Beyond the Sunrise by Mary Balogh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book, and ultimately in some ways I did. Others, not so much. As always Mary Balogh is an excellent writer. She did impressive research, though I have to say I skipped through a lot of the descriptions of the details of war preparations because that’s not why I generally read a romance novel. (Unless it’s by Diana Gabaldon, sorry. And then I have to be in the mood for a more anxiety-inducing read.)

On the one hand, I really loved Joana. The girl on the newest cover is beautiful but I was imagining Joana as more of a fiery Sophia Lauren. She ultimately was very likeable to me and I loved her toughness and her total bluntness when it came to sex. Her motivations and actions were not always as believable to me though. Misunderstandings and deceptions drive the plot and I had to speedread through some of it as it felt forced. They certainly bought the hero and heroine a lot of time to get to know one another better. But ultimately, Joana’s deceptions made Robert a lot less likeable. In the nineties maybe it was okay for a very promiscuous man to slut-shame a woman he thought had had more than one lover, but now it reads as hypocritical and gross. His relief at the end when he finds out she’s only slept with her dead husband a couple of times (and he liked young boys… it’s never made clear if that’s in a pedophilic way or if he was simply a gay man with young male lovers) is great for Joana because now he can go back to seeing her as more “unspoiled” but… yech.

It wasn’t a DNF for me like Whitney, My Love — Mary Balogh is still too good for that. She doesn’t allow Robert to be a hateable man. He remains fairly gentle with Joana even though he believes she’s betrayed him and her country, but I did lose track of the number of times he threatened to beat her (and then thankfully, did not do so).

Recommended for old-school romance readers who don’t mind books like WML, I guess.

I still love you, Mary! Forgive me!

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