Release: Feb 24, 2009
Source: I purchased this book to read and review
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Elliott Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, has just acquired unwilling guardianship of Stephen Huxtable, the new young Earl of Merton. If he were to marry Stephen’s eldest sister, he would have the eligible wife he needs and she would be able to look after launching her younger sisters into society. It would be a comfortable arrangement all around. However, Vanessa, the middle sister, thinks otherwise. Margaret loves another man and has a secret agreement with him. And so Vanessa steps up as the sacrificial offering.
First Comes Marriage is the first novel in a series of 5 that has recently been published. This series follows the lives of the Huxtable family. The immediate family is made up of Meg, Vanessa, Katherine and Stephen Huxtable. In the trailer for one of the books the family is described as being made up of “three headstrong sisters and their dashing brother”. You might note at this point that there are 5 books but I have only mentioned 4 Huxtables. We’ll get to that later!!
Meg is the oldest and has been charged with raising her younger siblings since her parents passed away. She has forgone marriage to her childhood sweetheart to continue to care for them. We’ll get to that point later also!! They live in genteel poverty in the small town of Throckbridge. Vanessa is the middle sister and is a widow, having being married to a boy from the neighborhood who has since died.
Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate arrives at their door one day to let them know that Stephen has inherited a title, and he will be taking over his eduction as his guardian. The family is thrown into chaos as they come to terms with the change in their station and situation. They are taken to Stephen’s new estate and are faced with the daunting task of entering London society in just a few short months. Elliot decides that things would be easier for this family’s entrance into society is he was married to one of the girls. He seemingly doesn’t care which, and decides to offer marriage to Meg as she is the eldest. Vanessa finds out what he is going to do and decides to interfere. Meg gave up marriage to her childhood sweetheart to care for them, and is still in love with her sweetheart. Vanessa is afraid that Meg will agree to the marriage, thereby giving up any hope of happiness. Vanessa interferes by proposing marriage to Elliot herself. Shocked at first by Vanessa’s actions, Elliot eventually agrees to her proposal and the love story begins. Elliot and Vanessa start their marriage as one of convenience, but discover the love underneath the surface.
This is a touching love story that doesn’t follow the traditional lines. Vanessa is described as not a beauty. A woman who has married once before for the comfort of a dying friend, and a woman who wants to take care of her family by this self-less act. To her surprise, she finds love.
I find that in most series, the first book of any series is a complicated thing to write. One must set the history for the group of people that will be populating the series, which can be awkward, and then proceed to introduce the hero and heroine of the first story. In this case, Mary Balogh does a good job of setting the stage, as it were. She breaks with traditional romance formulas with Vanessa and Elliot’s story.
I have read many Mary Balogh novels over the years, and haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like. Some I like more than others. That prejudice being admitted, I think this is one of the weakest novels that Mary Balogh has written. When I first read this book, I questioned whether or not I would read the rest of the series. I walked away from this author for a while, and then picked up the second book at some point later. It was a winner! I could then look back on this first book and appreciate it better. If you are picking up this series for the first time and don’t like this book, persevere on to the other books. You may possibly have the same reaction as I did! Just keep in mind that a weaker novel by Mary Balogh is still way better than any book by almost any other author!
“Peppered with brilliant banter, laced with laughter…and tingling with sexual tension, this story of two seemingly mismatched people struggling to make their marriage work tugs at a few heartstrings and skillfully paves the way for the stories to come.” —Library Journal
“I’ve awarded First Comes Marriage a Perfect 10 mainly for its wonderful characterization, but also for its riveting plot. It starts off with a moving prologue that cannot fail to entrap any reader. Then, in chapter one, Ms. Balogh’s quick sketches of the people and the town bring them all vividly to life. The rest of the novel follows the Huxtables as they ready themselves to join Society while remaining true to themselves. As for the relationship between Vanessa and the viscount, two more mismatched people are hard to imagine, yet even as they rub each other the wrong way, a strange attraction persists.” Romance Reviews Today
Romance Readers at Heart gave this book 4 hearts and said: “I just adore Balogh’s stories. She has such a superlative way of taking flawed and wounded characters and turning them into flesh and blood people whose lives and relationships you cannot help but be drawn into. FIRST COMES MARRIAGE is an excellent introduction to these loving and close knit Huxtable siblings, and I look forward to watching the rest of them fall in love.”