan is a wonderful heroine. Smart but still young enough to seem, well, 18. Definitely a Bedwyn. And -- this isn't (I hope) a spoiler -- I particularly liked that she worked it all out on her own. For once, Wulfric wasn't needed as deus ex machina to resolve the misunderstandings and pave the way for the couple's happiness.
- Lady Morgan and Gervase actually talk to each other. About stuff. This is a plot element: it's necessary for the reader to see what they see in each other, but instead of just informing the reader, Balogh manages to write dialogue that demonstrates how smart each of them is.
- For a long book (356 pages), it's well-paced. Nothing dragged, nothing went by too fast. That's saying a lot. I'd tell you how she manages it, but I honestly don't know.
- I was surprised by things -- ah, I can't say which things, but what was the last book you read (not a mystery or romantic suspense, mind you) that actually surprised you in its twists and turns? If it happens a lot, do please share your reading list with me in the comments because it doesn't happen often enough for my taste.
- Last, and yes least of all, the tone of the book pleased me. I'm an unreasonably cranky reader of historical romances that sound too modern. At the same time, I acknowledge that people today don't want to write or read books that sound like Jane Austen herself might have written them. So the challenge is to make a book seem plausible as a modern account of a romance from 1815. Balogh comes closest (with Jo Beverley a close second) in accomplishing this. I could quibble with details here and there, but they are like dandelion fluff compared to the clankers one encounters in less successful historical romances.
So color me happy. The only hard part is not immediately diving in to Slightly Sinful, and then (best of all) Slightly Dangerous (aka the one in which Wulfric falls in love ::sigh::). But I do know that it's best to save these for later -- particularly for when I need a book to make me happy.