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New York Times bestselling author Mary Bologh has been a prolific novelist since she penned her first historical romance in 1983. That book, A Masked Deception was accepted and published by Signet in 1985 when it won a Romantic Times Award for Regency best new writer. Since then she has written close to one hundred novels and numerous novellas with her most famous being the New York Times bestselling Slightly series, which follows the always intriguing Bedwyn siblings, and the Simply series which follows four teachers at Miss Martins school for girls in Bath, England. As a result of her incredible writing career she has won many awards over the years including the Borders Group Bestselling Historical of the Year, several Waldenbooks Awards, two B. Dalton Awards, and a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards.
She was born Mary Jenkins in 1944 in postwar Swansea, Wales, UK, a town that had been heavily bombed and was still under rationing for a portion of her childhood. Though material possessions were few and life was sometimes difficult Mary had a generally idyllic childhood in part because of her active imagination. When her and her older sister, Moira, were young they had a collection of dolls they would always play with. It was in creating stories about these dolls that Mary first discovered her love of storytelling. She and Moira would fill notebooks with stories and talk about how they would become famous authors one day.
Before Mary Jenkins would become the famous author, Mary Balogh she decided to become a teacher as that was a practical goal. Upon graduation from university she accepted a two year teaching contract in a small prairie town in Saskathchewan, Canada. Halfway through her contract she met her husband Robert Balogh. They settled into the town of Kipling, Saskathchewan where Mary continued to work as a teacher eventually working up to the level of principal. They have three children Jacueline, Christopher, and Sian, five grandchildren, Matthew, Shianne, Jayden, Cash, and Christo, and two great grandchildren, Mia and Melody.
During Mary’s early marriage and young motherhood she was a busy woman working full time as a teacher, and devoted mother and wife but she always held on to the dream of being an author in the back of her mind. When she first read a Georgette Heyer novel, which are well known Regency novels, she was enchanted and transported back in time. It was at that point she knew that when she became a writer it would be the romance and intrigue of Regency England that she wanted to write about. She finally had her chance to start writing when Sian, her youngest child, was six years old. It wasn’t always easy trying to fit writing a novel in between teaching and the general duties that come with being a wife and mother but she managed to write A Masked Deception by hand at her dining room table.
With A Masked Deception Mary Bologh did an amazing job at bringing the characters to life, creating a version of Regency England that could easily have been taken from a day in the life of Jane Austen. It’s a story full of intrigue as the seventh Earl of Brampton has an illicit affair with a passionate woman he meets at a masquerade ball. His affair with her is a means of escape from Margaret Wells, the seemingly boring wife that he was forced to marry. Margaret Wells wears a mask to deceive her husband into falling for her persona as the passionate woman on the dance floor. Following the emotional upheavals as these characters find their way through social customs of the early 1800’s while trying to follow their hearts and own desires is an enchanting experience and it’s clear why A Masked Deception won the award it did and is still a popular book.
One thing that Balogh does very well is create characters that people can relate to. Though the books take place in a time period that is so different from modern times. Regency England can sometimes be thought of as a time of rigid social structure and extreme excess on part of the aristocrats but Bologh manages to create the less than ladylike characters and turn them into heroines that we relate to and root for. Throughout Balogh’s books there are courtesans, and fallen or otherwise ruined women alongside the traditional aristocrats that commonly grace historical fiction of this time period.
This juxtaposition of characters can best be seen in her Slightly series, which follows the six wealthy Bedwyn brothers and sisters. Though they are very wealthy they are all undoubtedly flawed, but only in the fact that they are human like the rest of us. Not only are they human but they fall in love with unlikely characters throughout the series through a number of interesting events. In the very first book of the series, Slightly Married, the Bedwyn getting married is Aidan, the second son, who gets married after making a promise to a dear friend that was on his death bed. The woman he marries is not only very independent and in no need of protection but she lives in an estate where she cares for orphans and other down on their luck types of people. It’s characters like that, that ultimately draw readers in and keep them coming back for more. Bologh manages to consistently create stories that are wholly unique despite taking place in an era that is written about extensively.
She also does a fantastic job at intertwining the lives of her characters throughout her different novels, making it feel as if these are historical documents rather than the stories of a truly great imagination. The Slightly series is clearly a Bedwyn saga with each sibling having their own novel devoted entirely to them but when reading through other novels of hers such as A Summer to Remember the Bedwyns, along with other supporting characters can be found in the background as supporting characters. This type of imaginative story weaving makes it impossible to not want to read every novel Bologh has published.
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