At Last Comes Love (Huxtable Series)

At Last Comes Love - Mary Balogh Hmmmm.... I'm still making up my mind about this book, because I've already started into book #4 "Seducing an Angel". And I'm already shaking my head, wondering how 3 of 4 Huxtables will end up with a less-than-desireable spouses -- at least, according to Society. These wonderful, good, innocent, loving people seem constantly involved in the most dramatic of soap-opera plots!Margaret (Meg or Maggie) is the eldest. She put aside her own wants and needs at the age of 17, when she promised her dear, dying papa that she would take care of her 3 siblings and see them through until they are of age. And so she did. Despite being quite a beauty with a voluptuous figure. Meg turned many male heads when her younger brother Steven was pronounced Earl of Merton. Suddenly, the family was swept from almost-poverty, where Meg had to count every penny possible, to untold riches AND a place in Society. Meg could have married many times over, if she'd only allowed herself to be courted. Instead, she worried over Katherine until her marriage, and Steven until he came of age.So when Katherine is settled, and Steven is of age, Meg realizes that she's 30 years old. She's always done what's expected of her -- or more like, what she's expected of herself. She's pushed down her own feelings and needs and wants in favor of her family, despite their trying to push her to think of herself. But at 30, Meg has decided that she wants to be married, and that she'll make it so during the very next Season. But she stumbles onto her one, lost love (Crispin Dew), and tells a lie that spirals into wedding a man she barely knows within 16 days time. {You see, Meg had fallen head-over-heels in love with Crispin, who was off to a career in the army. He'd wooed and apparently bedded her right before leaving for war, promising to write to her and to come back and make her his wife. Except that he never did; and 5-ish years ago, she discovered that he'd taken a wife in Spain.}The man that Meg/Maggie marries is Duncan Pennethorne, Earl of Sheringford, aka Sherry. Sherry is also 30 years old, and recently back in Town after a notorious scandal that he was part of 5 years ago. On the eve of his wedding, Sherry ran off with his married sister-in-law, leaving his bride virtually at the altar. Sherry and the sister-in-law (Lauren) lived 'in sin' for the past 5 years; Lauren died just 4 months ago. And Sherry discovered that his grandfather, the Marquess of Something, has cut off his (Sherry's) allowance and inheritance; that is, unless Sherry can marry a woman that his grandfather finds suitable before his grandfather's 80th birthday -- 16 days away.Of COURSE there's an entire backstory that takes forever to be completely revealed. And even when the smallest part of it is revealed, it's an ugly story that just gets uglier with each revelation. I was surprised at the ingenuity of the author during the full revelation. It seemed so out of place for a "romance" novel... but people truly do ugly things to one another, and this book drags you through it all until the bitter end. Except that, of course, all is well by the end... only the true villains are left to their bitterness.Forgive me for being so cynical. There is much to this book that is delightful and enjoyable. But it seemed a lot like Katherine's story "Then Comes Seduction" in that Margaret and Duncan barely knew one another before being married, and then had to embark on the CHOICE to court and woo one another and not to rely solely on their mutual physical attraction and good sex. To me, Margaret deserved so much more. Not that Duncan isn't truly a "good guy", who took the blame upon himself for so many things that he didn't do only to spare a lady and her secrets from the awful truth. It's just that, while Meg probably did need to assert herself and drop her predictable ways, it just seems so out-of-character for her to behave as she did. I wanted something different for Meg, something less scandalous and more light. In truth, I'd been hoping that Meg and Con would get together, and that the book would be about their figuring out how madly in love they'd been with each other for the past few years. (And yes, I wanted to find out Con's full story -- the truth about what happened to separate Con and Elliot.) But alas, none of that was to be. I did really like something that Duncan points out to Meg (or Maggie, as he calls her): That the two of them are too much alike -- that each knows how to love and how to give... but not how to be love and how to accept -- how to be vulnerable and risk. Each has retreated to his or her own strengths to mask or push down their true selves and their true feelings. And so, in one another, they truly start to find freedom to be themselves and to love. And because they have so much in common - such tenderness and sensitivity for others - it seems as if it won't take too long for them to have their happily-ever-after (HEA).EXCEPT it's never that easy, is it? A child is involved... and while Ms. Balogh gave us a clue before the wedding, it was such an obscure clue, who would ever pick up on it? And while Duncan does tell Maggie the truth about the child, he only reveals *most* of the truth. I really don't understand how or why not revealing all of it to her, certainly after she's met the child, would seem so... difficult for him to do. The ugliness has nothing to do with him; but we've passed so many of the possible Big Misunderstandings that could have held them back... and Duncan has been so forthright with everything else, we and Maggie assume that's all there is to the story. WHY Duncan would hold back the most important part is beyond me. But we had to have SOMETHING to separate our hero's and heroine's happiness, just when they were finding true love, didn't we?I can only give this book 3 stars. Sad, because I'm sure a lot of that has to do with my OWN wishes for what Meg's story would be. And I'm not at all sure that Ms. Balogh has done a disservice to any of her readers with the story that she chose to write. But I find myself wondering how the Bedwyns can choose mates that don't quite meet Society's standards, and yet not have all the same scandal attached to them as the Huxtables do. When you think about it, only Josh (Freya's husband) truly had a scandalous past. I guess I wasn't prepared for the Huxtable stories to be so full of ... scandal, angst, heartache... some things perhaps too real to be in a romance novel?