September 9 ,s013
"You got to pick 'em up
Just to say hello" - Short People - Randy Newman
Mary Balogh is the queen of writing about normal, everyday stuff and making the humdrum
into a romance. The Arrangement, part of the Survivor Club series, is a slow moving, sweet romance with two Beta characters, Vincent and Sophia. There isn't much angst in this book and what little there is is quickly overcome by the tweetin' birds and flappin' butterflies. It's a lovely world. You would think with a blind hero there would be all kinds of despair and mood swings. But there isn't. Vincent is a pretty mellow kind of guy. His main problem, besides the eyes, is that he is being over-protected by his loving family. He is being suffocated by their affection and worry - so, he escapes to one of his country estates. Don't worry, he takes his loyal man-servant-friend with him. Once there his plan is to learn how to live without being smothered by his loved ones. There in the shadows is Sophia. Sophia is an invisible relative/companion of her horrible Aunt and Uncle. She is quiet; when she is in a room she is always overlooked. Her relatives are embarrassed by her presence, so any push by her to make her presence known would not be viewed very graciously by them. She even calls herself a mouse. Actually, she has adopted a mouse caricature as her signature on all of her drawings. By the way, her drawings are a secret passion.
Anyway, through some interesting missteps Vincent and Sophia are thrown together and married by chapter ten. They make a marriage of convenience, an arrangement, almost a business arrangement. This story then unfolds slowly, sort of gently meanders as these two people get to know each other. There isn't any throbbing passion, jealous fits, kidnappings, oh-woe-is-me pity parties. There is just some slow growing into better people by both Vincent and Sophia. Nothing seems to upset Vincent. He is so accepting of everything, of his disability and of all the changes Sophia launches for his own good. Sophia, on the other hand, has some big self-esteem problems, but her blossoming into a take-charge kind of gal is also done without too many roadblocks - smoothly. As I said before, this was a really gentle tale, almost too gentle. And, some of you may become bored with how this story just kind of weaves along - la -la -la.
One of the interesting aspects of this story was Ms. Balogh's approach to Vincent's blindness. The writing was fascinating because for once we the reader did not get any view from one of the main characters. We hear and smell what he does, but it's almost as if we are as blind as he is. We see what he sees, but not through his eyes. Vincent's character was very well done. I did have a few quibbles about Sophia. First of all, I had a hard time believing that someone with her self-esteem problem would adjust as quickly as she does. And then she's short. She's fairy-like, she's an elf, she's little, she's a sprite, she's a pixie...she's little, little, little. Yes, we get it! She's small! After a while this reminder of her size became almost as irritating as a gnat. When it was first mentioned, I thought, alright, she's diminutive, but it was mentioned so much that after a while it seemed as if her smallness was some kind of disorder. It was distracting.
Overall, I liked this book. However, if you are looking for an exciting tale, I don't think this one will work for you. This is a gentle Mary Balogh story about two people who solve all their problems and slowly fall in love. It's rather a lethargic romance tale...they just kind of mosey along. Sophia gets a cat, Vincent gets a dog and, Vincent is still blind at the end of the story.
Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality Rating: Warm/Hot