Monday, November 22, 2010

The Secret Pearl - Mary Balogh


Fleur. That was her middle name. The name she told the man to whom she sold herself out of desperate want. But her full name was Isabella Fleur Bradshaw, gently born and brutally expelled from her sheltered life. His name was Adam Kent, Duke of Ridgeway, the wealthiest lord in England, but scarred in war, bitterly betrayed in marriage.

She feared his overpowering physical passion. He fought to keep from loving her. They each had so much to teach each other and so much to learn... 'n a drama of desire played out on a vast estate - where a man and a woman come closer and closer to their moment of heart-pounding truth...

The Secret Pearl is another book where Mrs. Balogh uses a different, and for many authors and readers, forbidden theme as a plot device. At the beginning of the story, the heroine decides to work as a prostitute! This is not a spoiler as it does happen in the first pages. The hero is leaving the theatre one night when he sees a prostitute in the shadows, he asks her her price and he takes to an inn where the consummate the act. However she touches him in some way and realising she had been a virgin and seems starving he buys her dinner.

Fleur, our heroine, decided on prostitution as a last resort to feed herself and pay her bills but she had no idea how she would feel about it afterwards. After spending a few days closeted in her room she decides to look for a job again. Meanwhile, the hero, the Duke of Ridgeway has spent some time thinking on the young prostitute he engaged for the night, he realises that she has refined manners and is probably just down on her luck and decides to send his secretary to the job agencies to see if he finds someone by the name of Fleur looking for work. He does and that is how Fleur, quite unexpectedly finds herself as the new governess of the Duke's daughter.

Fleur has no idea who hired her. She is immediately sent to the country, where the child and the Duchess are, and she applies herself to her new duties. When the Duke finally decides to visit she is shocked and scared when she recognises him. She has to live side by side with the man who knows her shame and hurt her and he seems to want some kind of relationship with her. Adam, the Duke, is trapped in an unhappy marriage and now he feels responsible for the young woman he ended up ruining and hurting without meaning to, he wants to give her a chance in their world again but she has a natural distrust of him that is not easy to overcome.

Besides this very bad start both Adam and Fleur have situation and people in their past who trouble them. This accounts for some of their choices and behaviours. Adam seems cold and remote but you see that he really loves his daughter and that he tries to be fair in all his dealings with people. Fleur is easier to like although for a time you just don't realise what made her act like she did. Although this may seem like a very convoluted story the fact is that Ms Balogh makes it all work. And I appreciated the happy ending all the more because it seemed so difficult to reach.

I suppose some readers might not like the prostitution thing and the adultery associated with the first scene but, if you can overlook that, this is an intense, poignant story where two people find love. It's not easy to read, it is emotional and sometime heart wrenching but I found it a very worthy read!

Grade: 4.5/5

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