First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh (2009) and is the first in a five book series featuring the “Huxtables”. The following guest review was submitted by fellow reader, Senetra. As an aside, I haven’t read Mary Balogh in quite sometime and I was looking forward to reading this one and now, may need to lower my expectations.
Mary Balogh is on my short list of autobuy authors, of which I have 4 or 5. The first book I read by her was “The First Snowdrop”, and it was a keeper, and I have either read, or have to read, every book on her backlist.
I was excited to see that she has a new series, and even ordered the Book Club Editions so they would all match. Her characters can have some serious issues, and I love to see how she works it out. Memo to Ms. Balogh, in one of your regencies, you inserted a character named Howard whose wife ran off with another man. Howard left a house party when he got news that she came back. Please write his story.
As you can see, I read the book fairly quickly, eager to get my fix. It had all the elements of a great Balogh plot: Character-driven, marriage of convenience, and a(n obvious to the reader) wrongfully accused pseudo-villain who will get his own book. What it didn’t have was my interest. I read the prologue and first chapter. Three days later, I fell asleep during chapter 4. I reread the prologue because I wasn’t sure if it had anything to do with the actual plot. I finally had to buckle down and finish the story. When I finished, I couldn’t remember much of what happened. After going back through the book, I realized that nothing had happened.
Plot summary: Vanessa is a Plain Jane (her deceased vicar father’s nickname for her) in a family of beautiful people. Elliot is a viscount who comes to tell the Huxtables that their brother Stephen has inherited an earldom, and Elliot is his new guardian. The three sisters refuse to let their brother go alone, so they loaded up the truck and move to Beverly…. Elliot needs a wife, the Huxtables need bringing out, so he thinks to propose to the oldest sister and kill two birds with one stone. Knowing that Margaret is in love with someone else, Vanessa offers her widowed self to Elliot and throws in the promise of hot sex. They kiss, get engaged, and announce it. It’s page 169 of a 388 page book. They have had maybe 3 conversations so far, which isn’t unusual for Balogh, but still. They get married; go to London; run into the pseudo-villain; have a run-in or two with the ex-mistress, resolve that issue quickly; Vanessa cried over her dead husband; Elliot gave her the cold shoulder over it, then told a Big Secret about his father; they say “I love you” on page 387. The End. Grade: C.