Mary Balogh's consistently high standard of writing is once again shown in Simply Magic, the third of her
"Simply" quartet (Simply Unforgettable and Simply Love precede this book). The events in this book take place largely at the same time as those in Simply Love; in fact, some scenes are the same as we see the story from Susanna Osborne's view.
Susanna Osborne is a teacher at Miss Martin's School For Girls in Bath, having first attended the school as a pupil from age 12 when her father died unexpectedly and she ran away from being a burden to the family for whom he worked. Susanna's whole life has revolved around the school, but when Frances, the Countess of Edgecombe and a former teacher (whose story is told in Simply Unforgettable), invites Susanna to stay with her for two weeks, Susanna agrees. On her first day at the Countess's estate, she meets up with a group from the neighboring house which includes a visitor, Viscount Whitleaf. The name Whitleaf is anathema to Susanna because of events in her past (which aren't initially explained), so she treats him rather rudely. Besides, Peter Whitleaf is clearly a shallow young man, always flirting with young ladies and paying them lavish compliments but without too much between his ears.
Whitleaf, though, finds Susanna interesting, partly because she isn't flirting with him, and he strikes up a friendship with her. However, at the end of the two weeks, she returns to the school, having turned down his offer to become his mistress, and she and Anne Jewell, another teacher, tell each other about their love lives (this scene is also in Simply Love). Anne Jewell has to have a shotgun wedding, and when the delayed wedding breakfast takes place, Susanna is shocked to discover that Viscount Whitleaf is attending it. He stretches out his time in Bath, meeting Susanna on a number of occasions and eventually persuading her to visit her original home.
Once again, this story delves deeply into the emotions and histories of our characters. Whitleaf and Susanna are both attractive people who are much loved, yet their lives aren't as carefree as they might seem. Whitleaf has never been able to take mastery of his own house since his majority, being under his mother's thumb; Susanna has not been able to deal with the grief following the suicide of her father and her feeling of rejection. The two of them find that their stories entwine and their histories are significantly linked, and
they work together to bring about some kind of resolution.
This is an excellent read, as usual with Mary Balogh. Perhaps the subject matter isn't quite as in-depth as she sometimes offers (for example, in Simply Love), and the characters seem in some ways less complex, but it is still a beautiful story with a genuinely kind hero.