Thank you Janet Webb for the book list of what to read after THE PROPOSAL – a book long-awaited for by many a Balogh fan, enjoy!
Along with everyone else, I’ve been waiting forever for Gwen’s story. I read it, loved it and immediately wanted to re-read every previous book in the Slightly and Simply catalogue. That’s all well and good but there are a LOT of books before The Proposal. Here’s my helpful annotated list of which books you might enjoy after you meet and fall in love with Gwendoline and her forthright hero Hugo. Be warned: spoilers lie ahead!
Although each book is the story of a different couple, there are some consistent themes in each, one in particular, courage – both physical and mental. The courage to change, to confront life squarely and to conquer one’s demons, through persistence and with the help of a partner – this belief weaves its way through Gwen’s journey to her happily ever after. By the way, if there’s a better author website than Mary Balogh’s, I haven’t encountered it. I can take no credit for the book descriptions that follow since all of them are from her website – do check it out!
Let’s do the math fellow fans of the attractive and always slightly mysterious Gwendoline, Lady Muir. We first met her in 1999, in One Night for Love, her brother Neville’s story.
Neville Wyatt, Major Lord Newbury, impulsively marries Lily Doyle, the ethereal, untutored daughter of his sergeant in order to save her from danger and then watches her die the next day. Back in England, now the Earl of Kilbourne, Neville is about to marry another woman when Lily herself appears, miraculously restored from the dead. But is it a happy miracle? Can two people from such completely different worlds possibly find happiness together?
Gwen is a widow, still recovering physically and emotionally, we sense, from a tragic horse-riding accident that caused a miscarriage and a permanent limp. Her husband died within the year, from a fall. It was hard not to wonder about the circumstances of her first marriage. One Night for Love puts Gwen in a terribly difficult position, best friends since childhood with her cousin Lauren, her brother Neville’s promised bride and yet with a sister’s wish for her brother’s happiness, which he eventually discovers with his first wife Lily. I wish I had a family tree for all the complicated relationships – Gwen’s immediate family and her cousins, uncles, and aunts are dukes and marquesses and earls—the cream of the aristocracy. Many of them appear and reappear in Balogh’s Slightly and Simply series. One Night for Love set the pattern for our interactions with and knowledge of Gwen – she is an integral member of her family and its concerns, but her innermost secrets are only touched upon.
Like many members of the romance community, I first met Gwen in Balogh’s tour de force novel, A Summer to Remember, Lauren’s story. I read One Night for Love later: it was hard to like Neville and Lily, at first, since all my sympathies were with Lauren.
A year after being abandoned at the altar during the wedding she had dreamed of all her life, Lauren Edgeworth is in London to spend a quiet couple of months with her aunt, Elizabeth, Duchess of Portfrey, during the latter’s confinement. Christopher “Kit” Butler, Viscount Ravensberg, is in London getting into every imaginable wild scrape and fast becoming one of London’s most notorious rakehells. But now he has been summoned home in order to become betrothed to a woman chosen by his father, who banished him for life just three years before.
Desperate to do things on his own terms, Kit hastily searches for a bride to take home with him, someone his father cannot possibly object to, someone above reproach, someone dull, respectable, prim, and perfect. One of his friends suggests Lauren but then adds that Kit is surely the very last man she would accept for a husband. The challenge proves irresistible, and Kit wagers that he will have wooed and wed Lauren within six weeks…
Lauren cannot visit Kit’s estate alone so her aunt, Gwen’s mother, and Gwen, accompany her on a six-week visit. Gwen is sympathetic and empathetic, praying that Lauren has at last found a love of her own and hoping that she, Neville’s sister, will then be able to fully rejoice in the married happiness of Neville and Lily. Gwen is adored by all as she fully enters into the life of the house party, dancing in spite of her limp and going for long rambles with Lauren. It was then that I started wondering when someone would come along for Gwen.
Freyja Bedwyn, the heroine of Slightly Scandalous, could not be more different from Gwendoline, Lady Muir.
From feisty manner to long, tumbling hair, Freyja Bedwyn is pure fire, a woman who seeks both adventure and freedom. Adventure soon finds her on the way to Bath, when a handsome stranger bursts into her inn room in the middle of the night and entreats her to hide him. He is Joshua Moore, Marquess of Hallmere, a man with a hell-raising reputation of his own. They meet again in Bath, where sparks fly as two strong wills clash and each tries to best the other. But when Joshua needs sudden rescue from the matchmaking schemes of his aunt, it is Freyja to whom he turns . . . because he knows that only she is reckless enough to engage in a fake betrothal with him for the sheer fun of it. And fun it is until the Duke of Bewcastle, Freyja’s eldest brother, learns of the betrothal.
I have included Slightly Scandalous so that the reader can re-visit
The heroine of Slightly Dangerous, Christine Derrick, shares a few important characteristics with Gwen.
When Lady Renable’s brother invites Wulfric Bedwyn, Duke of Bewcastle, to her country house party, she has to scramble to find another lady guest to balance numbers. Christine Derrick, widow and part-time schoolteacher, is persuaded to be that lady. The cold, aloof duke and the fun-loving, accident-prone Christine are about as mismatched as a couple could possibly be, and they dislike each other from the start. But there is a definite attraction between them too, and soon Wulfric, much to his surprise, is in determined pursuit of an elusive Christine.
Not only are they both widows when they meet their “fated mates” but both of them endured difficult first marriages. Christine and Gwen married for love but sadly, their husbands suffered from mental difficulties, which put a great strain on their marriages. Balogh is such a gifted writer that she is poignantly and realistically depicts married couples who become more and more isolated from their families and friends and ultimately, somewhat estranged from each other. Gwen has suffered physical damage because of her riding accident and consequent limp but Christine bears mental scars. Gwen and Christine cross paths only briefly in Slightly Dangerous but I have included it because of Balogh’s portrait of a troubled first marriage.
Also, Wulfric, the powerful duke of Bewcastle, is famous in the Slightly series for rescuing and aiding family and friends when a touch of purple and ermine can make a huge difference: as the reader knows, he steps in and helps Hugo navigate a very critical social situation in The Proposal.
Gwen is certainly not a pivotal character in Simply Love but Mary Balogh, I believe, lays the ground in this book for the Survivors’ Club, of which Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham, is a charter member.
When Anne Jewell, a teacher at Miss Martin’s School for Girls, meets Sydnam Butler, the Duke of Bewcastle’s steward, one summer in Wales, it is a meeting between two lonely, wounded souls. Anne is a single mother in strict Regency England and Sydnam is severely maimed as a result of torture when he was spying for the British against the forces of Bonaparte. They strike up a friendship and then something more–but neither of them believes they are lovable and so they go their separate ways at the end of the summer. Only an unforeseen fate brings them together again and sets them on the path to mutual healing and love.
Sydnam Butler is not only the Duke of Bewcastle’s steward, he is also Kit Butler’s brother and brother-in-law to Lauren, Gwen’s cousin. Sydnam has been grievously wounded in the Napoleonic Wars and it has been very difficult for him to realize that life is not over. Step one was finding honorable and respectable work, which he has, working for Wulfric but there’s more to life than work. What about love and a passion for something, be it art or gardening or singing? In Sydnam Butler’s case, he was a promising and sensitive painter before he was injured. With the loss of his arm, he believed he could never paint again. Like Hugo’s friends, the “Survivors”, Sydnam discovers a rich and satisfying life is there for the taking, if you have the courage to strive for it. This is also the essential message of The Proposal.
Cast your mind back to One Night for Love when Balogh introduced all the members of Gwen and Neville’s extended family. Remember the dashing Marquess of Attingsborough, Gwen’s cousin Joseph?
Simply Perfect is his story.
Claudia Martin, owner and headmistress of a girls’ school in Bath, is planning a journey to London to escort two of her charity girls to their new employment. She reluctantly accepts the escort of Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough. She meets him again in London and becomes involved in the complexities of his life. She also meets someone from her long-ago past, and this confirmed spinster suddenly finds herself unexpectedly drawn to two men and having to face some difficult choices.
Joseph is a duke’s heir who is “supposed” to marry appropriately, to someone suitable, and to someone young enough to bear children – expectations lie heavy on his shoulders. Yet Joseph falls in love with a confirmed spinster in her mid-thirties, someone who has no aspirations to be a member of the ton … and if that were not enough, Joseph also introduces his natural daughter, a lovely girl who bears the burden of blindness with grace and courage (especially after she meets the formidable Miss Martin!) to his ducal family. There are no more members of Gwen’s family to get married – she’s the next one to fall in this absorbing game of marital dominoes.
If you’re like me you will have inhaled The Proposal in one sitting – it’s such a marvelous book – but I believe there’s even more pleasure to be had by going back in time with Gwen and Mary Balogh’s cast of characters. Of the books I listed, which are your favorites? Did Balogh answer all your questions about Gwen? Happy reading!
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