Review: Simply Love by Mary Balogh

simply loveReviewed by Jen

I stumbled onto this older title thanks to a Goodreads shout-out from fellow romance reviewer Penny, who put this hero as the same category as JR Ward’s Zsadist and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Zarek.  She may as well as rubbed pheromones all over the book.  I love the idea of a broken hero saved by the love of a good woman and Zsadist and Zarek are two of my all-time favorites, so I was reading the book less than five minutes after reading her review.

Anne Jewell is the single mother of an illegitimate son.  The boy, David, was the product of rape… his father, long dead.  But Anne was still ruined by his birth.  Her family disowned her.  Fortunately, she was able to make her way, thanks in part to financial assistance from Joshua, a relative of David’s father.  She also has an income, working at a school for girls.  David is her life, so when Joshua invites the two of them on a month-long vacation with his family, she accepts for the good of her son.

Sydnam Butler is the steward at the seaside manor.  He is terribly scarred from war.  He is missing both an eye and arm.  Children –and even some adults– look at him with fear and revulsion.  He has made a life for himself, despite his disabilities, but feels a relationship with a woman is not something he will ever have. His initial meeting with Anne is rocky, but slowly the two of them develop a friendship –a kinship– underlined by their mutual understanding of loss and adversity.  Of course, that eventually grows into more.

I liked the story, but I didn’t love it the way I loved my favorite tortured hero stories.  That’s largely due to Anne’s reticence to develop a relationship with Syndam.  I understand why, of course.  But it was hard to have her put him at arms length. It was hard to see her inability to embrace the relationship once it has been established.  The hallmark of good tortured heroes is in their fear that they are unworthy of the heroine’s love.  Here, Anne gives Syndam more reasons to doubt himself.  Her history with rape makes her fears natural, so please don’t think I blame her. But it prevented me from loving their romance.

I did really like Syndam.  Most men would have given up after what he endured. But he built an entirely new life for himself.  And his spirit and goodness remained intact.  How he treated Anne made it easy to believe how she could look past his deformities.  I loved his insecurities and his strength.  I loved how hard he tried to win David and how he wanted Anne to make peace with her past.

I did, however, hate Anne’s sniveling family, and how that element of the story played out.   Otherwise, I found myself pretty satisfied with how it all unfolded.  It just had a few rough patches along the way.

Rating: B/B-

Click to purchase: Amazon

Simply Love
by Mary Balogh
Release Date: August 15, 2006
Publisher: Delacorte Press

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