by Mary Balogh

August 2006
ISBN: 0-385-33883-X
Reviewer Graphic Button Delacorte Press

What happens when two people, scarred by life, meet and feel an instant connection? How will they overcome their past to begin a new chapter? Do they want to break free from those chains? Are they brave enough, and strong enough to try?

These are the questions that must be faced by the main characters in Mary Balogh’s newest novel, Simply Love. Two people we have met before in separate novels, come together in this emotionally charged story of courage and compassion.

Sydnam Butler is a hero. Captured by enemy soldiers on the Peninsula, he endured weeks of vicious torture, never revealing the whereabouts of his brother and the other men from his unit. He was rescued, a broken man, more dead than alive, and months of recuperation left him shattered and bereft. His youthful dreams were too painful to remember, and only his strong will to survive kept him going. Finally he is self-sufficient and has become a valued steward for the Duke of Bewcastle. Living on the remote Welsh estate suits him. The villagers have come to respect his opinion and while he will admit to the occasional moment of loneliness, he knows that his solitary state is permanent. No woman would want a man as scarred as he is, incomplete in both heart and body.

Anne Jewell could also be considered a heroine. Determined to keep her mentally-handicapped pupil from enduring rape, she instead found herself the victim of assault. When she discovered that she was pregnant and alone, she made a living for herself as best she could, keeping her sanity by teaching, and focusing all of her love on her son. She has always been on the fringes of society, looking on as others found love. She knows no man would want her, and cannot imagine giving herself to someone else without reliving that horrible nightmare.

Leave it to the raucous Bedwyn clan to bring these two unlikely people together. As the Duke and Duchess arrive in Wales for their annual visit, with the rest of their extended family in tow, Sydnam retreats to the caretaker’s cottage. Anne and her son have been included as extended family by Joshua Moore, the Marquess of Hallmere, and his wife, Freya, the Duke’s sister. The airs of nobility in this group are all for show, and both outsiders are quickly embraced as part of the family. From picnics to games on the lawn, Syndam and Anne cannot help but meet and interact.

Readers, be prepared for a full dose of emotion. Ms. Balogh knows how to bring it all to her stories. From belly laughs to throat-choking tears, Simply Love is simply – superlative.

Reviewed in July 2006 by Paula.

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