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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in new series
'First Comes Marriage' is the first in a new series by Mary Balogh following the fortunes and loves of three sisters and one brother. At the start of this book we meet the Huxtable family, eldest sister Margaret, youngest sister Katherine, young brother Stephen and the middle sister, Vanessa Dew. Vanessa is a widow, having married a neighbour who died a year and a half...
Published on February 24, 2009 by Helen Hancox

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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vanessa's book -The Huxtable Quintet series
The quaint village of Throckbridge in Shropshire is all abuzz with the news that a viscount is staying at the local inn. The gossiping tongues immediately start wagging and nearly every female sighs in delight when the devastatingly handsome -and eligible!- lord arrives at the annual St. Valentines assembly. Bored and agitated, Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, simply...
Published on February 24, 2009 by Misuzmama


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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vanessa's book -The Huxtable Quintet series, February 24, 2009
By 
Misuzmama (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
The quaint village of Throckbridge in Shropshire is all abuzz with the news that a viscount is staying at the local inn. The gossiping tongues immediately start wagging and nearly every female sighs in delight when the devastatingly handsome -and eligible!- lord arrives at the annual St. Valentines assembly. Bored and agitated, Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, simply wants to fulfill his task and is impatient to remove himself from this backwater country as soon as possible. Plain and recently out of mourning widow, Vanessa Huxtable Dew, takes an immediate disliking to the arrogant aristocrat but is determined to make to best of the night despite being maneuvered into dancing with the disagreeable man. But her interaction with him is not so short lived for he calls upon her family the next day and shockingly informs them that their brother, a mere boy of seventeen, is the new Earl of Merton. Lyngate insists that his new ward must be immediately removed to Warren Hall in Hampshire (Merton's principle seat) and begin tutoring/training for his responsibilities. As a close knit family, the three Huxtable sisters are determined to accompany their younger brother. Not pleased with the change of events Lyngate submits and looks grimly ahead to the daunting task of launching three women into society . Soon it becomes apparent that marriage to one of the sisters solves a myriad of problems on both sides. Lyngate fulfills his duty, and promise to his grandfather, in acquiring a bride. She, in turn, takes on the burden of preparing her sisters for the ton. But Lyngate is in for one more surprise. He has somehow gotten himself engaged, not to the oldest and prettiest sister, but to Vanessa, the plain unpleasant one who has sacrificed herself in her sisters place. Ultimately he resigns within himself to go forth with the wedding. After all how terrible could it be having a wife who promises complete loyalty and devotion?

Balogh is one of my favorite romance authors but I just didn't really care for this first book in the Huxtable series. Although the writing, character development and historical details are top notch, it is the romance itself that I found to be less than appealing. I felt like Elliot and Vanessa were as mismatched as they come and unlike in other books (Slightly Dangerous for example) there was no spark, no passion between these two. I do not mind a slow moving love story if it comes to a satisfying conclusion. In the end, however, I had the distinct impression that they had settled into a content marriage, far less than the wedded bliss I've come to expect. Vanessa exudes delight and laughter bringing joy to everyone around her but not Elliot. She claims that it will be her mission to please him and make the humorless man laugh. But he seems unaffected by her charms until nearly the end. I also found it tiresome that Vanessa's lack of beauty was referred to over and over again -nearly every twenty pages. And I longed for duty-minded Elliot to come to his senses and finally admit that their marriage had come to mean much more than convenience. He kept flip-flopping back and forth in his mind which was irritating. And when he finally did admit his feelings it happened altogether too quickly and lacked a certain sincerity.

A less than satisfying romance, hopefully the rest of the series will be better.

My Balogh romance shelf keepers (besides the above Slightly Dangerous):
The Notorious Rake
Heartless
Truly
More than a Mistress
Simply Love
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First book in new series, February 24, 2009
'First Comes Marriage' is the first in a new series by Mary Balogh following the fortunes and loves of three sisters and one brother. At the start of this book we meet the Huxtable family, eldest sister Margaret, youngest sister Katherine, young brother Stephen and the middle sister, Vanessa Dew. Vanessa is a widow, having married a neighbour who died a year and a half ago. Although Vanessa still lives with her in-laws, her three siblings live in a small cottage and make do with minimal money.

When a viscount comes to stay in the local inn the village is intrigued, especially when he attends the assembly dance. However the Huxtable family are astounded the next day when they discover that their lot is going to change significantly. As they find themselves moving to a new area and preparing to be introduced to polite society, it seems that Viscount Lyngate is planning to ask the eldest sister, Margaret, to marry him. But Vanessa knows Margaret still carries a torch for her young love, serving overseas in the army, and so she persuades Lyngate to marry her instead.

As Vanessa and Elliott settle down to married life, she has to come to terms with his rather sober and unsmiling demeanour and he with her feelings for her dead husband. Some of his past actions may come back to haunt him, along with a former good friend who may well be a rogue, and Vanessa has to cope with her own poor self-image. Can they find happiness and love in a marriage of convenience?

Mary Balogh is, in my opinion, one of the finest writers of Regency romances today. 'First Comes Marriage' has all her trademark skills, including deep characterisation, flawed and yet appealing characters and historical accuracy. She falls unexpectedly into a trap laid by Georgette Heyer who coined in her own books the term 'Cheltenham Tragedy' (which appears twice in this book) and which Heyer used for a plagiarism lawsuit against another author who used the phrase. There were also times in this book where it did feel very much like the start of a series; there was a great deal of scene setting at the beginning and we followed some of the other characters (to be featured in further books) more closely than one might normally expect for a standalone novel. I also felt that the falling-in-love aspect of the book was perhaps a little more rushed than it might have been. Despite these minor comments I found this to be another excellent read which had emotion, action and character in abundance.

Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2009
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars...good series start...worth it for that alone...but heroine too insecure, March 21, 2009
By 
statengirl (Massachusetts, USA) - See all my reviews
The modest lives of the four Huxtable siblings are changed forever when the youngest, 17-year-old Stephen, suddenly inherits an earldom from a distant relation. The relation's cousin, Elliott Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, arrives at their small village bearing the happy news. Elliott, extremely handsome but insufferably self-important, will mentor Stephen until he comes of age. He tries to persuade Stephen to leave behind his three sisters fearing they will be troublesome, but Stephen will not hear of it, nor will the sisters, and soon they are off to a grand new life on their far-off estate. The sister that gives Elliott the most trouble is the middle one, Vanessa, a plain young widow who has very strong opinions about Elliott, and is not afraid to voice them. She tells him that he is over-bearing, overly proud and perpetually glum, and that she worries he will be a bad influence on her brother. Elliott resents her interference and wishes she would just go away. He often finds himself thinking about how much she bothers him...fine eyes notwithstanding.

Elliot decides to offer marriage to the beautiful oldest sister, Margaret. He is not the romantic type and feels that Margaret will do as well any other potential bride. His father recently died, so Elliot needs to marry quickly and beget an heir. So too, he feels responsible for the sisters and, once she is his wife, Margaret could smooth the sisters' entry into London society. Unknown to him, Margaret pines for her former sweetheart, away in the army, whom she has not heard from in years. She would accept Elliott in order to help her sisters, but her heart would not be in it. Suspecting his intentions, Vanessa intercepts Elliott on his way to propose to Margaret. Hoping to spare her sister - and perhaps for other reasons she is unwilling to admit - Vanessa asks him to marry her instead! Elliott cannot stand Vanessa and thinks she must be crazy yet, inexplicably, he's willing to consider...

The first 2/3 of this book are wonderful. Elliot is delightfully condescending and slyly amusing - and ripe to be transformed by love. Vanessa is feisty and funny and charming and confident - and is just the woman to do it. One suspects that deep down Elliot knows this. Then they are married and after a few days, starting from the incident with her late husband's photo, Vanessa completely changes. She becomes more and more insecure, and less and less entertaining. She carries on excessively to Elliott about how unattractive she is, even though he genuinely finds her beautiful and clearly lets her know it. After a while, it is hard to imagine how her self-doubt would not diminish her in Elliott's eyes. There does seem less spark between them as the story progresses.

On the plus side, I did enjoy the majority of this book. I like the sharp dialogue, the couple's rather unconventional 'mating dance', Vanessa's intrepid attempts to jump-start her marriage, Elliott's droll musings, Margaret's shocking news, and the entire supporting cast. It is in fact a very good set-up for Balogh's new series. It's just that Vanessa's character so disappoints me after a great start. Although the issue is eventually resolved, her prolonged insecurity is over the top and weakens her appeal.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge this book by its cover..., June 21, 2009
By 
J. Yu (Tallahassee, FL) - See all my reviews
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This was my first Mary Balough book, which I picked up because of the gorgeous cover. The cover turned out to be the best part.

I was bored from the beginning, when Balough spends about 15 pages describing the preparations for a village party and the hero's deliberations over whether or not to attend, but I decided to persevere. Unfortunately, the book didn't get much better.

Balough doesn't create a believable, sexy tension between the hero and heroine. We're told over and over how plain Vanessa is and how un-voluptuous the hero finds her body, and the hero ponders at great length why he is still attracted to her despite these physical shortcomings. I wondered about that as well. I also felt as annoyed as he did by her constant pseudo-philosophical babbling about love and joy and hope. I couldn't stand to be with someone who badgered me to be happy.

Furthermore, Vanessa is supposed to have a gift for making everyone laugh, but she never says anything funny. A really good writer (like Lisa Kleypas or Eloisa James) won't just say a character is funny or witty; they show you in the dialogue. Balough either doesn't think that is important or isn't able to do it.

Just as irritating as the heroine's unrelenting cheerfulness and the hero's unbelievable sexual attraction to this plain Jane is Balough's unfortunate tendency to constantly repeat things. Perhaps her novels would be better to listen to as abridged audio books. You could easily cut 100 pages from this one and not lose anything.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great start, but there's always hope for improvement with Balogh, April 5, 2009
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I found the beginning of this book so confusing that I had to read it several times to figure out that Elliott was the hero and not Con. Was that confusion necessary? And even though Con is supposed to be bad I liked him much better than stilted and cold Elliott. I know writers often give a character a bad beginning so they can show improvement. Unfortunately I never saw much improvement in Elliott. By the time he realizes he truly loves Vanessa the book is over and that revelation is very rushed and insincere feeling.

And Vanessa? She irritated me almost as much as Elliott. Her looks were harped on to the point of the ridiculous. To hear that her parents told her she'd probably never marry because she was plain? Are looks everything? Could they be any more shallow? Maybe her Mary Sunshine personality was developed as defense against the whole looks issue but since she was never shown actually being amusing or carefree with others we have to take Balogh's word for it that she is those things. Left to herself she was usually caught weeping. Her lectures on making the most of life, etc., etc., came off as false to me since all she thinks about is is she pretty, does Elliott love her, is she forgetting her first husband?--who she loved but was not in love with..... All so very shallow. I did like her better than Elliott but not much.

I don't have much hope for the other characters either. Meg the martyr? She turns down a marriage proposal saying she has to keep her promise to look after her family. Looks to me like they are well settled and she doesn't need to be wasting any more of her good years. For all her promises I've no doubt she'd be off to the altar quick enough if she fell in love. Why not just admit she hasn't found anyone she wants to marry instead of letting her family believe she is wasting her childbearing years for them? What an unnecessary burden on them.

Kate looks to be a bit of fun and Stephen has great potential. Not to mention Con, who I'm sure will be exonerated of all wrongdoing before the series ends.

So even though I was not impressed with this first offering I have faith that Ms. Balogh will come through as the series gets going.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Lackluster Effort, April 19, 2009
Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate arrives in the village of Throckbridge on Valentine's Day, in order to begin his guardianship of the young Earl of Merton, the whole of the village is excited about this new arrival. He has arrived with the intention of proposing to Meg Huxtable, but his plans are thwarted when the middle sister, a widow proposes to him first. He agrees to the match feeling the chemistry that burns between them. But, will the promise of passion actually prove fruitful, or has he made a mistake?

Meg immediately dislikes the arrogant Viscount but wants her sisters to experience joy in marriage and since she's already been a wife this was a sacrifice she was willing to make. She promises to be loyal and a worth wife for the rogue. After all, how bad could it be. And maybe, just maybe, she will find a happy ending in a situation the proves grim at best.

This was a disappointing read as there was really no passion between the main characters and the effort seemed lackluster at best. In this case the mismatched duo really never seemed to grow together, the romance felt forced at best. Otherwise, the historical flavor and feel, which Ms. Balogh is known for is evident. I hope that the next two books in the Huxtable Sisters series are more on par with what I know this author can produce.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Audio Version: Terrible reading for a weak book, February 3, 2010
First of all, let me say I'm a rabid fan of Mary Balogh and have read dozens of her books, both current and out of prints as well. Until now, I have enjoyed each and every book of hers. This however, was such a weak book with an insipid heroine and unpleasant hero who both failed to live up to the expectations set. Ms. Balogh knows how to find chemistry between opposites (Slightly Dangerous) but these two are the kind of couple you'd avoid at a cocktail party; total bores.

The heroine is referred to ad nauseum, as plain and unattractive. We are also told again and again that she brings light and laughter wherever she goes, which isn't evident in this story. Her interactions with her family show no brevity. She is full of her own sexual prowess and assures the Viscount of her ability to please him sexually, but it's such an awkward and incongruent scene that's it jarred me right out of the book and I thought to go back thru the story to see what I'd missed about her character.

This book was almost unpleasant. It was a bore from a writer who usually writes page-turners for me.

A word about the narrator; her reading was pedantic and halting. Except for the intimate scenes when she becomes breathless and panting. Eeeww. Conversations were stilted as she read them and her choices for the voices of the characters was odd and often annoying. I would love to see what a reader like Barbara Rosenblat would do with Ms. Balogh's books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have left this one off., June 14, 2009
I have always liked Mary Balogh books and was looking so forward to a new series that I bought all four of this series. Now I am only hoping that the other three will be far better than this one.

The beginning was extremely confusing and boring, I had to keep going back in the book to find out who she was referring to.

I think a good book should have you intrigued enough that you can't wait to get to the next page. This book was to say the least a disappointment. I should have started in the middle and not wasted my time with the first part of the book.

I hope the other three are better, if not then this will definitely be the last of the Mary Balogh books that I buy or I should say waste good money on. Some authors start out so good then seem to lack the encouragement to make any new books a testament to their writing.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars ZERO Chemistry & Romance, September 16, 2009
By 
Miss Katie (Gold Country, California) - See all my reviews
Of all Mary Balogh books I've read (most of them!), this was my very least favorite. MB kept reiterating how ugly/plain the heroine is. We get it, he's really good looking & she's ugly. They had ZERO chemistry & the book just had no excitement between the two main characters. I began reading the Huxtable series with At Last Comes Love. That book was great! It had it all, chemistry, good plot, unrequited love (for a while). Had I started out with book #1, First Comes Marriage, I would have been really dissapointed with my first experience with the Huxtable family. I wouldn't bother even reading this novel as its so completely boring & unromantic.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best, March 4, 2009
First let me say that I am a huge Mary Balogh fan and own many of her novels, which I re-read regularly. My favorite is one in the "Simply" series, titled Simply Love. I don't mind "series" novels if they're good. After all, for the reader there is a significant investment of time and money required to embark on a "series," and one always hopes it will be worth it. Whether or not this new series is worthy remains to be seen.
Elliott and Vanessa's story has been nicely summarized by other reviewers. The plot and rhythm of the novel are slow, and even somewhat insipid in places---that is, the characters are not as compelling as they might be. Knowing Mary's style, however, I suspect some of the loose threads and weak sub-plots in First Comes Marriage will be neatly spun into pure gold in the ensuing series titles.
In truth, my complaints are small. I did find the stunningly rapid and dramatic metamorphosis of Elliott's character between the opening chapters and the final pages, from callous, selfish and bitter to considerate, romantic and articulate, to be somewhat implausible. On the other hand, I deeply appreciate the fact that Ms. Balogh does not waste a reader's valuable time wallowing in a morass of foolish, frustrating romantic conflicts that could easily be resolved with a simple conversation between the hero and heroine. Mary Balogh is master of mature, pointed and vigorous wordplay between couples, and this novel is no exception. Vanessa and Elliott work out their differences with words, not dramatic-diva sulks and inflexible, arrogant frigidity.
As always, Balogh writes for a mature and discerning audience, and refuses to be rushed in her storytelling, which is to be admired in this era of mass-market flic-tion. Generally, this unhurried style does not detract from the plot and tempo of her narration, her stories being as a rule original, interesting and thoughtful, with a deep emphasis on character study and human interaction. First Comes Marriage just fell a bit short of some of her previous novels---which may be, albeit unjustly, because we hold our most gifted authors to a higher standard. FCM lacks some of the deep spiritual and emotional conflicts I have come to appreciate in her writing, and the denouement seemed rather too tidy and predictable. I will be interested to see how the subsequent novels in her series improve (as I have no doubt they will) on this rather tentative beginning.
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