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First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, #1) by Mary Balogh

Reblogged from Sarah's Library:
First Comes Marriage - Mary Balogh

It's clear straight from the start that physical beauty is something the character is severely lacking. It's the first romance book I've read where the character isn't glorified by her beauty so kudos to Balogh for novelty. The novel starts out with a very mysterious prologue: "You loved indiscriminately," he said. “You even loved me. Especially me."


The immediate dive into the sudden death of a mentally disabled child nabs you with a tear-jerker, but it also makes the reader curious to know who Con is and what exactly happened to Jon. The novel's first chapter starts with the seemingly amiable country living family called the Huxtables. They consist of: Katherine (the youngest daughter), Margaret(the eldest daughter), Stephen (the baby boy) and of course our leading lady, Vanessa (the middle daughter). The surprise that awaits them helps explain the sudden move to the city- Stephen, at the tender age of 17 is now an Earl!  The way this all came about was quick but also so well described that it seemed realistic. The hilarity that ensues with sudden move did put a few smiles on my face and I found myself eagerly clutching my truffles awaiting the next shock. During this time, you also receive your first interaction with Vanessa and the Viscount. Their match is an interesting one as you have this plain, humorous and charismatic woman with this gorgeous Greek god who happens to have the personality of stale cheese. By infusing humor into Vanessa's character and displaying droplets of her wit it helped to make their match seem more realistic. Probably one of the better parts of the book is how they became married in the first place. Despite her good cheer though, Elliott is still stubborn and dreading any interaction with the country folk even before he's met his future bride.


After such a promising prologue and introduction, I felt the middle of the book just proceeded to detail Vanessa's desire to make her new husband happy... at great length. The banter between the two of them at the beginning seemed to fade and that was one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. I didn't feel that there was enough conflict between the two. Instead, I felt that the general consensus of the book was that they grew to like not love each other.  Although their marriage is an important component of the book, the general struggles of transitioning from a poor country class to a wealthy city upper class were either glazed over or referenced but never actually addressed which could have helped to punch up the energy of the book. Slow and steady as tortoises seems to be the undercurrent mood in this novel with the occasional emotional glimpse into the couple’s hidden secrets.


Aside from Vanessa's interaction with Anna and the back story that was hinted at with Con, I didn't feel a connection to either of the characters.  I felt that Vanessa was more believable in her love but Elliott was not. I mean if you can't understand why you want to sleep with your wife, then...? While it did serve as a good introduction to the family and what I can only assume will be the rest of the series, I don't feel that either Elliott or Vanessa was given their due justice. Elliott seemed very one dimensional and really didn't open up until the end of the novel, which in my opinion, was way too late. Vanessa also seemed one dimensional and the occasional glimpses we saw of her assertiveness or emotion seemed either drawn out or created to portray a moral viewpoint. I wanted more passion, more romance, not simply a meeting of the minds and grudging respect! One thing I have to commend Balogh on is her superb attention to historical detail. From the style of Vanessa's bonnet to the correct details and customs of the social classes, it is both evident and much appreciated that she created an accurate historical background. For those that want to cheer for the underdog, or simply have a not traditional heroine this is the book for you.