Mary Balogh can do a self loathing hero like nobody's business. Edmond is a jerk and a womanizer. He's a little mean and a lot cruel. And yet I still liked him. A lot.
In some ways, Edmond takes on role that the heroine traditionally plays in that we go on the emotional journey with him much more intimately than we do with Mary. We are privy to his dizzying, relentless fall into love and his uncertainty with it all and the steps he takes to protect his feelings. He has some truly revealing inner dialogue that we are very much privy to.
The heroine, Mary, otoh, comes off as the one who is a little more enigmatic and a little more distanced. Yes we get to feel her side of things also, but she plays her cards much closer to her chest than Edmond does -- at least from the reader's standpoint. Outwardly, Edmond is a sneering enfant terrible
but we get why he is the way he is. It takes Mary some time to realize why as well.
It is her discovery of the real Edmond that makes for a good, affecting, romantic story.