This novel actually has two short stories in it, so I will be review both of them here. A Counterfeit Betrothal and The Notorious Rake were originally published in 1992, which is why I will be lenient towards Mary Balogh’s first novels. Here is a brief description of the story: A COUNTERFEIT BETROTHAL
Lady Sophia Bryant has no intention of marrying anytime soon. Her one desire is to reunite her parents, who have been estranged for fourteen years. Surely, if she happens to announce her betrothal—even a false one—they will be forced to see each other. Devilishly handsome Lord Francis Sutton seems perfect for such deceit, always agreeable to games of passion in which he has nothing to lose. The trap is set—if only Lady Sophia can keep her foolish heart from falling prey to her brilliant snares.
THE NOTORIOUS RAKE
Lord Edmund Waite is everything that Lady Mary Gregg despises: lewd, lascivious, mocking—the most incorrigible and successful rogue around. A bluestocking like her would never tempt a man whose taste runs to pretty playthings—so Mary is startled to find herself the object of Lord Edmund’s desires. Even more surprising is her reaction to his shocking advances. She may be a lady, but this man knows so well how to make her feel like a woman.
Now for my critique. I have to say that I am extremely glad that I have read her other series before this novel. It was not up to her usual high rated works. The first story, as mention by the back cover, is supposed to be about Lady Sophia and Lord Francis, however, that was not the case. The story’s actual main characters are Lady Sophia’s parents. Lady Sophia’s parents have been separated for 14 years and now Lady Sophia decides that a fake betrothal will get them back together. I had a hard time relating to this novel. As you find out very early on, Sophia’s father had a one night stand with a whore, which caused the separation. I cannot find forgiveness for cheating. It is the one thing that I just could not get fast while reading this story. I also felt that since the back cover mentions Sophia and Francis that the story would be more about them and share more of their feelings with the audience. That was not the case. There was only brief moments with them that stated how well or how not well the plan was working. Overall, I give this book about 2 or 3 stars.
As for the second story, it continues off of one of the minor characters in the first story. I did not enjoy this one simply because the male lead was horrible to the woman. Yes, he did have his reasons but that does not excuse his horrible interactions with the other characters. I also felt that having the steamy sex scene within the first page of the story was just wrong. I remember reading it and thinking “What!? How!? Why!?” It just did not add anything to the story. I found it very oddly placed and then for the rest of the novel the Lord Edmond (the leading male) was (pardon my language) a dick to her. Simply put, I would not recommend this novel to others.
Overall, the entire novel I would give it about 2-3 stars. It was written well but the plot line was lacking. I would recommend that you read her other novels starting with the Bedwyn series Slightly Married. That series better showcases Mary Balogh’s great writing.