After reading A Summer to Remember, I plowed through the sequels — Mary Balogh’s Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous — in my usual series-in-a-gulp fashion. These novels tell the romantic fates of the six Bedwyn siblings, who appeared as minor characters in Summer.
Taken individually, any of these books would be decent enough (except for Slightly Married, which has unappealing characters in an unconvincing romance). The characters are distinct and generally interesting, the plots engaging enough not to read like pointless filler before the inevitable happy ending, the writing solid and unobtrusive, and they mostly stay true to the period flavor by having horrendously regressive gender roles and massively problematic views of class (which I applaud; I’m sick of historical novels with twentieth-century characters).
Reading them all at once, though, the writer’s tics started becoming a bit obtrusive. For one thing, more than half of these books involved fake marriages/engagements that (of course) turned into real ones later. As a single story, that’s fine (I don’t object much to the single use of story-variety amnesia, for instance); repeated once as a variation, well, okay. But over and over starts to get just slightly silly. Then there’s the waltzing, which for some reason is this huge major deal for each couple, along with swimming and horseback riding. I assume Balogh enjoys these activities a lot, but it was slightly distracting to have yet another character recognize how appealing their destined lover was while waltzing, or go swimming as a demonstration of their free-spiritedness.
Anyway, the net effect of reading the series in a chunk is that I think of Balogh as the romance equivalent of David Eddings, writing the same story over and over, with certain details that stay bizarrely the same each time, yet still delivering solid readable enjoyment, in a genre hackwork kinda way.
As a side note, one of the weird things about historical fiction is that it inevitably ends up as a shared world, a la the Marvel Universe. In this case, I was a bit taken aback when I realized that these books take place at the same time as the Horatio Hornblower novels — so while all these people are waltzing about getting married, Hornblower is off firing broadsides at the French. These two series have almost nothing in common, and have wildly dissimilar feels — it’s virtually impossible to picture Hornblower at a London ball — but it’s strangely compelling to think of them as describing different parts of the same world.