Monday, August 22, 2011

Angel with the flaming sword.

I'm going to have a bit of a fan-girl moment.

I love Mary Balogh's historicals with a passion.  I love her complex conflicts, her unusual and yet so recognisable characters, her intense, real-world emotional stakes and her earthy, almost matter-of-fact sex scenes.

The other day, I borrowed 'Seducing an Angel' from the Library.  I have to admit, it nearly got put back on the shelf.  The title didn't appeal to me that much, and then, when I realised the Angel of the title was actually the hero, I very definitely dithered.

Later, although I was immediately intrigued by the heroine's bitter courage, her painful past and her pragmatic immorality, I was struggling to understand how the hero was going to keep me hooked.  He was described as 'good humoured' and 'gregarious' and 'always smiling'.  He was surrounded by - and honoured - healthy, loving relationships, had supportive family and good, loyal friends.  He had no inner conflict to speak of, and was, even when pushed to extremes of endurance, invariably even tempered.  He was good.  He was kind.  He was clever and discerning.

He was lovely.

He was... potentially very boring indeed.

And then, a few chapters further on, I was his slave.

I don't know when it was.  I can't pinpoint the moment.  Was it when he took responsibility for the welfare of a chance-met and chance-slept-with woman of dubious reputation and sordid past, simply because he could see through her mask of cynicism?  Was it when he was unfazed by her unconventional household of social outcasts, when he refused to believe the worst of any of them?  Was it when he recognised he had no right to chastise the heroine's brother when he refused to acknowledge her, but did it anyway and gave no quarter?

Perhaps it was when he steadfastly resisted succumbing to the romance-novel chliche of the Great Misunderstanding.  Or when he was clearly furious with her for trying to manipulate him, and yet still even-toned and gentle-handed.  I think, if I am honest, it was certainly when he refused to be manipulated at all.

Mary Balogh's happy, smiling, conflict-less hero revealed his core of steel and I was instantly devoted.  The Angel drew his flaming sword, and I worshipped.

When was the last time a hero truly surprised you?


  1. Is this one a Regency or alternative to that?

    I consider Mary Balogh to have been a huge influence over my own Regencies (as Elizabeth Moss) though not as much as Georgette Heyer. (Running a close second though.)

    She seems to excel at the Beta hero, wounded, vulnerable, but also capable of healing an equally wounded or vulnerable heroine. Just takes him a while to work out what he wants, I suppose. And yes, that can seem boring on the surface.

    Balogh works by a drip-feed of character revelation. Repetition, repetition, revelation, repetition with variation. And so on.

    Can't think of any other writer who does this. Or not so successfully. It's a technique which really fits the Regency comedy-of-manners novel.

    Thanks for this.

  2. Can't think of one off-hand, but great post, Anna!