Friday, June 22, 2012
Review: Lady and A Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh (5 stars, traditional)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
Finally... a novel I thoroughly enjoyed! I was beginning to forget what those were like ;). Turns out all it takes is an excellent traditional by Mary Balogh - in this case, Lady and A Black Umbrella. I loved the comedy, I loved the characters, and - most importantly - I loved the conflict resolutions and final ending. We have a super fun heroine, a young lady who is altruistic to a fault yet gives new meaning to the description "managing baggage". And the hero is one of my personal favorites, a guy who internally wishes the heroine to perdition... even as his actions show him becoming increasingly smitten. The storyline was engaging, and the humor was gently charming.
Both characters are excellent, but the heroine in particular amuses as being so much larger-than-life. The heroine runs into the hero on one of his most embarrassing days, in which he can't pay his bills immediately because he realizes he has been robbed. As he leaves the inn, he is set upon by three thugs. The heroine, seeing this, rushes out in her nightgown and beats the thugs - with a sturdy, black umbrella. Trust me, it's hilarious. After the hero leaves, the heroine feels that the negative gossip about him is unjustified. So she pays all of his bills for him - his inn bill, his gambling debt, and the charges from the disgruntled barmaid who "worked all night." In accord with her forceful nature, the heroine is dragging her younger sister to London. In accord with her no-nonsense nature, she refuses to bring a retinue of maids for such a short distance. The trip isn't for the heroine, but rather for her sister. The younger sister is nineteen, stunningly beautiful, and demurely sweet. The heroine sees herself as the chaperone, and one of the best running jokes in the book is that the heroine believes herself to be firmly on the shelf... at the ripe old age of twenty-five. She truly wants the best for her sister, and is determined to make it happen. Even when the heroine finds the hero attractive - her first thought is if he could be a good match for the sister. Gossip eventually leaks out about what the heroine did, and the hero is humiliated. When they met in London the hero is eager to give the heroine a tongue lashing - and possibly wring her neck. It comes as a dreadful surprise, therefore, when his call on the heroine results in a promise to ask his cousin for an introduction to society. The storyline that follows is immensely enjoyable. The heroine is a whirlwind, getting into all kinds of mishaps and turning the hero's life upside down. Her sensible attitude towards things is very much at odds with society, and she couldn't care a whit about other people's opinions of her beyond helping her sister. The storyline eventually transitions to a fake engagement, and contains one of the most reasonable kidnapping subplots I've had the privilege of reading. There was really no romance conflict. Instead, the love story gradually cumulates until after the external conflict can be resolved.
Mary Balogh's traditional Lady and A Black Umbrella was an amazing read. In fact, I'd say it was nearly flawless. Excellent characters, storyline, conflict (or lack thereof), and humor make it a novel every Regency lover should read.