Simply Perfect

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Overview

Against the seductive backdrop of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh sweeps us into the sensual, enthralling world of four teachers at an elite academy for young ladies.

As headmistress of Miss Martin’s School for Girls in Bath, Claudia Martin long ago resigned herself to a life without love. Until Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, arrives unannounced and tempts her to toss away a lifetime of propriety for an affair that can only lead to ruin, ...

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Overview

Against the seductive backdrop of Regency England, New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh sweeps us into the sensual, enthralling world of four teachers at an elite academy for young ladies.

As headmistress of Miss Martin’s School for Girls in Bath, Claudia Martin long ago resigned herself to a life without love. Until Joseph, Marquess of Attingsborough, arrives unannounced and tempts her to toss away a lifetime of propriety for an affair that can only lead to ruin, embarking on a plan of seduction that leaves them both yearning for more. But Claudia knows she has no place in Joseph’s aristocratic world. And now that world is about to be rocked by scanda.…An arranged marriage, a secret that will shock the ton, and a man from Claudia’s past conspire to drive the lovers apart. But Joseph is determined to make Claudia his at any cost—even if that means breaking every rule for a love that is everything he has ever wanted.…

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Balogh's lovely Regency series centering on Miss Martin's School for Girls closes with the story of founder and headmistress Claudia Martin, an "aging spinster" past 30 who does not see marriage in her future. Two former teachers have recently made titled matches, however, and one of them sends Joseph, marquess of Attingsborough, to the school, along with his good looks, friendly manner and offer of a carriage to London. His title puts Claudia off; she distrusts his apparent interest in her school; his near-engagement to Lord Balderston's daughter, the icily perfect Portia Hunt, makes him unavailable. For his part, Joseph, at 35, can no longer put off the need for a male heir. He is resigned to the match, but there is a very delicate matter that he needs to resolve beforehand, with Miss Martin's aid required to safeguard his secret and his reputation. Joseph's heart isn't in the subterfuge, however, and as social pressures come to bear, both he and Claudia are forced to reexamine their priorities. Balogh has a particular gift for infusing the Regency romance with complex and engaging characters in challenging situations that move beyond the obvious. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
School Library Journal

Falling in love with the heir to a dukedom is the last thing practical, compassionate headmistress Claudia Martin has in mind when she agrees to take her charity students to spend part of the summer at a country estate. But fate has a way of shaking things up, and as Claudia and Joseph, the Marquess of Attingsborough, are thrown together, a wary friendship and respect expand into a love that for all its passion seems doomed from the start. Class lines are clearly drawn in this emotionally rich romance that pits a pair of beautifully delineated, appropriately conflicted protagonists against the snobbish rigidity of the social structure of the times, making the ultimate resolution to their dilemma all the sweeter. Familiar characters from earlier books add charm and a few surprises to the fourth story in Balogh's popular Miss Martin's School for Girls titles. Balogh was raised in Wales and now lives in Canada.


—Kristin Ramsdell

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
With her signature exquisite sense of characterization and subtle wit, Balogh brings her sweetly sensual, thoroughly romantic Simply quartet to a truly triumphant conclusion.”—Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385338240
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/25/2008
  • Series: Simply Quartet Series , #4
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.17 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Balough 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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Simply Perfect


By Mary Balogh

Delacorte Press

Copyright © 2008 Mary Balogh
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385338240

Chapter One


Claudia Martin had already had a hard day at school.

First Mademoiselle Pierre, one of the nonresident teachers, had sent a messenger just before breakfast with the news that she was indisposed with a migraine headache and would be unable to come to school, and Claudia, as both owner and headmistress, had been obliged to conduct most of the French and music classes in addition to her own subjects. French was no great problem; music was more of a challenge. Worse, the account books, which she had intended to bring up to date during her spare classes today, remained undone, with days fast running out in which to get accomplished all the myriad tasks that needed doing.

Then just before the noonday meal, when classes were over for the morning and discipline was at its slackest, Paula Hern had decided that she objected to the way Molly Wiggins looked at her and voiced her displeasure publicly and eloquently. And since Paula's father was a successful businessman and as rich as Croesus and she put on airs accordingly while Molly was the youngest—and most timid—of the charity girls and did not even know who her father was, then of course Agnes Ryde had felt obliged to jump into the fray in vigorous defense of the downtrodden, her Cockney accent returning withear-jarring clarity. Claudia had been forced to deal with the matter and extract more-or-less sincere apologies from all sides and mete out suitable punishments to all except the more-or-less innocent Molly.

Then, an hour later, just when Miss Walton had been about to step outdoors with the junior class en route to Bath Abbey, where she had intended to give an informal lesson in art and architecture, the heavens had opened in a downpour to end downpours and there had been all the fuss of finding the girls somewhere else to go within the school and something else to do. Not that that had been Claudia's problem, but she had been made annoyingly aware of the girls' loud disappointment beyond her classroom door as she struggled to teach French irregular verbs. She had finally gone out there to inform them that if they had any complaint about the untimely arrival of the rain, then they must take it up privately with God during their evening prayers, but in the meantime they would be silent until Miss Walton had closed a classroom door behind them.

Then, just after classes were finished for the afternoon and the girls had gone upstairs to comb their hair and wash their hands ready for tea, something had gone wrong with the doorknob on one of the dormitories and eight of the girls, trapped inside until Mr. Keeble, the elderly school porter, had creaked his way up there to release them before mending the knob, had screeched and giggled and rattled the door. Miss Thompson had dealt with the crisis by reading them a lecture on patience and decorum, though circumstances had forced her to speak in a voice that could be heard from within—and therefore through much of the rest of the school too, including Claudia's office.

It had not been the best of days, as Claudia had just been remarking—without contradiction—to Eleanor Thompson and Lila Walton over tea in her private sitting room a short while after the prisoners had been freed. She could do with far fewer such days.

And yet now!

Now, to cap everything off and make an already trying day more so, there was a marquess awaiting her pleasure in the visitors' parlor downstairs.

A marquess, for the love of all that was wonderful!

That was what the silver-edged visiting card she held between two fingers said—the Marquess of Attingsborough. The porter had just delivered it into her hands, looking sour and disapproving as he did so—a not unusual expression for him, especially when any male who was not a teacher invaded his domain.

"A marquess," she said, looking up from the card to frown at her fellow teachers. "Whatever can he want? Did he say, Mr. Keeble?"

"He did not say and I did not ask, miss," the porter replied. "But if you was to ask me, he is up to no good. He smiled at me."

"Ha! A cardinal sin indeed," Claudia said dryly while Eleanor laughed.

"Perhaps," Lila suggested, "he has a daughter he wishes to place at the school."

"A marquess?" Claudia raised her eyebrows and Lila looked suitably quelled.

"Perhaps, Claudia," Eleanor said, a twinkle in her eye, "he has two daughters."

Claudia snorted and then sighed, took one more sip of her tea, and got reluctantly to her feet.

"I suppose I had better go and see what he wants," she said. "It will be more productive than sitting here guessing. But of all things to happen today of all days. A marquess."

Eleanor laughed again. "Poor man," she said. "I pity him."

Claudia had never had much use for the aristocracy—idle, arrogant, cold-hearted, nasty lot—though the marriage of two of her teachers and closest friends to titled gentlemen had forced her to admit during the past few years that perhaps some of them might be agreeable and even worthy individuals. But it did not amuse her to have one of their number, a stranger, intrude into her own world without a by-your-leave, especially at the end of a difficult day.

She did not believe for a single moment that this marquess wished to place any daughter of his at her school.

She preceded Mr. Keeble down the stairs since she did not wish to move at his slow pace. She ought, she supposed, to have gone into her bedchamber first to see that she was looking respectable, which she was quite possibly not doing after a hard day at school. She usually made sure that she presented a neat appearance to visitors. But she scorned to make such an effort for a marquess and risk appearing obsequious in her own eyes.

By the time she opened the door into the visitors' parlor, she was bristling with a quite unjustified indignation. How dared he come here to disturb her on her own property, whatever his business might be.

She looked down at the visiting card still in her hand.

"The Marquess of Attingsborough?" she said in a voice not unlike the one she had used on Paula Hern earlier in the day—the one that said she was not going to be at all impressed by any pretension of grandeur.

"At your service, ma'am. Miss Martin, I presume?" He was standing across the room, close to the window. He bowed elegantly.

Claudia's indignation soared. One steady glance at him was not sufficient upon which to make any informed judgment of his character, of course, but really, if the man had any imperfection of form or feature or taste in apparel, it was by no means apparent. He was tall and broad of shoulder and chest and slim of waist and hips. His legs were long and well shaped. His hair was dark and thick and shining, his face handsome, his eyes and mouth good-humored. He was dressed with impeccable elegance but without a trace of ostentation. His Hessian boots alone were probably worth a fortune, and Claudia guessed that if she were to stand directly over them and look down, she would see her own face reflected in them—and probably her flat, untidy hair and limp dress collar as well.

She clasped her hands at her waist lest she test her theory by touching the collar points. She held his card pinched between one thumb and forefinger.

"What may I do for you, sir?" she asked, deliberately avoiding calling him my lord—a ridiculous affectation, in her opinion.

He smiled at her, and if perfection could be improved upon, it had just happened—he had good teeth. Claudia steeled herself to resist the charm she was sure he possessed in aces.

"I come as a messenger, ma'am," he said, "from Lady Whitleaf."

He reached into an inner pocket of his coat and withdrew a sealed paper.

"From Susanna?" Claudia took one step farther into the room.

Susanna Osbourne had been a teacher at the school until her marriage last year to Viscount Whitleaf. Claudia had always rejoiced at Susanna's good fortune in making both an eligible marriage and a love match and yet she still mourned her own loss of a dear friend and colleague and a good teacher. She had lost three such friends—all in the same cause—over the course of four years. Sometimes it was hard not to be selfishly depressed by it all.

"When she knew I was coming to Bath to spend a few days with my mother and my father, who is taking the waters," the marquess said, "she asked me to call here and pay my respects to you. And she gave me this letter, perhaps to convince you that I am no impostor."

His eyes smiled again as he came across the room and placed the letter in her hand. And as if at least his eyes could not have been mud-colored or something equally nondescript, she could see that they were a clear blue, almost like a summer sky.

Susanna had asked him to come and pay his respects? Why?

"Whitleaf is the cousin of a cousin of mine," the marquess explained. "Or an almost cousin of mine, anyway. It is complicated, as family relationships often are. Lauren Butler, Viscountess Ravensberg, is a cousin by virtue of the fact that her mother married my aunt's brother-in-law. We have been close since childhood. And Whitleaf is Lauren's first cousin. And so in a sense both he and his lady have a strong familial claim on me."

If he was a marquess, Claudia thought with sudden suspicion, and his father was still alive, what did that make his father? But he was here at Susanna's behest and it behooved her to be a little better than just icily polite.

"Thank you," she said, "for coming in person to deliver the letter. I am much obliged to you, sir. May I offer you a cup of tea?" She willed him to say no.

"I will not put you to that trouble, ma'am," he said, smiling again. "I understand you are to leave for London in two days' time?"

Ah. Susanna must have told him that. Mr. Hatchard, her man of business in London, had found employment for two of her senior girls, both charity pupils, but he had been unusually evasive about the identity of the prospective employers, even when she had asked quite specifically in her last letter to him. The paying girls at the school had families to look after their interests, of course. Claudia had appointed herself family to the rest and never released any girl who had no employment to which to go or any about whose expected employment she felt any strong misgiving.

At Eleanor's suggestion, Claudia was going to go to London with Flora Bains and Edna Wood so that she could find out exactly where they were to be placed as governesses and to withdraw her consent if she was not satisfied. There were still a few weeks of the school year left, but Eleanor had assured her that she was perfectly willing and able to take charge of affairs during Claudia's absence, which would surely be no longer than a week or ten days. Claudia had agreed to go, partly because there was another matter too upon which she wished to speak with Mr. Hatchard in person.

"I am," she told the marquess.

"Whitleaf intended to send a carriage for your convenience," the marquess told her, "but I was able to inform him that it would be quite unnecessary to put himself to the trouble."

"Of course it would," Claudia agreed. "I have already hired a carriage."

"I will see about unhiring it for you, if I may be permitted, ma'am," he said. "I plan to return to town on the same day and will be pleased to offer you the comfort of my own carriage and my protection for the journey."

Oh, goodness, heaven forbid!

"That will be quite unnecessary, sir," she said firmly. "I have already made the arrangements."

"Hired carriages are notorious for their lack of springs and all other comforts," he said. "I beg you will reconsider."

"Perhaps you do not fully understand, sir," she said. "I am to be accompanied by two schoolgirls on the journey."

"Yes," he said, "so Lady Whitleaf informed me. Do they prattle? Or, worse, do they giggle? Very young ladies have an atrocious tendency to do both."

"My girls are taught how to behave appropriately in company, Lord Attingsborough," she said stiffly. Too late she saw the twinkle in his eyes and understood that he had been joking.

"I do not doubt it, ma'am," he said, "and feel quite confident in trusting your word. Allow me, if you will, to escort all three of you ladies to Lady Whitleaf's door. She will be vastly impressed with my gallantry and will be bound to spread the word among my family and friends."

Now he was talking utter nonsense. But how could she decently refuse? She desperately searched around in her head for some irrefutable argument that would dissuade him. Nothing came to mind, however, that did not seem ungracious, even downright rude. But she would rather travel a thousand miles in a springless carriage than to London in his company.

Why?

Was she overawed by his title and magnificence? She bristled at the very idea.

At his . . . maleness, then? She was uncomfortably aware that he possessed that in abundance.
But how ridiculous that would be. He was simply a gentleman offering a courtesy to an aging spinster, who happened to be a friend of his almost-cousin's cousin's wife—goodness, it was a tenuous connection. But she held a letter from Susanna in her hand. Susanna obviously trusted him.
An aging spinster? When it came to any consideration of age, she thought, there was probably not much difference between the two of them. Now there was a thought. Here was this man, obviously at the very pinnacle of his masculine appeal in his middle thirties, and then there was she.

He was looking at her with raised eyebrows and smiling eyes.

"Oh, very well," she said briskly. "But you may live to regret your offer."

His smile broadened and it seemed to an indignant Claudia that there was no end to this man's appeal. As she had suspected, he had charm oozing from every pore and was therefore not to be trusted one inch farther than she could see him. She would keep a very careful eye upon her two girls during the journey to London.

"I do hope not, ma'am," he said. "Shall we make an early start?"

"It is what I intended," she told him. She added grudgingly, "Thank you, Lord Attingsborough. You are most kind."

"It will be my pleasure, Miss Martin." He bowed deeply again. "May I ask a small favor in return? May I be given a tour of the school? I must confess that the idea of an institution that actually provides an education to girls fascinates me. Lady Whitleaf has spoken with enthusiasm about your establishment. She taught here, I understand."

Continues...

Excerpted from Simply Perfect by Mary Balogh Copyright © 2008 by Mary Balogh. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 42 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 42 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    simply superb

    Claudia Martin, owner and headmistress of Miss Martin¿s School for Girls, has had a rough day starting with one of her teacher¿s unable to provide French and music lessons due to a headache. Things got worse after the auspicious start and now the ultimate has arrived, in the person of a Marquess. Joseph says that close friend and teacher Susanna Osbourne, married last year to Viscount Whitleaf, sends her best regards (see SIMPLY MAGIC). Joseph offers his carriage to take Claudia to London when she leaves in two days. She finds no excuse to say no, but does not trust his title or his friendly demeanor deep down she writes off her attraction as inane as she is too old for such nonsense. After visiting his parents while his father recovers from an illness, the thirtyish Joseph knows he needs a wife and an heir. He had been leaning towards Lady Portia Hunt although her airs could freeze the Thames in summer, but now finds he is falling in love with the intelligent caring spinster. --- The apropos title says it all as Mary Balogh provides another superb Regency romance. The lead couple is complex as each comes into the relationship with preconceptions that prove false when it comes to their beloved. The return of characters from previous novels like Susanna strengthen the plot as sub-genre fans will enjoy knowing what has happened to them since their tale was told. This is simply another great novel in an outstanding series (see SIMPLY LOVE, SIMPLY UNFORGETTABLE and SIMPLY DANGEROUS). --- Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2008

    i need more of the Bedwyns and the school!

    The book was great! I was not at all disappointed. Though I am greatly disappointed about the fact that we will not hear much from Mary b. for a while...at least where it concernes the Bedwyn family or any of their connections. That family is and attracts pleasant and comical situations with just the right dose of passion in each character.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Nicely written, bur frankly quite boring and predictable. Poor g

    Nicely written, bur frankly quite boring and predictable. Poor girl meets rich guy, problem that keeps them apart, happy ending. And the characters are so one-dimensional. Also there really wasn't much of a historical atmosphere. If you swapped the carriage for a car, you could easily say that this book  was based on the 21st century. A relly disappointing read, I'm so tired of these weak, 'historical' books

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Highly recommended

    Simply Perfect is a wonderful book. I feel in love with the series,and read them all in record time. The charactes were like family members that I had to keep in touch with.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Very enjoyable!

    Review by Jen:
    Simply Perfect is the final book in a series about the teachers at Claudia's school. Over the course of the series, there have been some memorable plots and characters... but I believe this one is my favorite. I enjoyed the characters and their back stories were well-developed and believable. The storyline was interesting and at times heart wrenching (I kept a box of tissue handy for most of the reading). The series is worth the read and best read in order: Simply Unforgettable, Simply Love, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect. And in the end, Simply Perfect is just that... simply perfect.

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The End

    This was a nice conclusion to the Teacher series. Claudia was okay and I liked Joseph. Overall the series was alright.

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  • Posted May 19, 2009

    AN UNLIKELY COUPLE, GREAT ROMANCE, THRILLING EXCITEMENT EQUALS A FINE ENDING

    A sweet story that shows the life of Claudia Martin change forever when she is forced to accept the Marquess of Attinsborogh offer of his coach to take her and two of her students to London. Her quiet staid life is thrown into upheaval as she is entertained by Nobility, courted by the Marquess after many obstacles and challenges and how happy she is that all this happens. It was a delightful story - well told.

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  • Posted May 18, 2009

    Sweet and touching

    These characters broke my heart a few times, and it was a truly satisfying romance.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    Great Series

    I enjoyed this series very much. I'm sorry that it has ended. I've been reading her books since the 1980's and everyone that I have every read has been very good.

    I've just started the Huxtable series and look forward to review them as well.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An interesting read but a time ago plot by other authors.

    "Simply Perfect" was light reading. It was romantic and the characters were interesting but it seemed to be somewhat a copy of other such tales told by other authors. Again, like other plots like this one, an ordinary owner and mistress of a girls school is in hot pursuit by a soon to be Duke. After one failed love affair, Miss Claudia Martin is resigned to be a spinster until she meets Joseph, the Marquess of Attingsborough. There is a sudden attraction but their social status is too great a challenge for them to pursue any happiness. Claudia meets her love from her youth and Joseph must marry Portia Hunt, a woman with good social background like his own.
    The love triangles, a love child, and obstacles of the "Ton" must be overcome.

    Cherry Blossom

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  • Posted January 23, 2009

    Simply Perfect ... how apt. I found the story simply perfect.

    This is truly a heartwarming love story. <BR/> I had met the heroine in other Mary Balough books. <BR/>Claudia is an independent, intelligent woman. She was an unexpected delight to get to know¿.. who she was and who she is. But it was with the leading man that I found a very special joy. Through the author I felt this man¿s immense anxiety to please and do his duty being torn against what would make him whole and truly happy. I felt his pain and joy and his deep love for his blind child.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2008

    Didn't buy the romance

    I am a fan of Ms. Balogh and her Slightly and Simply series. But this latest I did not care for and frankly, Claudia Martin deserved better. She is the one we all have been rooting for throughout. The one we all knew was beautiful and worthy of love. But this romance seemed forced. There was too much of Lizzie in the book and it seemed very likely that Joseph fell in love with her simply due to her kindness and devotion toward his daughter. The two had very little interaction otherwise. And Joseph seemed kind of like a weenie at times. It may be just me but I like my heros to be more alpha than beta as was in this case. He was led to easily by the nose by Miss Hunt and his father. I was happy that Ms. Martin found love but that was about it.

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