Simply Magic (Simply Quartet Series #3)

Simply Magic (Simply Quartet Series #3)

by Mary Balogh

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On a splendid August afternoon Susanna Osbourne is introduced to the most handsome man she has ever seen . . . and instantly feels the icy chill of recognition. Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, is utterly charming—and seemingly unaware that they have met before. With his knowing smile and seductive gaze, Peter acts the rake; but he stirs something in Susanna she has never felt before, a yearning that both frightens and dazzles her. Instantly she knows: this brash nobleman poses a threat to her heart . . . and to the secrets she guards so desperately.

From the moment they meet, Peter is drawn to Susanna’s independence, dazzled by her sharp wit—he simply must have her. But the more he pursues, the more Susanna withdraws . . . until a sensual game of thrust-and-parry culminates in a glorious afternoon of passion. Now more determined than ever to keep her by his side, Peter begins to suspect that a tragic history still haunts Susanna. And as he moves closer to the truth, Peter is certain of one thing: he will defy the mysteries of her past for a future with this exquisite creature—all Susanna must do is trust him with the most precious secret of all. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440241980
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/26/2008
Series: Simply Quartet Series , #3
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 190,090
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man’s Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Magic, Simply Love, and Simply Unforgettable, the first three books in her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"Hmm." Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf, frowned at the letter he had been reading as he folded it and set it down beside his breakfast plate.

John Raycroft, seated at the opposite end of the table, lowered the morning paper from in front of his face and raised his eyebrows.

"Bad news?"

Peter sighed audibly.

"I have been really looking forward to going home," he said, "despite the fact that I have enjoyed the last couple of weeks here with you and your family and hate to drag myself away when the whole neighborhood has been so hospitable. I have been actually eager to go at last, dash it all. But I made the mistake of letting my mother know my intention, and she has planned a grand welcome home. She has invited a houseful of guests to stay for a few weeks, including a Miss Rose Larchwell, whoever the devil she may be. I have never heard of her. Have you? I tell you, Raycroft, this is no laughing matter."

But his protest came too late. John Raycroft was already chuckling as he set down the paper and gave his full attention to his friend. They had the room to themselves, the rest of the family having breakfasted earlier while the two of them were still out riding.

"Clearly your mother is eager to marry you off," John said. "It is hardly surprising, Whitleaf, when you are her only son and in the wrong half of your twenties."

"I am only twenty-six," Peter protested, frowning again.

"And five years older than you were the last time your mother tried something similar–and failed," Raycroft reminded him, still grinning. "Doubtless she thinks it is high time she tried again. But you can always say no–as you did last time."

"Hmm," Peter said again, not sharing his friend's amusement. That was an episode in his life that had been far from funny. He had outraged the ton, which collectively believed that he had come far too close to betrothing himself to Bertha Grantham to withdraw honorably, even though no formal announcement had yet been made. And he had delighted the younger male members of the beau monde, who had thought him one devil of a fine fellow for thumbing his nose at the polite world by crying off from a leg shackle at the last possible moment.

Dash it, it had not been funny at all. He had been at the tender age of twenty-one, innocent as a babe in arms, and cheerfully proceeding along the path through life his family and guardians had mapped out for him. Good God, he had even fallen dutifully in love with Bertha because it was expected of him. He had not even realized he possessed such a thing as a backbone until shock had caused him to flex it and put an end to that almost-engagement in a damnably gauche and public manner. It had been a very raw and painful backbone for a long time after that, though he had flexed it again only an hour or so later by sending his uncles–and former guardians–packing with the declaration that since he had reached his majority he did not need them any longer, thank you very much. Though he was not at all sure he had thanked them.

"The thing is," he said, "that the girl's hopes have possibly been raised, or her mama's anyway–not to mention her father's and her sisters' and brothers' and grandparents' and cousins'. Lord!"

"Perhaps," John Raycroft said, "you will like her, Whitleaf. Perhaps she will live up to her name."

Peter grimaced. "I probably will," he agreed. "I like women in general. But that is not the point, is it? I don't intend marrying her–or anyone else not of my own choosing–even if she is as lovely as a thousand roses combined. And so I will be in the impossible situation of having to be courteous and amiable to her without giving the impression that I am courting her. And yet everyone else at this infernal house party will know very well why she has been invited–my mother will see to that. I tell you, Raycroft, you can wipe that grin off your face anytime you like."

John Raycroft laughed again as he tossed his napkin on top of the newspaper.

"My deepest commiserations, old chap," he said. "It is a nasty affliction to be rich and titled and eligible–and to have been known since the tender age of twenty-one as a breaker of hearts. That fact only adds to your attractions, of course, at least as far as the gentler sex is concerned. But you are going to have to marry sooner or later. It is one of the obligations of your rank. Why not sooner?"

"But why not later?" Peter said hastily, picking up his knife and fork and tucking into what remained of his eggs and ham. "I am not like you, Raycroft. I cannot look upon a woman across a crowded ballroom one evening, recognize her as the one and only love of my life, court her devotedly to the exclusion of all others for a whole year, and then be content to betroth myself to her and wait for another year while she gallivants off to the ends of Europe."

"To Vienna to be precise," his friend said. "With her parents, who planned the treat for her aeons ago. And not for a full year, Whitleaf. They will be back next spring. We will be married before the summer is out. And one of these days you will know why I would wait three times as long if I had to. Your problem is that you are undiscriminating. You only have to look at a woman to fall in love with her. You fall in love with everyone–and therefore with no one."

"There is safety in numbers." Peter grinned reluctantly. "But I say, Raycroft–I do not exactly fall in love with women, you know. I just like them."

He did too–perhaps fortunately. It was only love or any other deep commitment that he had cried off. But his liking for women–and for all people, come to that–had saved him from moving from babe in arms to cynic in the course of one ghastly day.

His friend shook his head.

"What are you going to do, then?" he asked, nodding in the direction of the letter. "Go home and land slap in the middle of your mother's matchmaking party or stay here at Hareford House? Why not change your mind about leaving tomorrow and stay for the full month after all? Write and tell your mama that I was devilish disappointed when I heard you were planning to cut your visit short. Tell her my mother was brokenhearted. Tell her you feel obliged to stay for the village assembly the week after next. None of those facts would be an outright lie. In fact, the neighborhood will probably go into deep mourning if you do not make an appearance at the assembly. It might be canceled for lack of interest. It is a good thing I am betrothed to Alice and secure in her affections. Being with you is enough to plunge any unattached fellow into mortal gloom. No other male exists for the ladies when you are within a ten-mile radius."

Peter laughed–though he was still not really feeling amused.

The thing was that after five years of floundering around with only his own very limited wisdom to guide him, leading meanwhile the empty, aimless existence of a typical young gentleman about town, he had finally made a few firm decisions about his future.

It was time to go home to Sidley Park. For five years he had made only brief visits there before returning to his life in London or Brighton or at one of the spas.

It was time to take charge of his life and his estate and the responsibilities that went with his rank.

It was time, in other words, to grow up and be the man he had been educated to be–and actually the man he had always dreamed of being, even if the dream had been interrupted for rather too long. He had grown up loving Sidley and the knowledge that it was his and had been since the death of his father when he was three.

Aimless pleasure was not really for him, he had decided during the Season in London this year. Neither were wild oats, though he had sown a few. He had wasted five years of his life. Though they had not been wholly wasted, he supposed. He had learned to stand on his own feet even if he was still not as firm on them as he hoped to be. And he had learned to filter through everything he had been taught by a loving mother and five sisters, and by a host of strict guardians, to decide what was important and what was to be permanently rejected.

They had let him down badly five years ago, those guardians–not to mention his mother. But basically, he had come to realize, they had given him a sound upbringing. It was time to stop feeling sorry for himself and punishing himself as well as them–it was time to become the person he wanted to be. No one else could do that but him after all.

It had felt enormously satisfying to put himself finally in charge of his own life.

Of course, he had promised to spend a month at Hareford House with Raycroft after the Season was over, and he would honor that promise, he had decided, and go home afterward. But the closeness of the Raycroft family, the warmth of their dealings with one another and with their friends and neighbors, had only strengthened his resolve and his yearning finally to be master of his own home. And so he had decided to cut short his visit and go home to Sidley Park after only two weeks. It was already late August and the harvest would be ready soon. He longed to be home for it this year and to stay home.

Now his mother's letter had put a dent in his dreams. It appalled him that she appeared to have been so little affected by the events of five years ago. Or perhaps she was merely trying to make amends in the only way she knew how. It was her dream to see him settled in life with a wife and a few children in the nursery.

They were interrupted before he could reply to Raycroft's invitation by the arrival in the breakfast parlor of Miss Rosamond Raycroft, John's young sister, who was looking rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed and remarkably pretty after an hour spent out in the garden gathering flowers with her mama. Peter looked at her with affectionate appreciation as she kissed her brother's cheek and then turned a deliberately pouting face toward him. He stood to draw back a chair for her.

"I am quite out of charity with you," she said as she took the seat. "You might have agreed to stay a little longer."

"You break my heart," Peter said, resuming his own place. "But I am not at all out of charity with you. I have something to beg of you, in fact, since you are dazzling my eyes with your beauty and would have robbed me of appetite if I had not already eaten. I humbly beg you, Miss Raycroft, to reserve the opening set at the coming assembly for me."

The mock pout disappeared, to be replaced with a look of youthful eagerness. "You are staying after all?" she asked him. "For the assembly?"

"How can I resist?" He set his right hand over his heart and regarded her soulfully. "You ought not to have gone out into the sunshine and fresh air this morning and improved upon your already perfect complexion. You ought to have appeared here pale and wan and dressed in your oldest rags. Ah, but even then I fear I would have found the sight of you irresistible."

She laughed.

"Oh, you are staying," she said. "And I am dressed in my oldest rags, silly. You are staying. Oh, I knew you were just teasing when you insisted that you must leave tomorrow. I shall dance with you–of course I shall. You would not know how very few young gentlemen ever attend the assemblies, Lord Whitleaf. And even many of the ones who do attend play cards all evening or merely stand about watching as if it would kill them to dance."

"It probably would, Ros," her brother said. "It is a strenuous thing, dancing."

"The Calverts will positively expire of envy when they know that I have already been engaged for the opening set, and by no less a person than Viscount Whitleaf," Miss Raycroft continued, clapping her hands together. "I shall tell them this morning. I promised to go over there so that we can all go out walking together. You really ought to ask Gertrude for the opening set, John. You know Mama and Mrs. Calvert will expect it even if you are betrothed to Alice Hickmore. And Gertrude will be relieved. If she has promised to dance it with you, she will not be able to dance it with Mr. Finn, who was born with two left feet, both of them overlarge, the poor gentleman."

Peter grinned.

"I'll come with you and ask her now," John said cheerfully. "Finn is a farmer and a dashed good one too, Ros. And he could shoot a wren between the eyes at a hundred paces. One cannot expect him to be an accomplished dancer too."

"Shoot a wren?" Miss Raycroft paused with her hand stretched toward the toast rack and looked stricken. "What a horrid idea. I certainly hope he does not ask me to dance."

"It was merely a figurative way of speaking," her brother told her. "What would be the use of shooting wrens? Nobody would eat them anyway."

"Nobody would shoot a wren for any reason at all," Peter assured the girl as he got to his feet. "They are gentle, beautiful birds. I shall accompany you on the walk too, if I may, Miss Raycroft. The weather and the countryside alone would tempt me, but even if it were raining and cold and blowing a gale, the company would be quite irresistible."

She acknowledged the blatant flattery with a bright smile and eyes that still twinkled. She was seventeen years old, not yet officially "out," and she knew as well as anyone that he was not seriously smitten with her charms–or with anyone else's of her acquaintance for that matter. He would not have dared flatter and flirt with her if there were any likelihood that she might misunderstand–her brother was his closest friend and he was staying in their parents' home.

"I shall go up and change my clothes and wash my hands and face," she said, getting to her feet again, the toast forgotten. "I shall be ready in fifteen minutes."

"Make it ten, Ros," her brother said with a sigh. "You look perfectly decent to me as you are."

Peter, meeting her pained glance, winked at her.

"Go and improve further upon perfection if it is possible," he said. "We will wait for you even if you take twenty minutes."

It seemed, he thought ruefully, that his decision had been made. He was not going home after all. Not yet, anyway.

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Simply Magic 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Snoozbunny More than 1 year ago
In the last three months I have read as many of Mary Balogh's books as I am able to find. Her characters are fully formed, endearing, or hated. The plots have real romance not inane silliness. The settings are historically accurate, and so appealing that I wish I could view photographs. I have read the entire 'slightly' series, all of the 'simple series', and am anticipating the newest book to be published in May 2009. Since I have kept all of the books so far, obviously they will become part of my permanent library along with Judith McNaught and Catherine Coulter. Read any of Ms. Balogh's books - you won't be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Simply Magic' is a dramatic and sensual story about two individuals who fall in love, only to discover their love is complicated by a disturbing interwoven past. Peter Edgeworth, Viscount Whitleaf has been a perfect gentleman of the ton, while avoiding all of the eligible marriageable young ladies his mother has put in his path. It is on a walking path on the estate of a friend that he meets the beautiful and independent school teacher Susanna Osbourne, saying to himself, 'There she is.' Struggling with unrecognized love at first site, no matter how much Peter attempts to avoid Susanna, he constantly finds himself drawn to her. They quickly become close friends, walking the estate paths and discussing many topics, while at the same time fighting a growing desire for each other. The innocent Susanna realizes as a viscount there can be no future with Peter, but she is also saddened as he does not seem to recognize her from the past as a young girl when she lived at a nearby estate where her father was a steward. But many do not recognize the beautiful Susanna as the young twelve year old girl who suddenly disappeared after the sudden suicide of her father. She has lived with the pain of this secret for years, growing in beauty and intelligence as a teacher at the very school she attended as a charity pupil, due to the kindness of none other than one of the famous Bedwyn family. Having a holiday with friends is a delightful vacation that becomes a bit disconcerting and she finds herself counting the limited days she can spend with Peter. When friendship turns to desire that builds to an intense afternoon of passion, Peter takes her innocence. When he offers carte blanche instead of marriage, Susanna runs back to her school, but finds she cannot run from her heart. Simon misses his dear friend and realizing his mistake and that he loves Susanna, he creates a plan to earn back her friendship and love. But soon their intertwined intense past is revealed. Will their love be strong enough to overcome the shocking revelations? There is nothing simple about Mary Balogh's 'Simply' Series. Once again she has proven that she is the modern Jane Austen in this beautiful and heartwarming tale. For Regency romance fans, Ms. Balogh has the talent to take readers back to the Regency Period, making them feel they are there and intimately involved with the characters. Each book builds from previous stories and dearly loved characters return to be interwoven with new. Simply Magic is a truly pleasurable read like many of the other Balogh Regencies. A romance fan's delight would be a long vacation alone with a stack of Balogh Regencies reading them in order, enjoying an arm chair travel back in time to the Regency period!
lollypop917 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really didn't care for this story. It was the second Mary Balogh I've listened to and will be the last. This story was trying to be a lot of things and failed in every way. The interactions between Susanna Osbourne and Peter Edgeworth are really just plain silly. The love scenes fall short and they don't make you pine for the couple to get together. Peter is, for lack of a better word, a wuss who doesn't grow a backbone till the very end of the novel. I really didn't care for the too proud Susanna either regardless of her tragic past. There was no depth to the story and everything was too highly predictable. Overall I would recommend you not waste your time.
lrobe190 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Haunted by tragedy, fiery Susanna Osbourne is determined to keep her distance from all men, including handsome Peter Edgeworth, an aristocrat who is determined to overcome the secrets of the past to build a new future with her.This is the third in Balogh's Simply series, featuring teachers from Miss Martin's School for girls. As always, this is a delightful Regency Romance, but not quite as frivolous as some of the genre.
Anniik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Simply Magic" is the third book in Mary Balogh's "Simply" Quartet. Following "Simply Love" - one of the best romance novels I have ever read - was a difficult thing to do, but this book did an admirable job. While not as emotionally intense as that book, this book certainly has its own charms. Fans of Mary Balogh will recognize Peter, Viscount Whitleaf, as Lauren Butler nee Edgeworth's cousin from "A Summer to Remember." Peter is an utterly charming character. Gentle, kind, and almost obsessed with making other people happy, he comes across as a rather shallow rake until Susanna comes to know him better and finds out that things are not always as they seem. Susanna's journey through this book comes with revelations of and confontrations with her past - both which draw her closer to Peter and push her apart. But the best part of this book is how the relationship between Peter and Susanna is allowed to grow - it is not love at first sight, but a strong friendship (with attraction, of course) that is allowed to grow and blossom into love. A beautiful book, and I look forward to the conclusion of this series!
missk2u on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
had a hard time getting into this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I own this book I hard cover and have read it 3-4 times. I purchased it in nook format so I could read again. I absolutely love this story and the characters are some of my favorites
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read another book by the author and enjoyed it very much. This book dragged on and on. Very contrived and boring.
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