Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride

Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride - Of the two, I definitely liked Lord Carew's Bride the most. Neither was an OMGWOW sort of read though. I'd give Dark Angel a 3 and Lord Carew's Bride a 4.Dark AngelMiss Jennifer Winwood is in town for her very first Season and positively vibrating with the excitement of it. Unlike other girls on their come out, though, she's not here to snag a husband. That was set for her five years ago, when she was 15, when her viscount father arranged her betrothal to a the heir to an earldom, Viscount Kersey. For five years she has constructed and worshipped a mental image of Kersey and the wonderful life they'll no doubt enjoy as a married couple. The joy of finally seeing Kersey again and having their betrothal made official is almost more than she can bear.Gabriel, the Earl of Thornhill, is recently returned to London after a long stay on the Continent with his stepmother. The conventional wisdom among the ton is that he had absconded with his stepmother after getting her pregnant, leaving his father to die of a broken heart, and then abandoning her in Europe when he tired of her. The truth is, of course, much different, and he's decided to get his revenge on his stepmother's faithless lover. Hearing that the villain is recently engaged, he sets out to break the engagement, hoping to embarrass Kersey in the process.All of this is laid out in the first few chapters. Balogh establishes Kersey as your stereotypical 80s and 90s movie villain early on. He's blond, blue eyed, drop-dead gorgeous and unfailingly charismatic. Unless you live under a rock, this description screams "sociopathic douchebag alert, DO NOT GO IN THE BASEMENT" to you. Nothing he says can be trusted, his motives are inherently suspect and so on.Unfortunately, Jennifer didn't get the memo. This being the Regency, she lacks HBO and Lifetime. She doesn't know that blond guys are invariably panty-invading villains. The story is now perched upon her ignorance and the reader must watch her idolize the villain, trusting every word out of his mouth, and play right into a disaster you can clearly see off in the distance. I found this profoundly uncomfortable and unpleasant to watch. I rather wished I was left a bit in the dark along with Jennifer so I could've been confused with her, rather than cringing on her behalf.Other than this quality, which may not bother other readers as much as it did me, it's a perfectly well-written book. The romance between Jennifer and Gabriel is drawn out slowly and organically through wonderful bits of dialog. The voice is pitch-perfect Regency throughout, and I loved watching the interplay between all the characters. The love was evident not only between Jennifer and Gabriel, but also between Jennifer and her poor cousin Samantha.If I didn't have to spend three quarters of the book watching Jennifer make an unwitting fool of herself, I'd have liked this much more than I did. As it was, I'd rate it a weak 3 star or maybe a 2.5. I did consider quitting it a few times.Lord Carew's BrideAfter her cousin Jennifer's fiance, Viscount Kersey, used her in a scheme that wounded her and and her cousin's feelings quite deeply, she's decided that the volatile nature of love is emphatically not for her. Six years after her London debut, and her disastrous run-in with Kersey, Samantha Newman is quite happily unmarried. Now visiting her cousin in the country, she decides to take a long walk to put some space between herself and the happy young family. She encounters a charming landscape artist named Hartley Wade when her walk leads her onto the property of the Marquess of Carew. Instantly she's at ease with him, falling effortlessly into easy conversation and lapsing into comfortable silences. Quickly they develop a friendship, meeting secretly in the afternoon to walk the marquess' lands and chat amiably.Hartley is a bit more than just the well-spoken, limping gardener she presumes him to be, as he's the Marquess of Carew himself. Surprised to find the stunningly beautiful woman recognizes neither his person nor his name, he plays along with her misperception. Crippled at a young age, leaving him with a twisted arm and a lame leg, he's wary of women pursuing him for his fortune alone. When Samantha seems as taken with him as he is with her, despite believing him a mere gardener, he can hardly believe his luck. Suddenly it seems he could have what he had always assumed could never be - a woman to love who loved him for who he was.This is a love at first sight story at its heart. Immediately upon meeting Samantha, Hartley acknowledges to himself that he's in love with her. Samantha clearly does as well, though she won't use that particular word herself. Balogh does a smashing job of showing their mutual attraction through their easy conversation, peaceful silences and shared thoughts. I immediately came away with the impression that they were old dear friends meeting one another for the first time. Having a hero be enthusiastic about finding a woman to love and comfortable to admit it to himself was a wonderful change of pace.I liked how Balogh stretched the story out on the characters insecurities without resorting to a Big Misunderstanding. Lord Kersey's reappearance upsets and confuses them both in different ways. While they both react poorly to the stresses, they do it in a way consistent with their personalities and their dynamic as a couple and grow closer as a result of it. Definitely a cute story about the fine line between love and friendship. I'd give it a 4, I think. It's good, but it's not amazing.