23-year-old Susanna Osbourne was a charity pupil at Miss Martin's School for Girls, before becoming one of the teachers there. Claudia Martin and the other inhabitants of the school are the only family Susanna has had since the untimely deaths of her mother and her father, and she treasures them.
Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, is entranced with the beautiful but highly disapproving Miss Osbourne when they meet at the estate of a mutual friend. Though normally an easy-going, flirtatious young man who is content to live the lifestyle to which he was born, Susanna makes him want more-both of her, and from life. Unfortunately, she harbors a secret in her past that threatens any chance for a long-term, meaningful relationship. Can he earn her trust, and will they find the fortitude to face down a society sure to disapprove their association?
Mary Balogh's ability to continue creating characters who are unique in both their circumstances, their personalities, and their "emotional baggage" is one of the reasons I read everything she writes. Not for the first time, she steps away from the standard (and expected) alpha hero, with years and experience on his side, and plenty of angst to darken his countenance. Peter Edgeworth has certainly had difficulties and obstacles to overcome, but he would freely admit that his existence has been for the most part, a charmed one. He finds himself faced with a challenge-gaining the regard of a young woman who seems to see straight through him, finding him lacking true purpose and depth. Susanna, on the other hand, has known the terror of abandonment, of an uncertain and potentially hostile future, and the meaning of working to establish a safe place for herself. The two must come to terms with each other's strengths and weaknesses, as Peter learns to assert himself, and Susanna learns to trust someone who could devastate her hard-won security, while facing the social mores of the day, which are certain to be hostile toward any chance of marriage between the two.
This is the third of four books about the ladies of Miss Martin's School for Girls, and was a good read, though not my favorite. While I enjoyed the break from the raging testosterone and angst of a more traditional alpha male, Peter felt a little.unformed, or untried. Susanna had enough seriousness for both of them, except when they gave into their passions-repeatedly, with a somewhat puzzling lack of concern on her part for the potential consequences.
As always, though, Ms. Balogh's story telling drew me in, and I found Simply Magic to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. I may just be holding her to a higher standard, because of her longstanding reputation for delivering difficult, complex characters in truly unique situations. I would recommend this as a good read for any lover of Regencies.
The Simply quartet tells the stories of four lady teachers at Miss Martin's School for Girls in Bath, England. Simply Unforgettable is Frances Allard's story. Simply Love is Anne Jewell's--and Sydnam Butler's, brother of Kit Butler in A Summer to Remember. (Note that the hardcover and the paperback editions have different covers) Simply Magic is Susanna Osbourne's story--and Viscount Whitleaf's, cousin of Lauren Butler in A Summer to Remember (two different covers again). Simply Perfect is Claudia Martin's story--and the Marquess of Attingsborough's, a character in One Night for Love and several other books. The Bedwyns make frequent appearances in the quartet--and Anne and Claudia first appeared in Slightly Scandalous.