Simply Love is the second in Mary Balogh's "Simply" series following four teachers at a school in Bath (the first was Simply Unforgettable). It features the teacher Anne Jewell, who works at the school along with her nine-year-old son
- the result of a rape when she was a governess in Cornwall. Anne Jewell was first introduced to readers of Balogh's novel in Slightly Scandalous, the book about Freyja Bedwyn in the "Slightly" series. Anne and her son, David, accompany Freyja and her husband, Joshua, the Marquess of Hallmere, to a family gathering in Wales, one of the Duke of Bewcastle's properties. Anne hopes to remain in the background
- she isn't a member of the family, and she is the mother of an illegitimate child
- but things don't work out exactly as she hopes.
Sydnam Butler is the disfigured and disabled brother of Kit Butler (hero of A Summer To Remember) who now works as the Steward at Glandwr, the Welsh estate.
He works not out of financial need but to help himself feel worthwhile, and it is work that he can do despite having only one eye and one arm.
Sydnam and Anne meet in less than auspicious circumstances, yet as they both see each other in company with the rest of the guests, they start to build a friendship strengthened by their shared experiences. However, their past history causes them problems, and when Anne returns to teaching in Bath, they both think it unlikely they will meet again.
When events cause them to be thrown back into company with each other, despite some setbacks they are able to help each other overcome some of their problems, to rebuild family relationships, and rediscover talents they thought were lost to them.
Mary Balogh is an excellent writer of Regencies; her accuracy is very good and in this book her descriptions of the Wales coast and the people are
on target. Characters in her books often grow and learn, and this is very much the case
here as Anne learns to forgive her family, while Sydnam begins to understand that not everyone sees him as a monster.
Simply Love fits very much within
Balogh's different series. The vast list of Bedwyn characters could become fairly confusing if the reader isn't familiar with them all; it helps very much to have read A Summer To Remember and most of the Bedwyn series.
This is a welcome opportunity for fans to catch up with the characters as their marriages have progressed. For a prolific writer such as Mary Balogh, there have been in recent books characters who seem familiar from older books, but in Simply Love this is less the case. Anne's gentle nature and love for her son seem fresh and, although Sydnam might be compared to the hero of The Secret Pearl, who is also scarred, Balogh has been able to give him his own voice and manner. This book has less of the gushing romance than many Regencies;
it is more a gentle, heartwarming slow-burn love story of two damaged people who find that they can help each other become more whole. I recommend this book highly for those who like their Regencies with a bit more to them than gowns, duels and peerages.