Miss Claudia Martin has a top-notch school for girls, and it keeps her life full and busy. Even if she weren't firmly on the shelf at age 35, she wouldn't have the time or the inclination for any foolish entanglements. So when Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough (and heir to an earldom) appears on her doorstep in all his aristocratic splendor and dark handsomeness, she is less than interested.really.
Joseph Fawcitt, (the marquess) has an ulterior motive for telling his good friends the Viscount Whitleaf and his wife that he will gladly escort Miss Martin and two of her charges to London. But as interested as he might be in that fine lady's establishment, he becomes even more interested in the lady herself. Who would have thought a straight-laced, tight-lipped spinster could be so intriguing?
Mary Balogh has excelled herself with Simply Perfect, the fourth and final saga in her "Simply" series. Ms. Balogh has a true understanding of the era's history and customs, and a gift for creating characters with a very human mix of flaws to go with their strengths, and who are just as fascinating as they are exasperating. Claudia and Joseph are no exception. On the surface, she is stiff and severe, with all physical attractiveness ruthlessly subdued. He is the model for the good-humored but indolent and careless nobleman, content to live off the family name and fortune. Claudia is prone to snap judgments and she's preoccupied with social differences, while Joseph has allowed himself to be trapped by the status quo, between social necessity and what he truly wants. Because of some unhappy and unfair experiences in her youth, Claudia views all aristocrats with dislike and distrust. On the other hand, Joseph is so indecisive that, at age 35, he has allowed his father to arrange a match for him, even though he doesn't particularly like the girl. Meanwhile, Joseph and Claudia keep being drawn together, almost against their will, until they must admit their initial impressions and prejudices were wrong, even though they believe nothing can grow between them. Finally, they must choose whether to stay in their safe, familiar ruts, or step outside their comfort zones, face censure and opposition, and work for the happiness neither thought he or she would ever know.
Simply Perfect is simply delightful--a rich and thoughtful piece that rings true to its historical setting, and to human nature. For readers who know and like Mary Balogh's work, we get to catch up with Claudia's former teachers (from the first 3 books of this series), and with some of the Bedwyns-with some interesting developments! This story will work fine as a stand-alone title, but will be even more enjoyable for those who know the background. If you love Regency historicals, intriguing characters and relationship-building, and warm heart-felt romance, this is a must read! With Simply Perfect, Mary Balogh has delivered a beautiful work that has a permanent place of honor on my keeper shelf.
Set against the seductive backdrop of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh’s latest novel sweeps us into the sensual, enthralling world of an elite academy for young ladies. Here, amid music lessons and garden parties, whispered confessions and secret yearnings, one of the school’s teachers—headmistress Claudia Martin—will find her well-ordered world jolted by love when she meets a man who would make the perfect husband…for somebody else. Tall, dark, and exquisitely sensual, he is the epitome of male perfection. Not that Claudia Martin is looking for a lover. Or a husband. As owner and headmistress of Miss Martin’s School for Girls in Bath, she long ago resigned herself to a life without love. Until Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, arrives unannounced and tempts her to toss away a lifetime of propriety for an affair that can only lead to ruin. Joseph has his own reasons for seeking Claudia out. Instantly, irresistibly attracted to the dedicated teacher, he embarks on a plan of seduction that leaves them both yearning for more. But as heir to a prestigious dukedom, Joseph is expected to carry on his family’s legacy. And Claudia knows she has no place in his world. Now that world is about to be rocked by scandal. An arranged marriage, a secret that will shock the ton, and a man from Claudia’s past conspire to drive the lovers apart. But Joseph is determined to make Claudia his at any cost. Even if that means defying convention and breaking every rule for a love that is everything he has ever wanted—a love that is perfection itself… From the Hardcover edition.