Sunday, September 6, 2009

At Last Comes Love, by Mary Balogh

th_0440244242At Last Comes Love is the third book in the Huxtable family series.  Debra reviewed the first, it was painful for me to get through the second, and the third was a pleasant surprise indeed.  Balogh is a new author for me, despite being around awhile.  I say the second book was painful because it couldn't hold my attention for long periods of time.  The third book holds my attention easily, as the story is very, very sweet.

Margaret Huxtable is the oldest of the Huxtable family, who swore to their dying father she would take care of her brother and sisters and see them happy.  Her sisters are married, her brother is now comfortable in his role as the Earl of Merton, and she is content with her life, except for one thing- love, and marriage of course.  Long ago her lover Crispin Dew set off to fight the French, but not before asking for her hand in marriage with the promise to take her with him to the war.  Margaret, the ever responsible, chose to take care of her family instead of living her own dream.  Years later, when her family is content, Crispin returns home a widow and with a young daughter in tow.  Margaret is torn between his cruel faithlessness and her deep feelings for him- until she meets him again.  Having decided to marry over the winter to her dear friend the Marquess of Allingham (he's asked three times), Margaret is annoyed with Crispin and his assumption that she has been waiting for him all this time.  In a fit of pique, she informs him she is secretly betrothed.    The best laid plains, however, do not always come to light, and the  Marquess has engaged himself to another.  So, Meg, as her family calls her, is without a fiance and needs to produce one quickly.   Enter the Earl of Sheringford, Duncan Pennethorne.

Years ago, on the eve of his marriage to Caroline Turner, Duncan ran off with Laura Turner, sister in law to Caroline. Duncan is back in London to see his grandfather, the Marquess of  Claverbrook, who is about to cut him off entirely and give Woodbine, his ancestoral home, to his cousin Norm, who graciously stepped in to marry poor desserted Caroline.  Duncan's grandfather, who is about to turn eighty in a few weeks, presents an ultimatum- marry before the birthday comes around, or cousin Norm will inherit Woodbine.  Duncan has more than himself to look after, so the search for bride commences.  It's dumb luck that Meg, or Maggie, as Duncan calls her, literally collide at a ball the next evening.   The truth comes out about the real reasons Duncan ran off with Laura, and Meg understands and accepts his reasons.

Our hero and heroine act out of character to all who know them the best, and before the birthday of the Marquess of Claverbrook arrives, Meg is the Countess of Sheringford.  Their initial courtship, and the one that takes place after they're wed, is very sweet with many surprises and a few moments of angst.  Of course with formula romance, the hero must do something to anger the heroine, and a sweet reconciliation occurs.  This book is no different.  At Last Comes Love was a delightful read, with well written characters from the previous novels coming more to life alongside the two main characters.  What is wonderful about Duncan and Maggie is the love they show for those they care about is increased tenfold when directed towards each other.  They both have to learn to allow someone to love them, because loving someone is no hard task for them.  Their are some dark aspects of this novel, and perhaps some implied scenes that might make a few squirm, also, the book could have used an epilogue, but don't let that stop you, it's definitely one to pick up.

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