Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy Books

Cranky reader though I am, some books make me happy.

Mary Balogh's "Slightly" series has fulfilled that role, and amazingly each book has made me happier than the last.  I just finished Slightly Tempted (read devoured it in under 24 hours!) and it was like sinking into the most comfortable chair: pure bliss.

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.

    7 comments:

    1. I read this series last year, one book after another. It was a mini-readathon, and it was just wonderful. The first book of the series was actually my introduction to Mary Balogh. Midway that novel, I put the book down to run to the bookstore to get the rest of the series.

      Wonderful, wonderful. I bet you're waiting to get to that last book. ;p It won't disappoint!

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    2. My stash of Happy Books is getting a workout lately.

      I wonder if the comfort read is unique to romance readers? I know it's a habit so many of us have and we do like to share. :D

      Diana

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    3. I read this series some years ago now. I know the books are around here somewhere ....

      I believe it's time for a reread. :-)

      And I have to tell you - Wulf's book does NOT disappoint!

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    4. Darn it: troubles with posting comments again! Shall I just say "what they said?"

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    5. I appreciate the consensus -- I'm still holding back from gobbling the remaining two up. It's a bit like saving your dessert.

      (Actually, it's nothing like that. I know it's nothing like that because I am incapable of saving my dessert for later.)

      What do people think -- are Balogh's other series (the Simply series; the Web series) as good? And are any of the single titles as good? Janet? Here's where we all know you shine!

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    6. This is actually a comment from Janet W., who's clearly struggling with Promantica's comment format.

      "When I go to comment at Promantica, the blurry thing eats my comments! Why don't you put up a warning label: save your comments before you go to post :)

      So, in a nutshell because I don't have time right now to re-type, the series that starts with Dark Angel and ends with Christmas Bride is my most re-read Balogh series. The trio (maybe not so much Courting Julia) but Dancing with Clara and Tempting Harriet is marvelous. Single titles, as good as they are, don't stand up to the layering of friendship circles and family sagas. Feel free to quote me or I'll try to post later :)

      Sorry but it's frustrating: maybe I just need more caffeine."

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    7. I'll try again! The series starting with Dark Angel and ending with Christmas Bride surpass all her others, in my opinion. There's dark, light, and everything in between.

      And altho Courting Julia is a bit meh, Dancing with Clara and Tempting Harriet is a fantastic trio.

      So no, I would not say a single title surpasses the series.

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