Miles Ripley, Earl of Severn has a problem...or three, in fact--his mother and two sisters. He loves them dearly, but they are about to visit a fourth problem upon him, if he doesn't take action quickly. Namely, they are determined to marry him off to Miss Frances Meighan, a beautiful young debutante. He'd rather slit his own throat first. Or, as he explains to his good friend Gerald, he'd rather find a suitably plain, quiet, unexceptional wife who will foil his loving family's plans, provide a buffer from match-making mamas, give him the necessary heir to his earldom, and not interfere with his life.
Abigail Gardiner is in dire straits. After telling her employer where he could put his roving hands (NOT on her, or her friend), she finds herself out of everything--a job, a home, and (she's afraid) out of luck. Her last chance, as she sees it, is to appeal to her distant relative, the Earl of Severn, for letters of reference so she might stand a chance of finding work. Little did she dream that the Earl would offer her a position in his household--as his wife! Now she just has to stay quiet, demure, and circumspect...God help her.
This is yet another example of veteran author Mary Balogh's ability to take a well-used plot and make it work, through her inimitable skill and style. Unfortunately, her characters' very...ordinariness, for lack of a better word, caused the book to be somewhat less than I'd hoped for. I found Miles charming and appealing, even endearing, but I really wanted him to be more forceful, and purposeful. Abby's stewing over her problems bordered on dithering at times, and I found her unwillingness to trust Miles with her secrets frustrating (and not in a good way). The characters just didn't leap off the page at me, as I'd grown used to with her "Slightly" and "Simply" series. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this is a reprint of a seventeen-year-old title, which may explain a lot--Ms. Balogh has certainly done a lot to develop her craft since she wrote this.
Fans of Mary Balogh will probably want to read this book, if for no other reason than to enjoy her prose and see her work from an earlier time. And, as far as I'm concerned, Mary Balogh on an off day is still better than many authors' best effort. An entertaining an easy read, The Ideal Wife may not be the ideal Regency novel, but it's surely worth the attention of Regency aficionados, and Balogh fans in particular.
Special Notes: Please note that this is a reissue of a title previously published as a Signet Regency in 1991.
In this classic tale, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh introduces a hero like no other: Miles Ripley, London’s most irresistible bachelor, who’s about to lose his heart to the last person he ever expected to love—his wife.
When Abigail Gardiner knocks at the door of Miles Ripley, Earl of Severn, the last thing she expects is a marriage proposal. Desperate, she’d come to this charismatic stranger’s home to plead for her future. Instead she shocks them both by saying yes. Her impulsive decision will have consequences neither she nor her new husband can foresee. For Miles has his own reasons for marrying her. And Abigail is harboring a secret of her own. As distrust gives way to desire . . . as, together, they give in to the pleasures of the marriage bed, a devastating scandal threatens their future. Now these two wary hearts will risk ruin and disgrace for a love that has changed them both forever—the kind all seek, but few ever find.