by Mary Balogh, historical (1999)
Dell, $6.50, ISBN 0-440-22600-7
A Therapy Session With Dr M
Dr M: Good afternoon Mrs G. So how is your week?
Mrs G: Doc, I'm depressed.
Dr M: I see. I guess that's why you're here. So tell me, what brings on this bout of depression?
Mrs G: (waves book at Doc) This book. Here, have a look.
Doc takes book and reads the title - One Night For Love. He flips the book, eyes widening at the inset art, before turning to the back and read the synopsis.
Dr M: Well, story about husband thinking wife dead in Portugal battlefields, runs home, about to marry stepcousin, then wife reappears. Hmm, sounds like an epic romantic saga, the kind you love. Is it that bad?
Mrs G: No, it's simply blooming wonderful! It's so well-written and so... emotional! It's like Ms Balogh is carefully painting character potraits of each person in the book. I've never read such a lovely story.
Dr M: So what's the problem, Mrs G? Why the onset of depression?
Mrs G: That book make me depressed. You know, I have two friends. One tells me she will never touch anything by Mary Balogh - says she's not very sexy or exciting, but writes awfully imperfect characters that make her wince. Another swears that she will read anything Balogh, and I quote, she's amazing, wonderful, writes realistically tortured characters and witty dialog! Me, I've only read one previous Balogh, Silent Melody and that one makes me depressed too. You think I would've learned by now.
Dr M: Surely there's something in this author that keeps drawing you back. Maybe you identify with some characters?
Mrs G: (snorts) Oh nothing Freudian like that. I just like her heroines. One thing I noticed from the two Baloghs I've read - the stories are predominantly about the sisterhood of females. You know, women sticking together through thick and thin. It is the men, specifically the hero, that bring a lot of heartache to the heroine. Which is probably why I feel depressed after reading One Night For Love. The hero Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, is disgustingly passive. He also bungles up every emotional scene he's in. He puts Lily through so much, and his treatment to poor jilted Lauren almost borders on male stupidity. That man just cannot explain or talk things correctly, you know.
Dr M: Ah, I see. You feel angry that this Neville fellow is so incompetent as a ... uhm, hero, I take it.
Mrs G: Yes! That's it! Lily is a survivor, a strong woman whom I grow to admire and care about dearly by the end of the book. And dear Lauren, the poor thing. She deserves better. I don't know why Neville just don't tell her he's married. His silence - his inaction - put them all through so much humiliation and heartache. Lauren does love Neville, you know. Here I applaud Ms Balogh for not making Lauren the shrill, evil, manipulative, and promiscuous Jezebel. As Lily's rival, she stands her own, and she manages to make me care for her too. You know what will be nice? Lauren and Lily gang together and slap Neville silly for all the nonsense he put them through. Then they can go form the First Almost-wives Club or something.
Dr M: Is Neville that bad to you?
Mrs G: Yes! Now, I'm sure I'm a modern woman, but I like my romance heroes strong, larger-than-life, and most of all, reliable. Neville fails on all account. He doesn't even check to see if Lily is even dead before he returns to England. He doesn't tell his family he's married to Lily. He doesn't even inform Lily their marriage may not be legal. He is a thoughtless sod, if you ask me. I can't help feeling it's Helena-Demetrius complex all over again. What do Lily and Lauren see in this man?
Dr M: (flipping through the pages) Well, I guess Neville is a rather gentlemanly fellow. Maybe he's kind and...
Mrs G: Kind, oh yes, kind when it comes to superficial matters! When it comes to being considerate, he's hopeless. And one more thing, before England, Lily and Neville's relationship is depicted as perfect, a melding of two halves of a soul, et cetera. I don't buy it. The utter perfection of their relationship pre-England rings utterly false because I, for one, cannot see why these two are in love. Okay, so you may argue the pre-England phase isn't important and it's the post-return-to-England phase that counts because that's when the relationship is tested and ended up stronger than ever, yadda yadda yadda. But you know what? I don't buy that either. The strings of the whole relationship after England is entirely pulled by Lily. She is the one who decides when to walk out and when to return. Neville is just a helpless observer. I like my romances where both hero and heroine plays equal roles and importance. Here, Lily is strong, a firebrand of courage. It is rather depressing to see her subject herself to a relationship with such a weak man.
Oh, and one more peeve: I find it absolutely irritating the way Lily is keep being described by Neville as innocent as in still so innocent-looking despite all her war ordeals. Give me a break. It makes Neville sound like the dirty old man in Lolita. Any man who insists his wife is innocent should get his head checked. No woman remains innocent of man's utter folly after a week of matrimony.
Dr M: Surely there are other things to like in the book? Like you said, you enjoyed this book a lot.
Mrs G: Well, Aunt Elizabeth is great. I adore her for taking Lily under her wing. The scene where Lily collapses into tears and tell her all her awful war ordeals, and Elizabeth responds with "Let us look ahead, shall we, and plan? Lily, my dear, we are going to have fun, fun, fun" - that's so simple a thing to say yet it renders me to tears. Elizabeth is a warm, wise woman who will do well in her own story. Then there's Lauren, poor wronged Lauren, who I'm sure is getting her own book. That's the crux of the whole situation. Mary Balogh writes some of the best heroines and females I've ever read. In this book it is the women who stand bold and proud, carrying the book on the strength of their will alone. It is only pitiful that the men don't measure up even close. Hence by the end of the book, to see indomitable Lily so subjugated under Neville's thumb, it's depressing. Depressing, I tell you! It's not nice! Lily should get a better husband! So what if Neville is good in bed? I mean they...
Dr M: Ahem, Mrs G? You know what? It's only a book. Repeat after me, it's only a book. Gee, the author must be very good to work you up in such a lather.
Mrs G: I know. But the next time I pick up Mary Balogh, I will wait until I'm in the mood for emotional upheaval thingies. You know, I'm feeling much better now. Thank you Doc! Can we talk about my job now?
Dr M: By all means, do go ahead. I'm your shrink after all. (to himself) It's going to be a long day.
Mrs G: What's that Doc?
Dr M: I said it's going to be fun all the way.
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