Dark Angel

Dark Angel - Mary Balogh Miss 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.