Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day & a favorite: The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

We love our romance, don't we? It's a year-round give and take for most of us, but for the rest of the world this week in February, love, romance, wine and roses seem to be the words of the day. I have many favorite books and could sit here all day recommending them to you, but today, I thought I would share just one of my favorite historical romance novels.

This is a book that was released over a decade ago in the 1990's, but that I only read a few years back. I gave up reading historical romances during the 90's and am still in the process of catching up. Once I read this book, it became an instant favorite.

The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh

A 1991 release by Mary Balogh, this book has Fleur, a lady turned prostitute by circumstances, as the heroine. Apparently this was controversial at the time. The hero Adam, a Duke, is her one and only client and married, making The Secret Pearl even more controversial.

You are probably thinking, what's so special or even romantic about this couple or this plot? It might have something to do with the way Balogh wrote this book. She begins with two desperate, wounded people and carries the reader away through characterization and writing. And for me, the excellent characterization and beautiful writing allows this book to stand the test of time.

The Secret Pearl has one of my favorite romantic heroes. Adam was gorgeous inside and out. This Duke was willing to move heaven and earth for his heroine. Adam himself was a wounded man, an honorable man and just about irresistible.

Fleur is a Balogh heroine. Definitely. She is a lady who through no fault of her own finds herself in dire circumstances. Her character, however, never comes into question -- even though she falls in love with a married man. A true Balogh heroine, Fleur is all about character love and sacrifice.

There's some beautiful writing in this book and quite a few scenes that I could share. The scene where Adam declares his love for Fleur is romantic, heartbreaking and unforgettable -- after all they share a forbidden love. Instead, I've chosen another scene for you -- a scene I love for its simplicity and impact.

A carriage ride:
They stared at each other for a long while before she looked down at her hand, which was lying palm-down on the seat between them. No, she would probe no further. She did not want to know the truth. It was too strange, the fate that had brought them together, and too cruel.

She could feel his eyes on her hand too. And he set his own beside it, that beautiful long-fingered hand that had once terrified her and that still disturbed her and made her feel breathless. Their little fingers almost touched.

They sat like that, still and silent, for a long while before he moved his little finger to stroke lightly over hers. And she spread hers and bent it so that their two fingers twined together.

Their eyes watched their hands. They touched at only the one point. They said nothing. Page 323
What comes to your mind today when you think romance? Which book pops up first?


  1. I really need to read The Secret Pearl. I've got it on the tbr pile, it's just that time factor again. :)

    Oddly, the first book that comes to mind is Lover Eternal. Rhage and Mary are my favorite couple from that series. It's odd because I don't read the series anymore, too much eye rolling. LOL

    Another book is KMM's Spell of the Highlander. I loved that book! Cian is the ultimate highlander for me. :D

  2. Happy Valentine's Day to you, too, Hilcia. I agree... Valentine's Day is every day when you're a romance reader! :)

    What a sweet scene. I will have to add this one to my library loot list. I did enjoy A Matter of Class and would like to read more of Balogh's work.

  3. Happy V-day to you too, Hilcia! The couple that comes to me for me is Eve and Roarke -- Eve would not have remembered the day but Roarke wouldn't miss it. Every day with Eve is precious but on Valentine's Day he would make extra effort to celebrate. I think in one of the books they celebrated the day with pizza -- her favorite. :)

  4. Hi Hilcia,

    I'm right smack in the middle of The Secret Pearl and you summed it up perfectly. I'm so loving this book.

    I think the most romantic book I've read is Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught but whenever I think romance I always think of the scene in LaVyrle Spencers Hummingbird at the end when Jess is taking Abigail's wedding pictures and she finally admits how much she loves him.

  5. This book sounds lovely! I haven't read any of her books and it seems like a great place to start.

    When I think of romance The Blue Castle comes to mind. I loved the subtle romance between Valancy and Barney beyond reason.

  6. Leslie, The Secret Pearl was the first book I thought of when I thought of this post... although Dreaming of You by Kleypas was right there on 2nd place.

    Interesting that you should think of KMM's Spell of the Highlander, that was my very 1st PNR read. Can you believe it? Love Cian! No wonder I became such a KMM fan. :)

    Christine, Happy V-Day! I'm glad you enjoyed A Matter of Class. This book is classic Balogh... I hope you enjoy it too. :)

    Tabz--Ahhh, Eve and Roarke. That's a great couple. I can't wait until I've read that book.

    Novelnelle -- I'm so glad you're enjoying TSP. And, ohhhhh, yes! Almost Heaven is a wonderful pick! I loved that McNaught book.

    Brie, this is definitely a great place to start with Balogh. I'm not familiar with The Blue Castle -- who is the author?

  7. Hey, happy Valentines day, Hil!! And THANK YOU for that beautiful hands scene! I have to read this!!!!!

    I have a Balogh on my shelf (slightly dangerous) but it's out of order, so I need to go back and start her from the beginning. This sounds like a standalone, though.

  8. Hey CJ! Hope you had a Happy Valentine's Day too!

    I hope you DO read this book, it's a beauty. This is a standalone, you don't need to catch up with a series to read it. A good place to start if you want to read Balogh. :)


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