Friday, November 7, 2008

The Trysting Place by Mary Balogh ****

This is the first of a series of 3 books by Mary Balogh, and the second is A Counterfeit Betrothal, followed by The Notorious Rake, an AAR Top 100 Romance for 2007. Wouldn't you know they would not only be out of print, but also difficult to find? So I ended up getting them on eBay and really spending more than I should for 20+ year old 240 page books!

But I'm glad I did. It was an interesting read, and as I got to the end, I was even thinking it was a 5 star read. However, I re-thought and decided I "really liked it" as a 4 star read.

Lady Felicity Wren is a widow returning for the first time in years to her childhood home. She now has money and social standing and spent the 7 years with her elderly husband traveling and living the high life. Her parents and younger siblings are delighted to see her - well they should be, as her marriage to Lord Wren was done to save them from financial ruin. It was also at the cost of her true love to neighbor Tom Russell, her childhood pal.

She sees Tom again, and decides she has finally put their childhood love aside and sees him only as a friend. Poor Tom - he sees her and realizes that he thought he too had put it aside, but had not. His feelings are engaged again, but he can see that she doesn't return his love.

Her younger twin sisters convince her to take them back with her to London for their first Season, and Tom decides rashly to accompany them. Felicity is also thinking of this being her own coming-out, as it were. She can now look for a younger husband amonst the ton, and she sets her sights on the handsome Lord Edmond Waite.

However, Waite is all but promised to a childhood friend who is also titled. He pursues Felicity not for marriage but for an affair.

The story is truly entertaining, especially the exploits of the twins and their younger brother. But it's almost painful to follow Felicity's story - she continues to believe that Lord Waite will dump his almost-betrothed for her hand in marriage. To that end, she convinces poor Tom to pretend to be engaged to her to make Waite jealous, even realizing what a burden she is placing on Tom.

Of course, she believes Tom really doesn't wish to ever marry, and that he only feels brotherly towards her. Once she realizes Waite will never have her and starts to think she might actually have feelings for Tom, she decides it would be best for her to leave Tom rather than force him into a loveless marriage with her that he would resent.

Somehow, even though I kept thinking how much I resented Felicity's mistreatment of Tom, Balogh managed to sweep me into the story so that I found it a page-turner at the end: what would Felicity do?? And even then, the ending doesn't really wrap things up neatly (there are things left undone) so I should have been less satisfied. Yet I was satisfied, and would recommend it - but don't spend $20 on eBay. 4 stars.

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