Dell, April 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
On the battlefield in Toulouse, France, Colonel Lord Aidan Bedwyn makes a promise to a dying solider, Captain Percival Morris. Aidan promises to deliver the death notice to Captain Morris' sister Eve in person, and "to protect her, no matter what". Captain Percy dies before he can explain what the promise might entail. Aidan's unqualified promise is motivated by an obligation he feels because Morris once saved his life in battle. The second son of the Bedwyn family, brother to the Duke of Bewcastle, Aidan has chosen the military life, and the honor code of the military is deeply ingrained in the man he has become. So Aidan, on a two month leave after the surrender of Napoléon Bonaparte, travels to Oxfordshire to notify Captain Morris' sister.
Percy's sister, Eve Morris, is an educated and capable woman who has collected a menagerie of people the neighbors call "her lame ducks". The lovable group includes: her widowed Aunt Mari; two orphaned children, Davy, age 7, and Becky, age 2; Thelma Rice, a governess deemed unemployable because of her bastard child Benjamin; Charlie Hendrich, handyman and the local half-wit; Agnes Fuller, her ex-convict housekeeper; Sam Patchett, the poaching groom; Ned, the one armed steward; Nanny Johnson; and Muffin, a dog of undetermined breed.
Eve shelters her band of misfits at Ringwood Manor, the estate her father, a wealthy Welsh coal miner, left to her in his will. There is one condition. She must marry within one year, otherwise, her brother Percy inherits or in the event of his death, her wretched cousin, Cecil Morris. Cousin Cecil can't wait to evict Eve and her lame ducks. After a brief memorial for her brother Eve finds herself with four precious days to come up with a solution. It takes Aidan Bedwyn a while to discover exactly what form his promise to help Percy's sister will take, but honor bound, he eventually presents a simple plan to save Eve: a marriage of convenience. Their plan is to marry, then after his leave is over, he will return to his battalion. This will allow them to go on with their lives independently. But Aidan doesn't reckon on the reaction of his brother, Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle, when he learns of the marriage. Aidan and Eve soon find the marriage of convenience they agreed upon won't be as simple as they planned.
The heroine, Eve Morris is a feisty character. She's not a country bumpkin but she refuses to be embarrassed about the fact that she's a coal miner's daughter, and she makes the stuffy, aristocratic Bedwyns give her due. Aidan is the quintessential English gentleman -- emotionally controlled and overly polite on the exterior but, privately, deeply passionate. There are scenes when you want them to drop their too proper demeanor and just tell it like it is, but when their moment of truth finally comes it will make you smile. I completely fell in love with these characters and I can't wait to see how the rest of the Bedwyn's stories play out.
SLIGHTLY MARRIED is the first novel in a six book series. The Bedwyn family consists of six brothers and sisters, originally introduced in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER. Ms. Balogh has created a classic love story of honor and family loyalty. This novel will be a keeper for many readers. It's a lovely reading experience of the unexpected surprises life can sometimes bring you.
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