Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blog Tour Book Review: The Arrangement, by Mary Balogh

The Arrangement
(The Survivors' Club #2)
Mary Balogh
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Dell, August 27, 2013
Historical Romance

Every novel written by Mary Balogh has a very special charm, as well as a unique enchantment, woven right into the plot.  This is why she's my favorite historical romance author!  Furthermore, she makes the English Regency period come alive, to the point that I really do wish I could live there.

Even when Balogh uses a plot device that is a staple of romance novels, she still somehow manages to make it seem fresh and original.  Her characters, as always, are very likeable, and, just as I wish I could live in the Regency period, I wish her characters were real people I could befriend.  That's how magical, how beautiful, how wonderful Balogh's novels are, and The Arrangement is no exception!  From the very first page, I was totally into the story, and loved every single moment of this tender, sweet romance, which is laced with Balogh's signature gentle humor.

The very appealing hero of this novel is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh.  At the beginning of the story, he has fled his estate, Middlebury Park, in order to escape the matchmaking efforts of his female relatives -- his mother, grandmother, and three sisters.  They have, in fact, chosen 'the perfect wife' for him.  Vincent has met her.  And he certainly doesn't think she's perfect for him.  So, he escapes, and manages to eventually meet a young lady named Sophia, also known as 'The Mouse', who is in the middle of a most unfortunate situation: her relatives have totally disowned her.

Upon hearing of Sophia's predicament, Vincent offers her a marriage of convenience, since she has no other relative except for an uncle she has not seen in years.  According to their 'arrangement', each is free to go their own way at the end of a year.

So here we have the predictable elements of this novel -- the marriage of convenience, and the Cinderella story....except for one thing: Vincent is totally blind. 

Balogh has crafted a wonderful story in which there's little outward action present, but a lot of inner action instead.  We see the gradual transformation of Vincent from a man who does not feel free, due to his handicap, into someone who does.  We also see the gradual transformation of Sophia from a woman who thinks little of herself into someone who truly believes in herself.

How these wonderful events take place, how Balogh effects these transformations, is what makes this novel such a beautiful, magical one.  Balogh's keen psychological insight makes this possible.  She is a highly observant student of human nature, and this skill informs her dialogues, which abound with wit, as well as tenderness and subtly (and not so subtly) humorous incidents.

The fact that most of the 'action' takes place within the major characters, as well as the fact that a lot of the dialogue occurs on Vincent's estate, clearly place this novel in the tradition of Jane Austen.  The prose style is modern, of course, although Balogh also captures the flavor of the period.  

Sophia is perhaps more modern than women of her social class were at the time.  Vincent, too is more modern than men of the time. I did not find this anachronistic, however.  There must have been people living during the Regency period who did not follow all of the conventions of the time.  No one wrote novels about such people then, but that doesn't mean they didn't exist.  Balogh certainly makes it seem very possible.

The rest of the characters are also very well-done.  Although this book can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is in fact the second installment in Balogh's Survivors' Club series, so some of the characters in the first book are present in this one, as well.  There's one couple in particular whose story is told in the first book, The Proposal, which I can't wait to read!  All of Vincent's friends from the first book are wonderful! 

Vincent's family is no less wonderful! Far from being a stuffy, conceited aristocrat, Vincent's mother is very warm and inviting. So are his sisters.

I really liked Martin Fisk, Vincent's valet.  Although he works for Vincent, they have also remained very good friends.  I loved seeing his concern for Vincent's welfare, which was never overwhelming, as well as his loyalty to him.  At times, they act more like brothers.  

As with all of Balogh's novels, I had a hard time letting these wonderful people go at the end of the book.  I can see a re-reading coming in the near future....

The incomparable Mary Balogh has crafted yet another wonderful romance!  For those who enjoy the very best in historical romance, I heartily recommend this gently beautiful novel. Her characters are always unforgettable, and all of her novels are keepers!


Reviewer's Note

I'd like to thank TLC Tours for providing 
a review copy of this book,
as well as for including me in this tour,
which I have greatly enjoyed!

About the Author

Mary Jenkins was born in 1944 in Swansea, Wales, UK. After graduating from university, she moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to teach high-school English, on a two-year teaching contract in 1967. She married her Canadian husband, Robert Balogh, and had three children, Jacqueline, Christopher and Sian. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Mary Balogh started writing in the evenings as a hobby. Her first book, a Regency love story, was published in 1985 as A Masked Deception under her married name. In 1988, she retired from teaching after 20 years to pursue her dream to write full-time. She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then, including the New York Times bestselling Slightly sextet and Simply quartet. She has won numerous awards, including Bestselling Historical of the Year from the Borders Group, and her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards. She has won seven Waldenbooks Awards and two B. Dalton Awards for her bestselling novels, as well as a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mary Balogh Online

Fantastic Fiction: Mary Balogh
Dear Author: Balogh Novels Reviewed

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  1. I also read this book and loved it. Your review is spot on. Of course, I haven't read a book by Mary Balogh that I didn't like, so it was a good bet.

    1. Hi, Mary!

      Oh, I totally agree with you -- I haven't read a book by Balogh that I haven't liked, either! As I stated above, she's my FAVORITE historical romance writer!

      Glad you liked my review, and thanks for the compliment!! Thanks as well for dropping by!! : )

  2. I love it when an author can take those old cliches and make them into something wonderful and new. Sounds like this was a great read!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

    1. Hi, Heaather!

      Oh, absolutely!! I totally concur with both of your statements!!

      You're very welcome for my participation! As you know, Mary Balogh is my FAVORITE historical romance writer!!!

      Thanks for such a lovely comment!! I really appreciate that you're featuring my review on the TLC Facebook page!! : )


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