Villainous Villains?

Among the questions I solicited from you a while ago were these three:
–From Edea Baldwin: “Have you ever written a character that you disliked intensely? Or must you feel some affinity with any character you write?”
–From Jeanette Harris: “Which of your characters have you liked the least and why?”
Shelia Hudnall: “Just how often does a secondary character morph into a primary character for you? How often are you surprised when that happens? Or does it surprise you at all?”

I have created my fair share of villains. There are a few I would make different if I were to write the book now, because I don’t like what I think of as “silly” villains–that is, those who are evil for the sake of being evil and enjoy it. I think of some cartoon villains in that category. I like to consider the whole complexities of the human condition when I create characters, whether they be heroes and heroines or villains or neither. And with very few exceptions (I am not going to touch upon that possible extreme here) no person is purely evil. There are reasons for what people do, so numerous that I don’t think I can even begin to give examples. And most of us are a bewildering mix of good and bad. We are human!  I like to create heroes and heroines in whom good ultimately prevails, though never in a purely happily-ever-after way. As the hero of the book I have just finished (ONLY A KISS, Imogen’s story) says almost at the end: “I want you to love me for my sorry self, which I will try very hard for the rest of my life to make worthy of you–and worthy of me. I can do it. We can always do anything as long as we are alive. We can always change, grow, evolve into a far better version of ourselves. It is surely what life is for.”

There are a few villains in my books that I regret. One of them is in HEARTLESS, which will be republished next summer. I have left him as he is, however, as I always think it is a bigger mistake to change an older book, when one is coming at it from a wholly different life perspective. I have a number of other villains who are unredeemed at the end and have never been redeemed in future books, though some readers have asked that it happen. Some of you may remember Lionel, villain in both DARK ANGEL and LORD CAREW’S BRIDE. I have never redeemed him, though I think I could! He is very human, but he had allowed self absorption and a good bit of sadism to dominate his character. The fact that he looks like an angel does not help him. Having created him and been inside his head, I can see that such a man is very unlikely to change unless he has to face some really cataclysmic event in his life. I prefer to let realism prevail in cases like Lionel. The same applies to a number of other villains in my books. They must be allowed to live the life they have chosen–or rather (to be fair to them) the life I have chosen for them!


And then there are the villains I have redeemed. Sometimes poor or downright wrong choices can land people in deep darkness. It is often easier to remain in it, especially if there are addictions involved, and even to spiral downward. And sometimes people, speaking and acting from such a place, do downright nasty things and cause other people to suffer. To emerge from the darkness, to make some right choices and keep on making them, to build a will of iron and an ability to take one step at a time without being discouraged by how many need to be taken, is obviously incredibly difficult. We all probably know such people or at least know OF them. But if they can do it–oh my goodness! My character Freddie was pretty nasty in COURTING JULIA, even going as far as to kidnap the heroine so that she would have to marry him and solve his money woes. And even at the start of his own book, DANCING WITH CLARA, he is plotting marriage to a plain, crippled woman who is also rich. But when Clara accepts his offer, she does so because he is beautiful and there has been little beauty in her life. She is not deceived for one moment by his apparent ardor. Freddie has to face suitable torture during the rest of the book before he emerges as a worthy hero for Clara as the end. I LOVE redeeming villains or bringing characters from a dark place to the light.


Does it surprise me when a secondary character in one book morphs into a primary character in another? Sometimes it is planned. Very often it is not. I will be searching around in my head for a suitable heroine for a hero I have in mind (or vice versa) and find the perfect character embedded in a previous book. I needed a heroine for Ann Jewell in SIMPLY LOVE, and up popped Sydnam Butler. I had not created either one of them to end up with the other. I needed a heroine for Flavian in the upcoming ONLY ENCHANTING and remembered that at the end of THE ARRANGEMENT he had danced with Sophia’s friend, Agnes Keeping. Guess who the heroine of ONLY ENCHANTING is. It is always lovely to discover a ready-made hero or heroine instead of having to start from nothing.


I have two more advance reading copies (uncorrected proofs, plain paper cover) of ONLY ENCHANTING, due out on October 28, to give away. I will send them to two people who leave a comment below before the end of August. Good luck!




266 Replies to “Villainous Villains?”

    1. Hi there all. This is just to see if I actually managed to get into the site. But if it has. Here is a little comment I don’t really care if he isn’t a really handsome hero.( Ican’t remember what the actual question was, but dont want to go back in case I lose this site.)I have just been reading all mary’s books, while waiting for the next one.

      just love Mary’s novels. JM Wilson

    2. Interesting blog, I find a villain adds depth to a book, not sure I agree all villains can be redeemed but an interesting thought. One of my favorite books of yours is Dancing with Clara, the growth of both the main characters was a fascinating journey Looking forward to up coming books. Jan

    3. This was a fascinating blog about villains, but my favourite part was reading that Freddie from Dancing With Clara was in an earlier book?! Tbh read Dancing With Clara over a decade ago, and I had forgotton it was by you (though not forgotton the book or the story itself which I loved and was one of my first adventures into romance). Now I just have to dig up a copy of Courting Julia…shouldn’t be too difficult…right?

    4. I am so enjoying “The Survivor” series. Finished “The Escape” last week. We have sold out at the store and have had to reorder.

    5. Hello Mary! I have two questions. So often, you have a beloved pet (usually a dog) in your novels. Do you have a pet(s) of your own? And, many of your characters are very talented. Do you have a special talent (other than being an amazing author!)?

  1. I’ve been a member of your group for so long, and from now and then I, along with my fellow members, been lucky enough to hear you speak about your characters, backstage tid-bits that I’ve enjoyed so much. So, I knew about Freddie, but never knew about the regrets regarding Heartless’s villain, or the fact that there could be a way for Lionel, even if you will not take that way… That was very interesting information, so thank you 🙂

  2. I can’t wait for it to come out! You are one of my favorite authors and I love every book of yours that I have read!

  3. Looking forward to the new book, and I loved learning more about villains and characters with few, if any, redeeming qualities.

  4. Thank you for answering these very interesting questions. I love it when authors like you are so generous of your time to us readers!

  5. I love the redemption of Freddie in Dancing with Clara. He really is so dastardly in Courting Julia and then when we meet him again, we’re afraid for Clara and then…he grows up.

    You’ve created some great villains–Joshua’s cousin in Slightly Scandalous comes to mind. It’s an art to create a character we love to hate!

  6. Dear Ms. Balogh,

    I absolutely love your books!

    While I was reading about your villains, I braced myself to see Freyja’s name – one of your “best” villains, IMHO. I truly despised her character in ‘A Summer To Remember’ and the first Bedwyn books, and I’m afraid I’ve never forgiven her. I love to hate her. 😉

  7. I have enjoyed your books for years (as have most people) From the signet regencies years back to the more recent books. I think I have enjoyed the Bedwyn series the most to date. Am looking forward to this new book and really enjoy this blog. Thank You!

  8. I’ve just begun my vacation, but I have a pile of your novels that I’ve chosen to read a second time. Perfect vacation reading. Still, I’m always looking forward to your new books. 🙂

  9. Dancing With Clara has been one of my favorites for a very long time. Your ability to create flawed, complex, fully rounded characters and bring them to an emotionally satisfying conclusion is a very great gift. The last lines you quote from Imogen’s book touched my heart.

  10. I love your books and found it very interesting to see your point of view on your villains. I think this will make me try to see the next one I come across as more human instead of just disliking him. Thank you for the years of entertainment you have provided me!

  11. I think my favorite book of yours is The Arrangement. I love Vincent and Sophia’s relationship. Very sweet. Looking forward to the rest of the survivors series.

    1. Perhaps Lord Edmond Waite in THE NOTORIOUS RAKE (villain of THE TRYSTING PLACE). But for the rest of today I will be thinking of others. I am very fond of Freddie…

      1. THE NOTORIOUS RAKE is my favorite book of yours. I read a library copy many years ago and recently purchased it as a used book. I paid $20 for my copy (searched for a used copy with the cover I remembered and all) and it was worth every penny. 🙂

  12. I’ve followed the majority of your books\series. I just wish I could find Dancing with Clara. I’ve been looking or that book for ages

  13. I love seeing your characters pop up again and again. It makes them more real to see them as a side character, or later in life long after their own book ended.

  14. I love getting into writer’s heads! I would love to seriously write a romance novel one day and it’s fantastic to hear what goes on inside a writer’s head! Especially from one of my favorite author’s!

  15. A book really needs to be character driven to engage me fully. The fact that your characters grow and evolve is one of the best features of your books. I hope lots of people read this blog! Looking forward to your new publications….but because your “fleshed out” characters I am always ready to it down and reread from my favorites!

  16. Could there be anything so appealing as a redeemed villain? As a recent example of another author I recommend, Stephanie Laurens, “Loving Rose,” the villain was truly awful; however, “he” died and was resurrected.

    I truly loved Freddie because I thought I understood the circumstances of his evil behavior, but grateful to you for providing for his redemption. Keep ’em coming.

  17. Thank you for your regular posts. I love reading your books and found your answers to readers’ questions very interesting.

  18. I have always enjoyed your characters. You are very in tune to the fact that people have dark and light in them. I can’t wait for the new book. Keep ’em coming! 🙂

  19. Mary, I’m excited for your next novel, Only Enchanting. I am glad I have many of your books on my shelf to keep me company until the next is available. Thank you for your romantic soul

  20. I am “addicted” to the Survivors Series because they are “imperfect people” when our media flaunts the need for perfection esp. in TV, movies, etc…Yet even those who seem to “have it all” in Hollywood often are so flawed internally that they resort to drugs, alcohol etc…I was saddened by the recent death of Robin Williams who could not continue to live due to the pain he experienced on the inside…Knowing that your heroines can see beyond the physical flaws (esp. in The Arrangement & The Escape) encourages me to believe that love is possible for anyone…thanks, Ev Bedard

  21. I am a huge fan, when I see one of your books, I don’t read the back because I’ve never come across a book of yours I didn’t enjoy.even my husband knows your name and has surprised me with a new book with your name on it (I think he may even keep a list with him of what ones I have in my library) thanks for helping me get to my book world when I need a break from the present

  22. I agree with other comments, I like the fact that your characters are realistic. We as humans are not perfect, we have fears and flaws and when you create a character that finds happiness – that is a nice gift to each of us who read your books. What appears to be perfect on the outside is not necessarily perfect from the inside looking out.

  23. Can’t wait for the next one to come out-getting to read it early would be sweet and awesome all rolled in to one and would make my day! ^_^
    Love seeing characters from other stories make it in to another one, it’s like catching up with an old friend. Mary’s my favorite author!

  24. I just have to say how much I love your books. I drive school bus, so by the end of the day I might be just a little stressed, so I look forward to getting home and sitting down with one of your books, I then start to relax.

  25. Hi Mary,
    The world would be a much better place if we could all step into another persons shoes and feel what it is like to be them. We would all be so much more understanding and loving!!! Thank you….I LOVE your characters <3 <3

  26. I have been a fan for ages although it is pretty hard to get them over here in Malaysia. Would love to be able to get an ARC for your latest book!

  27. I have learned that some people are simply spoiled and selfish and only care about themselves. These types of people can rarely change because they either can’t or won’t admit that they are wrong and the world doesn’t revolve around them. But they make great villains!

  28. When I think of your villains and showing the good and bad of their character Constantine comes to mind. He is a villain to Elliott and Vanessa and a good friend to the others at the same time. I loved him in the Huxtable series. I also love the Survivors series (well really all your books) and wait impatiently for the next book, so I would love an advanced copy of Only Enchanting.

  29. I always wished redemption for Wickham in Pride and Prejudice … Can I say that though there is no villian in A Matter of Class … that book is simply exquisite … I have it in hardcover and digital and reread it often

  30. Both my mother and I love your books. I bought some for her at a used book store and started reading them myself and now we both are hooked. By the way, my mother is 93 years old and is a voracious reader. It is hard to keep her in books as she goes through about 1 every couple of days. Thank you for all your hard work. It is much appreciated.

  31. Well, I would love to have an advance of your newest, Mary so here is my comment. I really like it when you give a character from one story a story of their own. I think Freddie was one of your most interesting particularly since you were writing in the shorter format of those Regency Signet books. I have always enjoyed every direction your writing has taken you. Thanks for many hours of fun .

  32. I have read some stories with truly awful villainesses lately – both mothers: The Wickedest Lord Alive by Christina Brooke & Beauty’s Beast by Amanda Ashley. I like redeeming a villain if possible. I read The Greatest Lover Ever by Christina Brooke and the “villain” in that story ended up being a complex character who was not as bad as supposed and I look forward to reading a book in the future with him as the hero.

  33. Please don’t ever redeem Lionel. It is awesome to have a villain I can hate without knowing in the back of my head that (s)he is actually a hero(ine) in the next book. Not that I mind the redeemed villains you’ve done, but I’ve always thought Lionel was a “perfect” villain.

  34. I love your books! I have enjoyed all of the ones that I have read so far.i am always looking forward to new releases! Thank you for hours of enjoyment!

  35. I love this post and the insight into the workings of your mind. You are a person whom I would love to discuss life with over a cup of tea!

    And yes! Please do redeem Lionel. I think you could write a really interesting story about him, perhaps slightly outside of the box. Maybe he’s a slightly older hero (35 – 40) and a life of dissipation has ruined his angelic looks. And then of course there are always catastrophic accidents that could achieve the same effect. I’d love to see what you would do with him.

    And the one hero of yours that I haven’t been able to forgive is James Purnell. Having lived through an abusive marriage, he gave me PTSD flashbacks. I almost couldn’t finish the book, and it’s the only one of yours which I’ve only read once.

    Please don’t include me in the draw; I’ve already pre-ordered it.

  36. I can’t remember the title or the character names but I loved the book where the villainous hero and the heroine come together in a thunderstorm. Eventually he discovers that he is not the villain he thought he was.
    I’ve been reading all of the old Signet Christmas anthologies – your novellas were always the best.

  37. I love how you can capture both the surrounding and the characters emotions so well! Just finished the survival series enjoyed them all. Would love a great book!

  38. I absolutely love your books!! I have read them for years and re read them! Thanks for all the t
    Hours you spend in your readers behalf!! Keep me coming!!;)

  39. I have consistently enjoyed every book of yours I have read, however my very favourite is “Lady with a black umbrella”. It’s one of my feelgood favourites that I’ve read time and again when I feel low and always feel brighter for having done so. Thank you for that. ☺

  40. I really enjoy your books I am enthralled by the survivors series and cant wait to read Flavian and Imogens stories. Will the duke also get a new love? Thank you.

  41. I love a redeemed villain where something happens to them in the past that twists them about in some way and they have to come to terms with it and make a better choice.
    I have a really hard time with villains that are evil because they like being evil, or are completely deranged. It just turns me off. That’s why I’m not so much into the “murder and mayhem” type genre.

  42. My favorite villains are the ones that are reformed by the end of the book. Or at least the ones that we can better understand because of your wonderfully nuanced writing. A villain with no soul or no redeeming qualities is simply a caricature.

  43. I like that you redeemed a heroine from Precious Jewel to A Christmas Bride. I forget her name. I have come to Love Edmund Waite I too have ordered the book but winning would be fun. Mary

  44. I am really hoping to win your new book! I have been a faithful reader of your books for years – they have brought humour, caring and great storylines into my relaxation time. With fingers crossed and best wishes to you, Janet

  45. Your books are ones that I buy without reading a synopsis because I know that I will love them. I love the way that characters move from one book to another.

  46. I love your books. I like to reread them once I get a new one that goes to a series. Thanks for the great stories and characters.

  47. I have ADORED your books since the very first one!!!! And I still have everyone of your books!!!!!!! And, yes, I DO re-read them over and over and over and over!!!!!!!!!

  48. When I read my first book of yours (can’t even remember which one) I was hooked and ended up buying ALL your available books within a very short time. I am so glad they are re-printing the old ones, I can’t wait to read some of the ones you’ve mentioned in this post! Plus all the new ones, of course!

  49. I believe when an author redeems a villain it helps me understand more about the human condition. I tend to want to see the world in black and white, or good and evil, but when forced to see a villain as the hero ,however flawed, it helps to see all sides of a person or character. It gives one hope that we can all be redeemed.

  50. Mary, your books are always a good read and I can’t wait for your new one out. And I am happy that your older books are also getting a new lease on life as they are awfully hard to come by at booksales (testament to people hanging on to them forever!!). Earlier this year, I was extremely thrilled to stumble upon an older book of yours (Truly) and I am saving it for when there is a long stretch between releases of your books. And I am happy to say I have managed to introduce your books to two new readers, one of them being my sister, who has already read all your books. Please keep writing! You are a gifted storyteller.

  51. Freddie intrigued me in Courting Julia, and by the time he was redeemed in Dancing With Clara (one of my all-time favorites), I just adored him. Heartless was gut-wrenching to read in parts, but I’m so glad you retained who he was while giving him a happy ending. I love watching how you deal with characters who can change and grow, how you can make us hate them and them love them. Thank you for continuing to write such satisfying characters.

  52. Gerald Stapleton! I love his storyline and I remember reading somewhere that you were surprised that a Beta make became a hero. And then to see Morse had his story in A Christmas Bride was such a treat. I love when characters pop up in other series. Another redeemed hero I adore is Constantine – his huge heart overcomes his earlier bad behavior nicely.

  53. Glad you are reprinting Heartless.It was the 1st book I read of yours & made me search out your other books.In the beginning it was hard to find your books.I am happy to say that is no longer the case.

  54. I really was struck by the quote from the end of your upcoming book about the hero wanting to be loved for his “sorry self”. It sounds like something my husband would say about himself and our relationship, so it really struck a chord with me.

  55. Mary, You have been one of my favorite authors for years. My favorite series was the Slightly series. Could hardly wait for Bedwyn’s book to come out. Thank you for entertaining me for so long! You totally rock!

  56. Another great post!

    I noticed in one of your responses, you referred to Freja as a villain. I never thought of her that way. I guess that’s because SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS was only the second book of yours that I read. I didn’t read A SUMMER TO REMEMBER until much later. But I also think it’s because your villains, just like your heroes and heroines seem like real people – not cardboard characters.

    By the way, I’m with the camp that believes you should not redeem Lional. He made such a good villain. However, if anyone could redeem him, it would by you!

  57. The best villains are not all bad (as the best heroes / heroines are not all good). If they are, they seem unreal. When they are a mix of good and bad, they are more believable and to me they are then even more chilling.

  58. It is always such an enlightening pleasure to read your blog. From the questions submitted by your readers, to your responses, and on to the comments, I learn something new each time. Like all the different perspectives of your books. Even knowing how awful she was in A Summer to Remember, I would never have said that Freyja was actually a villain, just hurt, confused and a little lost. Actually, I’ve always been a little angry with Kit and Lauren! I had flashbacks to Little Women when Laurie married Amy. Oh, the tragedy! 😉

    Thanks for sharing your gift with words! Silent Melody was my first (and probably favorite), so I’m super excited to have Heartless republished! Of course, October 28 can’t come soon enough. Love the Survivors!

  59. I love how it is like meeting old friends when characters go in and out of your books. I wish I had the time to re-read all of yoir series in I order.

  60. Hello Mary,

    I was interested to read about your villains. You mentioned that you “like to consider the whole complexities of the human condition when I create characters, whether they be heroes and heroines or villains or neither.” That epitomizes the reason your books touch readers the way they do. It is that complexity that breathes life into your characters, and makes us care deeply about them..even understand them because they are so much like us. (Heartless is one of my faves, actually, and I can’t wait to repurchase it for my Kindle.)

    As to secondary characters reappearing, I am delighted when I discover a character I met in one book reappear in another. It admits me into a world, which, though fictional, that is somehow more plausible. I absolutely love the way your books interconnect – perhaps that isn’t the right word – to reference characters found in other books. What fun to discover Joseph in book after book and then how sad to learn of his personal cross to bear. In my heart, he moved instantly from genial Cousin Joseph to a loving man coping with his love for his child. My heart breaks for him.

    I cannot wait until your next books appear on the market. I have pre-ordered and I’ll gobble them up as soon as they arrive! And, of course, I’ll reread all the others to bring myself up to date.

  61. I am reading the “Huxtable” books again!, In “Then Comes Seduction.” Jasper “Baron Montford” did a downright nasty thing to Katherine.But he redeems himself at the end.
    I love your books.

  62. You seem to be an expert in redeeming villains, Mary. 🙂 In the Slightly series, I read Freyja’s story last since I really hated her in A Summer to Remember. Well, guess what? Slightly Scandalous is my favorite in the Bedwyn series. That is how great a writer you are!
    Pretty please pick me for the advance copy! I would love to take that with me when I go on vacation. 🙂

  63. Oddly enough, you and Charlaine Harrris are the writers I cannot do without lately. These are the books I order in advance, and then am afraid to read. What if they’re not as wonderful as I’ve anticipated? And once I read them, they’re over. Of course, I can read them again (and again), but 3-4-5 times is usually the limit.

    Anyway, thank you for writing. Many of us NEED your books!

  64. I am currently reading The Escape and just loving it! I am thoroughly enjoying this series! One person’s villain can be another’s hero! Life is full of interesting twists. Thanks for the delightful books!


  65. I like this cover very much — pretty covers, romantic pose, focuses on heroine (it’s her journey), and nary a torn-shirted, waxed-chested studmuffin in sight. But as to your point about villains, I think the best one you ever did was Win Bowen in Secrets of the Heart — precisely because he was totally without empathy and therefore impossible to redeem. I do wish you would allow that classic to be reprinted.

  66. I read all of your books that I can get my hands on, although I can’t afford to buy new I shop at all the secondhand, thrift stores and on line bargain books. The first thing I do is look for my favorite Mary Balogh’s book. My sister has the Simply series and stand alones and those books got me hooked. Thank you for letting me be a part of your world.

  67. Villains with depth of character are sometimes the characters I enjoy most from a book.. Especially when they prompt the hero or heroine to question their actions or push them to act out of character, that’s when the plot can get very interesting and you see more of the character of the hero and herione. The villain is the person who gives a book its twists and turns and surprises. Sometimes the whole plot is driven by the villain and their actions and everyone else is along for the ride!

  68. The quote you posted from Only A Kiss has got to be one of the best ever. People are going to be rereading that phase and not wanting the book to end.

  69. I believe we all need villains when we read. They can help us see the good in other characters and often help other characters grow. Seeing villains redeem themselves reminds us how great it is to be given a second chance and that they can learn from their mistakes if they put their minds to it. Would absolutely love the opportunity to read an advance copy of Only Enchanting!

  70. You have to have a villain… it makes for conflict and reason for characters to be together… But you can always redeem the bad guy in later books… poor misunderstood fools..

  71. I’m intrigued with the generational theme that is represented by fans of your books. Mothers and Daughters easily achieve consensus on the enjoyment of your stories. That is no minor accomplishment! Thank you, Mary Balogh for your second offering of an advance copy. My mother’s 90 birthday is November 25th and a special copy would be a great gift. On the theme of villains and reformed villains, I hold that people are complex beings and there are two sides to most narratives. Compassion and empathy are key to unraveling or understanding villainous motivations. Mustering courage to explore the shadow side of a character or ourselves can be elusive. Some of the more perplexing villainous characters quietly scream to be seen and heard. In The Escape, I wondered about an eventual devastating physical clash with Samantha’s father-in-law, the Earl of Healthmore that might ignite the dour sister-in-law’s possible redemption by standing-up to the Earl, throwing off the suffocating mantle of propriety and siding with Samantha. It is possible for Matilda no matter how unlikable she is in The Escape. Love motivates.

  72. I enjoyed all the stories about the Bedwyns! Freyja was so prickly, but I think you found the perfect mate for her. Haven’t read the series from start to finish in a long time. Maybe it would be a good way to spend this upcoming Labor Day weekend. Write on Mary!

  73. Thank you for sharing your insight and thoughts on this topic. It made me want to pull the books mentioned back out for another read.

    I have another question for you. What kind of input and control do you have over your cover art? I have heard some mention having full control while others seem to have very little and are just as surprised over the book cover at release as we, the readers, are. I wonder because you have some of THE best covers in the industry! I absolutely love them – beautiful, romantic, classy and elegant. In fact, I am so in love with the cover for Only Enchanting that I would love to have it here in my office as a framed print/poster.


    1. For years past, Sylvia, I have been given a chance to look at covers and make comments and suggestions. That does not necessarily mean I have had much control over them! However, my new editor consults me fully even before there is any cover design. She asks for full descriptions and even pictures that will give her some idea of what I want. And she will have changes made if I am not satisfied with the result. I am very happy!

  74. I just finished The Arrangement and loved it. I just found The Proposal and will read that next. The characters are so interesting and relevant to today.

  75. Your series are always special, A Survivor series no different with their haunting past of the war gentlemen. Looking forward to Only Enchanting!

  76. Hello! Your books are ones I actually buy in advance on my nook. Have read and re-read your series and can’t wait til the next installment. Thanks for all the hours of enjoyment!

  77. I also do believe that people have a mix of bad and good qualities within themselves. I think that is why talking/communicating with them first rather than judging at first sight is what I have intensely learned by reading your books. I always wonder about how do you expose such characters to have such qualities. After reading a couple of your books I think I have became more perspective and now I am seeing the effect. When I was younger I perceived people by intuition but I slowly learn to appreciate that quality of flaws which makes them human as well. As for villains, personally I don’t like reading books with villains but I would always would wonder about how can they take a step to a better life and overcome their misgivings. People don’t change easily and sometimes they really don’t. However I believe that its not possible to hope and believe that change can happen(well at least a realization). 🙂

  78. I’m a huge fan. I get excited when you have a new book out since I think I’ve read everything you have written. I would love to win.

  79. One of the endearing qualities of your books are the connecting characters. I always look forward to reading your stories!!

  80. Edmond Waite is my favourite of your villain cum heroes. He tried so hard to be bad, but deep down he was a good guy and I’m so glad his story was told. It’s funny how different people are drawn to different characters, because Freddie didn’t appeal to me as much. Lionel was despicable and somehow I thought he was dead (I must have killed him off in my own imagination). One character that was hard to like at all was James Purnell, even at the end, he had put poor Madeline through so much heartache that I had a hard time forgiving him.
    The fact that you are able to redeem a villain in one book to make him the hero of another is why you are one of the truly gifted writers and why we enjoy your books so much. As you pointed out we are human and that is what you portray in your many characters. Thank you so much for bringing these people to life.

  81. I love to catch up with characters from earlier books, and it does seem to be extra fun when they weren’t the best of people when we first met but now we get to know their whole background story.

  82. One of my favorite books by you doesn’t really appear to have a villain. A Matter of Class, though a novella, is still on my top ten. I remember you mentioning soon after it came out that you had to fight to get published. I often wonder what considerations go into making such a decision, especially when it comes to nothing. Thank you for your wonderful stories!

    1. I wonder what I said that you interpreted that way, Fuma. I actually got published with relative ease. And as far as this particular book is concerned, I was asked to write it by the publisher.

  83. I love reading the love stories about your characters that I’ve met in your other books! I particularly love a redeemed villian !

  84. I think the one character that I disliked most in your books was the sister-in-law of Viscount Rawleigh in Indiscreet. Her mean-spirited attempt to ruin Catherine led me to comment on your website, years ago, that maybe she could be knocked off (carriage accident, something) so that her lovely husband, Mr Adams, could have a love story of his own with a lady worthy of him! Ah well, you very wisely moved on to write so many wonderful series, and I have collected them all. Thank you for the many hours of reading pleasure you’ve given me!

  85. I simply have to read the slightly series yearly. I think that will be an adequate fix to my cravings until I turn that last page.Then suddenly I am thumbing through my bookshelf deciding who’s works to immerse myself in next. I then decide it matters not since all my favorite hero’s/heroines are going to make sure they’re stories are explored yet again. A new Mary Balogh novel is always worth the wait. <3

  86. I love all of your books, but my very favorite is The Secret Pearl. The hero and heroine are so flawed and human. Nothing comes easy to either one. I love that kind of love story.

  87. Thanks for leaving your older books alone. I understand the impulse to change older books as a writer matures but I prefer for books to remain as originally published. Some writers have changed for the worse some off my favorite books that way.

  88. I love the way you “do villains,” so to speak. Do you know if “Dancing with Clara” will be released as an e-book?

    1. I hope soon, Eileen. It is in the first batch that will be printed as e-books, but I still don’t know just when that will be.

  89. I enjoy reading your answers, and sometimes the discussion makes me sorry that I haven’t yet been able to work my way through your entire backlist. Thanks for being so generous to your fans.

  90. I still have a collection of your backlist titles to read and enjoy. I think I will pull one out soon.
    Thanks for all of your lovely characters, including redeemable villains.

  91. I just love to read it’s my passion. When I find an author like you who writes such good quality romance I devour all the author has written. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of your next books. Keep up the good work! ☆☆☆☆

  92. I love your books! I can’t wait to read the next Survivor story! About the villains – I really like Freddy in “Dancing with Clara” – so glad he grew up and more empathetic. Also, Helena Stapleton in “A Christmas Bride” – it was so good seeing her side. I had no idea she’d feel bad about what happened with Gerald and would punish herself for years – she’s one of my favorite characters.

  93. Some villains are so easy to love, others are so easy to detest and I’ve even run across a couple where it was a toss up as to how I felt about them. I saw this contest mentioned on Facebook on my phone and got out of bed twice to get what I needed to read your blog and leave a comment. That should indicate how much I’m enjoying this series and how thrilled I would be to win one of these ARC’ s. I have it on pre-order from Amazon and will be more than happy to cancel it if I win an ARC.

  94. I like villains that get their comeuppance appropriately. I however dislike reading books with overly evil villains as I am really a sweetness and light reader. I read to escape, not be disgusted by the plots of evil characters. I have already pre-ordered your next book, but would of course love an advance copy.

  95. I have a hard time reading some of the passages of your books that have extreme villains, like James Purnell and Edmond Waite. Like some of the readers above, I find the passages really stressful to read, but I manage to find a way to deal with them (sometimes by jumping ahead, then coming back!) In real life I think James wouldn’t find happiness, but become one of those cynical and manipulative people who end up friendless and bitter – it’s a testament to your writing that you were able to find a way to bring him up to the light. Edmond was a more realistic redemption to me because (if I remember it right) you brought out that he had a relatively happy childhood and his cynicism and self-centredness was brought on through trauma. He had more of a chance of getting past his issues.
    There are truly evil people out there – sociopaths or psychopaths. I don’t think they make a good character in a book as there isn’t much development possible. However they are useful in plot development as a force to be dealt with, by the hero or heroine of course!
    Great books, great reading, thanks for the books Mary!

  96. Funny you mentioned Freyja as a villain in “A Summer to Remember”. You see, until today I ‘ve not been able to bring myself to read “Slightly Scandalous”. Apart from her treatment of and attitude towards Lauren, you had also described her as “manly” in terms of her manner and behaviour. I can’t see her as a heroine whom I could root for. But I know you have a talent to turn ANY character, no matter how nasty it is, into a hero/heroine. So maybe I’ll read her story someday.

  97. I have been reading the ‘Survivors Club’ series out of order, and am currently on Benedict’s story, ‘The Escape.’ I loved the idea of having a group of friends reunite each year, and am finding myself engrossed in learning more about their pasts and how it has made them who they are now.
    The few details we currently know about Flavian from other books have made me wonder about him. We know of a few people having stammers. King George VI for one. But how did Flavian come to terms with it? And the double betrayal from lover and friend…
    We can understand his cynical feelings towards love.

    I have read the short excerpt online, and already groaned aloud, as it was too short! I have to know more about Flavian’s history, and how his life entwines with the heroine, Agnes.

    In the meantime, Benedict will keep me company, but not for long, as I’m running out of pages…
    (PS Copied here too, as I now see that it should have gone here and not on the old competition post).

  98. I love your books because the characters are so human. Who of us is perfect in character, looks, personality, whatever. Please keep writing.

  99. I do love when a villan gets a second chance. I feel that they really are decent and that its generally the circumstances that they find themselves in that force them into villainy. Even if they feel unworthy I believe they deserve their chance…that there is someone for everyone.

  100. One of the things I love about your books is the complexity of the characters. Even the villains are sometimes not so villainous, if that makes any sense. Yes, Freddie could have ruined Julia’s life but it was clear that he was acting out of fear of going to debtor’s prison and disappointing his father once again. And I had the impression that he believed that he could win Julia’s love. He was handsome and could be charming. And he realized that he couldn’t go through with his plan even before he was caught.
    I am so eager to read Only Enchanting that I feel as I did as child waiting for Christmas so I can open my presents under the tree. The Survivor’s Club members will be gathered once again and we get to find out what has been happening in the meantime. And I am hopeful that, despite his injuries and trauma, Flavian will find a woman he can trust and love.

  101. I never could warm up to Freddy int either book include “Dancing With Clara” where he is the very flawed hero and Clara the too good to be true heroine. I wanted to shake her at times.

    I think that says more about the reader at times, the areas where we fall short in scoffing at redemption even for make believe people. Makes me wonder how I treat people in real life sometimes, perhaps my heart needs to be more willing to open.

  102. I am fairly certain i have read all your books that are out now, and I have loved them all. I just purchased and read the escape, it was such a good book, read it in under 2 days!!! So excited for the new book in this series!

  103. I wonder what it is about your villain in Heartless you would change? He certainly was evil. I loved how Freddy was redeemed in Dancing with Clara. I think you had begin to redeem him a little in Courting Julia. He was a man driven to a desperate measure and I think he regretted it, although it almost cost him a chance at happiness when he couldn’t forgive himself.
    I think you could redeem Lionel as well, but it will take some effort. He has been bad for a while and he, unlike Freddy, has had every advantage. You would need a dark secret that hurt him in his youth. It would be interesting to see how his victims would forgive him. If anyone can do it, you can!

  104. I began reading your books many years ago now.. am so happy that you continue to write for us! would love to have more of your books! I am always a defender of underdogs.. guess I know that your villains need love too.. please keep writing, you’re a wonder!

  105. Hi! Have you ever had the book you were working on take a turn and suddenly become about one of the other characters? And you liked it, so it changed everything, and you had to go back and write another about for who the book was originally intended??? LOL (Did that make sense??? ha!)

    1. No, I haven’t, Shirley. But I have had minor characters try their best to take over–notably the Bedwyns in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER. I had to keep them under control by telling them they would have a story each afterward (not originally planned).

  106. I have always enjoyed your books, and I am very much enjoying your FB posts. I came upon your FB page by accident (one author’s page led to another led to another and so on), but yours is the one I most look forward to seeing every day. Thank you for keeping them simple.

  107. Mary, I have enjoyed getting to “know” you through your Facebook page, and now I’m doubly thrilled to learn about your blog! Thank you so much for taking the time to interact with us, it really means a lot. (I actually sent a gloating email to my sister when you replied to me by name in a FB comment a few months ago…) My mom has been sharing your books with me since I was a girl, and to this day will send them to me wherever in the world I am posted! Of course, I have to send them back when I’m done, because your books are always Keepers.

  108. I love when the villians are brought down and the woman that they scorned is the one that pulls them up. Of course then the villains see the error of their ways and realize they are in love with said woman. Guess its the power/confidence the women seem to find in themselves that I like too. Love your books and can’t wait to read the next one.

  109. I have bought every single one of your books, most of which I tracked down via Ebay and Amazon BEFORE the digital versions came out. I will happily buy everything you write but would be thrilled to win an advance copy BECAUSE THEN I WON’T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL OCTOBER! thank you.

  110. Wow, a crowd has gathered…I will be swallowed up. I just got ‘The Escape’, a treat. I have read 33 of your stellar novels, Mary, all twice through, and have begun a third round. There is more to learn from you. Lionel was a hideous villain, because of his secret machinations and deep disregard for just about everything decent. No redemption possible there. I’ll read ‘The Escape’ and once again, step into the world you create. Humbly, Jeanette Collins

  111. I am in the “Do not redeem Lionel” camp. The only redeemed character I don’t care much for is Lord Edmund Waite. THE ESCAPE is grand and I look forward to the rest of the series.

  112. Haven’t started this series yet, I’m still reading the Bedwyn Saga. I’m gonna start “Slightly Wicked” very soon.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to give us a better understanding of your work.

  113. Been a fan for a long time. Love your books, especially the Slightly series — have re-read them many, many times!
    I enjoyed the answers about villains! Very informative about your thought process in creating them.

  114. My favorite books are the ones with understandably motivated villains, or no villains at all. Books that rely on a murderous, raping, depraved villain are my pet peeve of the genre. The contrast of the hero being somewhat forceful, and still respectful, in sexual encounters is hard to maintain against out-and-out nastys. And I’d like to believe there are only so many completely psychopaths in the world.

    The sociopathic villains, as in The Secret Pearl and More than a Mistress, work okay for me, but the genre is still full of them. I love Web trio, especially The Gilded Web, because all the conflict is situational and character driven.

  115. I, too, have loved your story arcs from book to book with characters intertwined…. but try to make sure I always read them in order. But as far as Lionel, I think I’m with you on leaving him as is. I’m not sure I can see him as a hero – I think it would take a very heroic effort from you because I’m sure he would resist you all the way!

  116. I love your books that redeem a prior villain. I love how real your characters are. That is one of the greatest qualities of your characters!

  117. Ever since I began reading your novels, you have been one of my favorite authors because of the depth that you give your characters. To me, a good author creates a villain with a purpose and a history instead of an intent to solely do evil. It’s enlightening to see how you take it a step further and acknowledge each villain’s potential for good, even as their evil actions spur the plot on. It’s something I’ll be considering as I read more of your books!

  118. I agree with you that all people are a mix of good and bad at some point in their lives. A black and white character would be pretty boring. The redemption of a villain is always fun to read. Who needs a perfect hero?

  119. One of the things I have always loved about your books is the lack of one-dimensional “villainous villains”. I first read Dancing With Clara several decades ago, and to this day, it is the best example I can think of of a villain being redeemed. And even there, the characters admit at the end that he may not be able to be faithful, and she may not be able to keep from being jealous and spiteful…all they can do is take it day by day and try their best. This was rather shocking to me as a younger girl used to books that always delivered that idyllic HEA, but it has stayed with me, and is so much more “true” than that perfect, and perfectly unreachable HEA.

    1. I accidentally chose to read The Proposal -recommended on line- and immediately became a fan.Your insight on characters is admirable…as is the flow of words that sometimes reminds me of poetry rhyme…I have now read every book of yours I can buy on line-you are not being published in Greece, are you? though I love reading in English.I was thrilled by Edmond’s story though I never read the previous book.His ”happy” end with Mary-after the revelation of his tormented past- was a kind of “catharsis”-I don’t know if I spell it correctly in English since I am familiar with the greek word known in ancient Greek drama theatre.Can’t wait for your next book!

  120. Forgive me. I think I posted my comment as a reply to Susan Deahl’s comment on August 28.Would you be so kind and check? I love all of your books.

  121. Payzani Nafsika
    on August 28, 2014 at 2:59 am said:
    I accidentally chose to read The Proposal -recommended on line- and immediately became a fan.Your insight on characters is admirable…as is the flow of words that sometimes reminds me of poetry rhyme…I have now read every book of yours I can buy on line-you are not being published in Greece, are you? though I love reading in English.I was thrilled by Edmond’s story though I never read the previous book.His ”happy” end with Mary-after the revelation of his tormented past- was a kind of “catharsis”-I don’t know if I spell it correctly in English since I am familiar with the greek word known in ancient Greek drama theatre.Can’t wait for your next book!

  122. I love all your books! I reread all the ones I own quite frequently because I can’t get enough. I can’t wait till October when your next book comes out!

  123. I enjoy reading your thoughts in this blog, but it is also so interesting to read all of the comments. Some us may like one character, while another finds that character unappealing, but we are united by our love of your storytelling! I loved the redemption of Edmund in The Notorious Rake. Learning the source of his insecurities and the facade he presented to the world, truly made Mary’s growing love for him believable; and romantic in a real sense. I think I have read my old beat-up paperback copy at least a dozen times! Thanks for the satisfying reads!

  124. I discovered your books when I picked up the audio book for The Proposal at my local library. I was hooked! I so enjoy your Survivor’s Club books and look forward to reading your other offerings. Your characters are well developed and interesting. Their stories are brilliant. I would love the ARC for Only Enchanting…I will read it anyway but it would be wonderful to have the signed Advanced copy!

    Keep writing!


  125. I just discovered your books a few years ago and got totally hooked. I have all of your books that have come out since 2009, either in paperback or ebook form. I tend to agree with you about people very rarely ever being truly evil. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember anyone I’ve ever met being evil. I do love it when a villain goes good. Thanks so much for all that you do!

  126. I have to say that after reading The Notorious Rake without having had the opportunity to read The Trysting Place first, Lord Edmond Waite struck me as a man who was uncomfortable in his role as rake. He seemed to be playing a role that did not really fit him. I felt myself cringing for him as Mary Gregg tried to put end their relationship. So later, when we learned more about him, I was not terribly surprised. That poor awkward scholarly boy was still evident in the man. I’m glad he was redeemed.

  127. I’ve loved all of your books and find the villain discussion interesting. At the outset, Wulfric Bedwyn looked at bit villainous, but his slow reveal and love story are truly wonderful. While the Bedwyns and the “Simply” series remain favorites, I am really enjoying the Survivors Club series as well. Thanks for all your hard work!

  128. I don’t like books where the villain ist just a villain. The storie line tend to be (in my eyes) to flat. A good villain with an interesting character and background story makes a book more enjoyable.


    PS: Just finished to re-read the Survivours-books to be prepared for the next installment.

  129. I enjoy your characters so much! I read and re-read your books often. I find it amazing that you don’t have a “formula” that repeats every so often as so many authors do. Each of your books can stand as an original even when it is part if a series.

  130. I always enjoy getting the author’s perspective on their characters, if only because they know them so much better!

    Also, because I’m currently rereading the Bedwyn series, how do you pronounce Alleyene’s name? I finally figured out Freyja, but Alleyene has me stumped.

  131. I love to watch a character grow and develop so I’m glad yours aren’t perfect. It makes the story much more interesting.

  132. Thanks for giving us readers another glimpse into your thought process. I am enjoying the Survivor Series and looking forward to the next book.

  133. I actually love the fact that you’ve never redeemed Lionel. Some people never learn and never change, and illustrating that is just as important as the change and growth you show in so many of your other characters.

  134. I love a well-rounded villain,one that you can almost see their side of the story and empathise a little. You don’t have to like them but sometimes it is nice to understand them and they usually seem more real.

  135. Love all your books and this post about villains. Edmund Waite is a favorite of mine – the depth that goes into understanding his character is a wonderful read.

    So glad I was able to see news of this post since I am now a Facebook member. Missed the last one after checking for numerous times, but then we were also traveling in Maine and Canad when it came out.

  136. Enjoy reading your books because your characters are complex. The back story to their situation helps me understand certain decisions.

  137. I have just finished reading No man’s mistress and would like to know what was the difference between being a mistress and a courtesan? Ferdinand tells Viola that being his mistress would be a respectable employment.Was being a courtesan something like a high price whore?Was being a mistress more respectable?

    1. Yes, a courtesan was, generally speaking, glamorous and high-priced and not attached to any one particular man. A mistress was employed by one man, often for years and often with a family of children too.

  138. Well, here I am on the last day of this most recent contest. Villains redeemed is my absolute addiction! Who doesn’t want a second chance? Plus, Mary, your villains are all so damned attractive!
    I’ve been rereading the Survivors’ Club series again and the interweaving of secondary characters is what makes your recreated world so believable, so enchanting, so inescapable. Cannot wait to find out more about Agnes. Flavian has always intrigued me, with his cynical exterior, but fierce interior.
    I’ve had off from work this week, helping to put together a show of my late mother’s art. It was a very emotional experience: joyful at seeing her work exhibited, bittersweet because she wasn’t there with me. I had a long to-do list of things around the house, which I barely made a dent in. Every hour that I wasn’t hanging art, I was reading. It helped me to take a small break from the real world, which was overwhelming. The SC members seem less like characters and more like friends I carry with me. They have wonderful insights into how to survive this crazy real world. Thank you so much for sharing this world of yours with me.

  139. I have read all of Mary’s books. Her stories and characters are wonderful, but it is her writing that I really love! Thanks Mary for so many many beautifully written novels!

  140. I first chose a book by author. If I have read his/her work before and enjoyed it, then I am mostly likely to purchase subsequent books especially if the book is a series with recurring characters.
    Second on a friend’s recommendation. If they have read a book and liked it, I will give that author a try.
    Lastly the plot blurb on the back cover. If it sounds good then I am likely to buy it.

  141. There are certain romance authors (you, Julia Quinn, Julie Anne Long, Elizabeth Hoyt, Julie James) whose books I automatically purchase and read because they’ve never steered me wrong. I know that I can expect both good plots and good writing from these ladies, and I know that I might experience a bit of an emotional roller coaster while reading but will find fulfillment in their books’ endings. Non-romance novels are a tougher sell; I have to be in the right mood for them, and whether I read them or not is entirely dependent on my mood on any given day. But I probably read only one non-romance for every 10 or so romance novels I read. I’m a sucker for happy endings.

  142. I read a lot of different romances. I love the series like your Wounded soldiers. Last summer I re-read all of Lynsay Sands Vampire books. I always have an audio book going this way I can listen to books that I would not ordinarily read. I get arc from some authors which is great and have found many new authors that I can recommend to my customers. I like the regency books but also the alpha male commando type books. Sometimes it is just the cover. Let’s just say “hand me a book and I will give it a try”

  143. Hi, I have just finished reading “Only A Kiss” from The Survivors Club series. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the books but just knew there was a lot more to Lady Imogen Hayes story. No wonder she “went out of her head”, anyone would. Is there to be a book about George Duke of Stanbrook? I know he did not go to war but loosing his son and heir followed by his wife’s suicide it seems to me he deserves a happy ever after. In “The Enchantment” when he met Agnes Keeping/Arnot’s sister I thought there was the beginnings of a liking or romance there (forgot her name, shame on me). She selflessly gave up her come-out and then raised her little sister and now supports herself by giving music lessons. Isn’t this a lady deserving of a little romance in her life? Thank you Lynette Andrews

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