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The first book in a four book series detailing the changed lives of the four Huxtable siblings, First Comes Marriage did not have an auspicious beginning.  The prologue left me with questions that were unanswered for a about a quarter of the book. I began to wonder where Ms. Balogh was taking me.  I need not have worried at all.

The story of Vanessa Huxtable Dew and Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate is first and foremost a historical romance, but a  truly atypical one. Viscount Lyngate comes to Throckmorton on a mission. He has found the legitimate heir to the deceased Jonathan Huxtable, Earl of Merton,  his 16 year old cousin and ward, who had Down’s syndrome and died an early and peaceful death. That heir is Stephen Huxtable, Vanessa’s brother.

Faced with this new found inheritance, the Huxtable family, Margaret the eldest, Vanessa, a recent widow and Katherine, the youngest, accompany Stephen and Viscount Lyngate to Warren Hall, seat of the Earl of Merton, where they all begin their education in the ways of Society.

Elliot has a problem.  As Stephen’s appointed guardian, he has his three unmarried sisters to present to Society. As an unmarried man, he can not do it himself and no one is volunteering to help him.  He decides that the best solution to this dilemma would be to marry Margaret and have her supervise the come-outs of her sisters. But both Vanessa and Margaret have other ideas. Vanessa “sacrificies” herself to save her sister from the unwelcome marriage. And for some inexplicable reason not even apparent to Elliot at the time, since their relationship is anything but amicable, he agrees to marry her instead. The rest, as we say, is history.

The story has very few moments of intrigue to detract from the real purpose; watching Vanessa and Elliot fall in love. There is Con Huxtable, Jonathan’s elder brother who does not inherit the title of Earl of Merton on a technicality, to mix things up a bit with his cousin Elliot. But for the most part, this is the story of two people who find that love can be found when and where it’s least expected.

Mary Balogh writes with a wonderful attention to detail and describes emotional moments (and there are quite a few in this book) so perfectly that I wanted to hand the characters a handkerchief myself when the need arose. I didn’t want it to end, and luckily, there are three more stories available. Katherine’s is next, in Then Comes Seduction. Margaret’s follows, called  At Last Comes Love. Both of these are now available in paperback. Stephen’s story, Seducing an Angel, will be available in hardcover in June, 2009. They are already in my queue.

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