Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh

DARK ANGEL
Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men—or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

LORD CAREW’S BRIDE
Jennifer’s cousin Samantha Newman is smarting after she too is toyed with by Lord Kersey. In the midst of her heartbreak, she seeks solace from her new friend, the disabled gardener Hartley Wade. If only she knew that Hartley is secretly Lord Carew, and that he hides more than extraordinary wealth: a passionate secret held deep in his heart that only her love can reveal.
This book by Mary Balogh has two related stories: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride featuring Jennifer Winwood and Samantha Newman, a pair of young cousins coming to London for their first season. These two books set in Regency times were originally released by Signet in 1994. I didn't read the original releases and was happy to get my hands on this book since I'm still making my way through Balogh's backlist.

In Dark Angel, Jennifer is the central female character. She has been engaged to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years and believes herself to be deeply in love with him, and although her contact with Lionel has been quite limited throughout the years, she dreams of being his wife. She admires his physical beauty and standing in society, but doesn't seem to see or really know anything else about Lionel. Her hope is that they'll get to know each other once their engagement is formally announced. Instead, the man she gets to know is the Earl of Thornhill.

Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, is attracted to Jennifer on sight, but he also has a grudge against Lord Kersey. Gabe seems to be Lionel's opposite, where Lionel is blond and light, Gabe is dark. He has a terrible reputation and is barely tolerated by polite society. Gabriel begins a subtle game of courtship and seduction and Jennifer unwittingly becomes his main focus and eventually a victim in Gabriel and Lionel's games of revenge. But she's not the only victim, as a secondary character Samantha, Jenny's beautiful younger cousin, plays an important role in this story and also falls victim. Sam will never be the same girl after these events are over.

I enjoyed Dark Angel. I liked Gabe as the main male lead in this story. He was an honorable man who let his thirst for revenge overcome that honor. With his character, Balogh mainly addresses his personal fall from grace and then his redemption through what he thought was sacrifice and turned out to be love. Jennifer on the other hand is an interesting character study. She is a naive young woman of her times who is blinded by Lionel's beauty and what she thinks is love to the extent that she can't see anything else. Jenny's self-deception doesn't allow her to see Lionel's villainy even when it's right in front of her eyes. She puts on her blinders and basically has to be told the facts to see the light. This made for a difficult conflict between Gabe and Jenny with a good but tough resolution at the end for this couple.

Lord Carew's Bride features Samantha Newman, Jenny's cousin from Dark Angel. Six years after Jennifer and Gabe's wedding, Sam is still unmarried by choice. Samantha no longer believes in love and has decided marriage is not for her. She is a blond, blue-eyed, petite beauty who gets more than her share of proposals and who is tired of being admired for her physical appearance.

While on a walk through the woods at her cousin Jenny's estate, Samantha trespasses on Lord Carew's lands and meets a gentleman. She assumes he's a gentleman "gardener" by his ordinary looks, clothing and knowledge of the parks. They like each other immediately and strike a beautiful friendship based on mutual likes and dislikes. She likes him because he doesn't seem to focus on her beauty and feels the bond of friendship but no passion, therefore she feels safe with him. This gentleman gardener, Hartley Wade, turns out to be Lord Carew. He is rich, talented, sweet, patient and also crippled. I fell in love with Hartley as soon as he was introduced! He is SO sweet. Although he likes Samantha's personality and admires her independence, he of course also appreciates her beauty and falls in love with her.

Lord Carew's Bride was a beautiful story. I found myself rooting for Hartley as he overcame his shyness and self-consciousness about his physical shortcomings and went after what he wanted, Samantha. I also liked the way Samantha's character grew and her feelings for Hartley moved from friendship to love. There are secondary characters that bring cohesiveness and humor to this story, but Francis, Samantha's old beau and true friend is a favorite of mine. I loved the ending and their happily ever after.

Conclusion: In summary these are two enjoyable re-releases by Ms. Balogh. In Dark Angel and Jenny's character, in the way this character loved because she was "supposed" to love, Ms. Balogh gives us a glimpse into the way some society women followed the rules and mores of Regency times without question. In contrast, in Lord Carew's Bride, Ms. Balogh shows that a woman could also be independent of thought during that time and still be acceptable to society.

In both books she places emphasis on how large a role physical beauty played in how people in that society "viewed" themselves and others. In Dark Angel we see this through Jennifer's eyes when she contrasts Lionel's "angelic" beauty to Gabe's dark and "satanic" looks. We see that emphasis even more in Lord Carew's Bride where Hartley is an imperfect cripple who is shown either disgust or contempt by his peers because of his imperfections -- disgust and contempt they're willing to disguise only because of his wealth -- as opposed to Samantha and Lionel who are beautiful and physically flawless in society's eyes. Lionel is beautiful and a well-known dishonorable man, but because of his "beauty" society is willing to overlook and quickly forgive his flaws. In Samantha's case, she is judged by her beauty when she marries Hartley. Society assumes someone as beautiful as she, can only marry a cripple like Hartley because of his wealth. In Balogh's world, however, the heart wins every time. :)

Genre: Historical Romance - Regency
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Grade -- Dark Angel: B
Grade -- Lord Carew's Bride: B+

Visit Mary Balogh here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge 2010 -- March Review

7 comments:

  1. I bought this one but haven't gotten to them yet. The book was a total random pick as I've only ever read 2 of Balogh's books. That being said, I'm looking forward to reading it even more after reading your thoughts. Thanks!

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  2. Loved the reviews Hils. I saw this at Sam's club last week but didn't get it. Is it fate that I'm going to Sam's club tonight? Yes, I think it is. :)

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  3. Great review Hils :D Sounds like you really enjoyed the books and Ms Balogh seemed to have done a good job portraying what women felt in that time period.

    Jennifer's case seems to be a classic one where she believes she is in love simply because they are engaged and she doesn't know better.

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  4. Great reviews Hilcia - thank you. I really like the sound of Lord Carew's Bride....I wonder if my library has it? *races off to check*

    No...but I could suggest it *grin*

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  5. Tracy, these books were interesting reads. I think you'll enjoy Lord Carew's Bride more... but Dark Angel is certainly an interesting study. Hope you enjoy them. :)

    Leslie, I know you were looking forward to reading Balogh's old Signets. This is a good pairing with nice contrasts I think you'll appreciate.

    Nath, Balogh certainly did a good job of portraying these characters. They don't always fit into our 21st Century ideas of what men or women's behavior should be, so it's not always easy to relate to them. Jennifer certainly fell into that category... but when viewed from a historical POV, her character was a fascinating study.

    I liked Lord Carew's Bride more than Dark Angel, but I think that's because the characters were easier to relate to... Dark Angel, however, had the better/more subtle character study of the two in my opinion.

    Orannia, I hope you find Lord Carew's Bride. I really enjoyed that book and fell in love with both characters and their story. ;P

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  6. LOL, we want so much as a reader :D We want characters that are easy to relate to, but that are also true to the time period... and like you say, that's not always possible. Makes sense you would enjoy the book you relate with more.

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  7. LOL, aren't we greedy? These were both excellent and make a great pairing as books, nath. Lord Carew's Bride was more of a complete book in many ways, not just because of the heroine. Balogh finished off the themes she began on the first book, including the one about how society sees physical beauty. I think you'll hear the whole Beauty & the Beast theme to describe Lord Carew's Bride, but I refused to use it because Hartley was no beast... he was too sweet to be called that. :)

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