Friday, March 16, 2007

Dancing with Clara – Mary Balogh

I hardly ever reread books, not because I don’t feel like it but because the TBR pile is more of a TBR mountain by now and I made it a resolution to read mostly those books.
However I couldn’t resist picking up Dancing With Clara when the opportunity arised. I enjoyed it as much, if not more, than when I first read it. Why? Maybe because this the ultimate story of a rogue being redeemed by loving a good woman.

Freddie Sullivan has left for Bath in shame after having attempted to compromise his cousin – a rich heiress – so he could pay off his debts. In Bath he woos Clara Danford, a young and very rich lady who is crippled and uses a wheel chair for that same reason.

Freddie and Clara marry and while he tries to act like a man in love, she is fully aware of why he married her, she agreed for her own reasons – she was lonely and he was beautiful. They spend a week honeymooning in their country estate and things proceed rather well till Clara tells Freddie he doesn’t need to pretend he is in love with her. With is pride hurt he removes himself to London.

This could be just another story about a wastrel who marries money and continues on a life of dissipation but it’s not. And it’s not because Balogh describes very well rounded and complex characters. Freddie has a lot of faults, he gambles and visits brothels while away from his wife but he doesn’t forget her or what might make her happy. That is why he searches for the doctor to see if she can walk again, and why he takes her to the theatre. But he is still hurt and unable to forgive himself of what he did in the previous book (see Courting Julia). And the more he cares for Clara the more unworthy he feels. This is an angst ridden story with some really dark moments and in the end we are not presented with a typical happy end. Freddie will continue to try to be a better person and Clara’s forgiveness is what keeps him in the right path.

I realise this review is mostly about Freddie but I think him and his growth during the book are really what this story is about. Despite his faults he tried to bring joy to a crippled and lonely woman and fell in love with her in the process. Maybe it isn’t such an easy story to like but I certainly found it much more interesting than just being presented with lighter characters and easier solutions. This seemed somehow much more real.

An A+! And can someone please tell Mrs Balogh’s publisher these books should be reprinted!!


  1. My library only has this one, but no Courting Julia. Should I track down Courting Julia first, or does this one stand alone sufficiently?

  2. Oh I think you can read this one without reading CJ first. It is explained, as the story unfolds, what happened previously. Now I'll be looking forward to your comments ;-)

  3. I too loved "dancing with Clara" and, it is one of my top favorites Balogh :)
    Now that I am very familiar with Mary Balogh's writing style it's not that easy to find new and interesting features in a book. But here we had a really plain heroine, almost close to ugliness. I mean, you can find *handsome* heroines or plain ones with beautiful hair or beautiful eyes, but there is nothing special with this heroine. She is just plain and knows it. But you like her. Not a *sorry for myself* heroine. And also a curageous and intelligent woman. I didn't get many times to see a heroine just dealing with facts while making a decision. And I liked that in her. From the beginning she knows that Freedie marries her for money. And she knows he will continue to gamble and he won't remain faithfull. She doesen't rise high expectations and most important, she doesen't lie to herself. And the way she deals with her handicap is very real and the steps into healing were quite believable. (for example, I had a little problem with the way Mrs. Balogh deals with Emily's handicap in "Silent melody", but that's another story :))

    Clara was a great heroine, but yes, I also think the book was more about Freddie. And the -rake redemption- theme was handled very well.
    From the beginning Freddie is not a nice person. But you get many insights in his thoughts, so you understand him, and like him, despite his flaws. He really was a great character, and no matter what the title sais, he made the book.

    And I didn't read "Courting Julia" first either, actually my opinion is that Julia is not as good as Clara. Plus Julia deals with a classic theme, Clara is more special, more intersting :)

  4. Thank you for the post Ioana I think you summed it up pretty good. :-)


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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