Balogh, Mary. A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake. New York: Dell, 2013.
Overall rating: 4 stars
In many cases, when going through early titles by an author with an extensive backlist, while the promise is there, the books aren’t as good, for a variety of reasons, the chief ones being that the industry has evolved to the point where some of the popular trends don’t hold up (as is the case for many Old School titles) or they have since mastered their craft more than they did in their early days. But Balogh is one of the rare exceptions. While it is true these books aren’t of the same caliber as her present work, they still evoke emotion, and are stories of complex, yet sympathetic characters.
A Counterfeit Betrothal (1992)
When writing two love stories within a single book, it can be hard to make them both feel complete. But Balogh accomplishes this for the most part, in a plot that feels a bit reminiscent of The Parent Trap. While I did feel the love story between Sophia and Francis felt a bit lacking, especially since the back-cover blurb focuses most on that particular facet, I found myself blown away by the way Balogh depicts the relationship between Sophie’s parents.
There are tons of books out there where a single conversation could solve the characters’ problems, but this one doesn’t feel like that, because the assumptions Marcus and Olivia have about each other are due to the difficulties that culminated in their separation to begin with. Balogh perfectly creates the tension between them, and it makes their final reunion much more rewarding at the end.
The Notorious Rake (1992)
I admit I was a bit nervous about this one, as this book is yet another one of those books about a jaded rake with a tragic past. And the beginning is more than a little bit hokey, with an inexplicable chain of events which I will refrain from spoiling..but it is super weird considering Mary’s negative feelings toward him.
But I persevered, and continued on, determined to find out what made this story so intriguing, and Lord Edmond Waite such a “notorious rake.” But Edmond never truly strays from the pattern from any other rake in Romancelandia, despite having purportedly been the villain of a prior book (I did not read said book, The Trysting Place, so my knowledge of the events of that book are entirely from his perspective). And when the true extent of his past was revealed, I ended up finding it all a little ridiculous and it felt like he was blowing things a bit out of proportion, especially when his family, including his father, welcomed him back. But then again, I’ve always found the “people’s rejection made me the way I am” plot trope a bit dumb.
I did, however, like his relationship with Mary as the story progressed, and feel that this is one of those cases where they do make each other better people, despite being opposites. And after all is said and done, it is only when he decides to make something of his life that they can find happiness.