Mary Balogh starts a new quintet of romances this month with First Comes Marriage (Dell). Vanessa Huxtable Dew loves her siblings dearly, so much that she offers herself in her sister's stead when Elliott Wallace, Viscount Wingate plans to propose to her eldest sister, who is not in love with him but would feel obligated to agree in order to continue taking care of their family. After all, Vanessa has already been married once, she knows what to expect, she thinks. But Elliott, who came to the country to find her brother to let him know he'd inherited an unexpected title, knows her ideas of marriage may differ from his own. From the first time they meet at a Valentine's Day dance, Vanessa has irritated him, but he can't deny they also share a sparkling attraction that could make this marriage of convenience work out just fine. This pair is surrounded by her family, as well as a distant cousin who may or may not be the blackguard Elliott believes he is. The Huxtables have spent their life living simply in the country, with no expectation of having to move in different social circles, which means they have a lot of learning to do when young Stephen inherits the title of Earl of Merton. While the secondary cast is engaging as always in a Balogh romance, naturally, the best part is the developing emotions between Vanessa and her new spouse Elliott, who is as different from her first husband as it is possible to be. While she is decidedly not what he'd envisioned in a wife, Elliott cannot help but fall in love with Vanessa, just as readers will fall in love with him. I loved this story, and was sad to reach the end. The only thing that kept me from immediately rereading it was that I had the second installment in the series already on my desk and dove into it instead. I can't wait to read the rest of the very irresistible Huxtables. This one has earned four and a half of Cupid's five arrows. Balogh is always a keeper!
Until next time, happy reading!