Simply Quartet // by Mary Balogh

  • Simply Unforgettable (2005)
  • Simply Love (2006)
  • Simply Magic (2007)
  • Simply Perfect (2008)

Every year the library has a big booksale, and since books are only a quarter or so each, I usually end up with several books I wouldn’t necessarily have bought otherwise, which is how I ended up with the middle two books of this quartet.  I found the other two (at the library, ironically) and breezed through the series.  They are pretty typical Regency (” “) romances.

The basic premise of the series is that several years earlier this woman started a girls’ school in Bath.  The series is about three of her teachers finding love, and then of course the headmistress herself.  It was a nice way to tie everyone together without feeling too contrived.

In the first book, Frances is on her way back to Bath after spending the Christmas holidays with her great-aunts, who happen to be her only living relatives.  Bad weather strikes, and she ends up stranded with a random (tall, dark, and handsome) guy named Lucius, who of course is also a duke or viscount or something or other.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to find that they fall in love!  There are ups and downs in their relationship, but never fear, all ends well.  It wasn’t a bad story, but the author used an annoying plot device where there is SOMETHING BAD in Frances’s past that she won’t tell Lucius but is also the thing that is preventing her from accepting his marriage proposal.  The problem was that >>I<< didn’t get to know what the SOMETHING BAD was either, so I had no idea if Frances was being reasonable or ridiculous, which made it hard for me to bond with her as a character.

The second book was my favorite out of the series.  Anne is a unwedded mother (a big no-no) who teaches at the school, and lives there with her son who is like seven or eight or something.  As the story unwinds, you find out that she was raped, and that the man who raped her isn’t alive any more, and that that guy’s brother and his family know that the dead guy is the kid’s dad, and have all along wanted to acknowledge him/have him be part of his family, but Anne is super determined to be independent despite the fact that they are all super nice.  BUT she finally accepts their invitation to spend a few weeks in the country during the summer break, and there she meets and falls in love with this other guy, who was seriously wounded in the Napoleonic wars.  I really liked Syd and Anne together, and felt like they actually learned to work together as a team.  The marriage takes place halfway through the book, and I always enjoy watching people actually be married, so that was fun for me.

The big problem here was that in this book I was suddenly introduced to at least a dozen characters with complicated and intertwined back stories that I was apparently already supposed to know, which is when I found out that this is actually a spin-off series from an earlier series that Balogh wrote!  I really got bogged down on the names (because everyone has like five different names/titles) and remember who was married to who and how they were all related.  Although these people didn’t really appear in the first book at all, they were all involved in the rest of the series.  Whoops.

Books three and four were pretty typical.  My biggest problem with all these books is that everyone has sex before they get married, and the sex in the fourth book felt even more contrived than any of the rest, like we are almost to the end of the book and the author is like, “Wait, I almost forgot to have them have pre-marital sex!  Better wedge that scene in now!” It was kind of ridiculous.  Overall the sex wasn’t a huge part of every story, it was usually just one or two scenes in the whole book, just enough to be really annoying.

While I enjoyed these books and would give the series a 3.5* rating, I didn’t really like it enough to keep the books I got at the book sale, or to bother looking up Balogh’s earlier series with some of the same characters.