Series: Ravenswood #3
Published by Berkley on 1/16/2024
Genres: Historical Romance
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Bookshop | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Chirp
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Also by this author: The Proposal, The Arrangement, The Escape, Only Enchanting, The Heart of Christmas, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Miracles, Only a Promise, Someone To Love, Someone to Hold, Someone To Honor
Lady Jennifer Arden and Ben Ellis know that a match between them is out of the question. Yet their hearts yearn for the impossible. Discover a new heartwarming story from New York Times bestselling author and beloved “queen of Regency romance,” Mary Balogh.
Left unable to walk by a childhood illness, Lady Jennifer, sister of the Duke of Wilby, has grown up to make a happy place for herself in society. Outgoing and cheerful, she has many friends and enjoys the pleasures of high society—even if she cannot dance at balls or stroll in Hyde Park. She is blessed with a large, loving, and protective family. But she secretly dreams of marriage and children, and of walking—and dancing.
When Ben Ellis comes across Lady Jennifer as she struggles to walk with the aid of primitive crutches, he instantly understands her yearning. He is a fixer. It is often said of him that he never saw a practical problem he did not have to solve. He wants to help her discover independence and motion—driving a carriage, swimming, even walking a different way. But he must be careful. He is the bastard son of the late Earl of Stratton. Though he was raised with the earl’s family, he knows he does not really belong in the world of the ton.
Jennifer is shocked—and intrigued—by Ben’s ideas, and both families are alarmed by the growing friendship, and perhaps more, that they sense developing between the two. A duke’s sister certainly cannot marry the bastard son of an earl. Except sometimes, love can find a way.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A beautiful strangers-to-friends-to-lovers story
Note: This review contains what some readers may feel are mild spoilers, although a careful reading of the publisher’s blurb implies any actual plot points I discuss.
Jennifer Arden, younger sister of the new Duke of Whilby (Remember Me), was crippled after a childhood disease left her with a twisted, shortened leg and foot. Deeply loved by her family, she is nonetheless an outsider rather than a participant in the ton, forced by her disability to sit quietly on the sidelines. She has cultivated a cheerful acceptance of her fate, but in her heart, she longs for romance, marriage, children… or simply to walk and dance like other young women.
Ben Ellis, the illegitimate son of the previous Earl of Stratton, knows all about being an outsider. Raised as a brother to the current Earl, Devin (Remember Love), and loved and accepted by his siblings and even their mother, Ben is nonetheless aware that his birth renders him ineligible to court any of the gently-born young ladies of his acquaintance.
On the surface, a match between Ben and Jennifer is impossible, but they are perfect for each other… if only they can find a way past the societal and family expectations that stand in their way.
Mary Balogh makes Ben and Jennifer’s journey to love and their families’ eventual acceptance both beautiful and moving. Their families’ objections arise out of their love for them both, but also from their unconscious beliefs regarding class and disability. Apart from one angry outburst by Jennifer’s brother Luc, both families’ opposition is quiet and caring, involving hints and subtle efforts to keep the pair apart. Their deep love for Ben and Jennifer enables their family members to eventually see and acknowledge how well-suited the couple are, and to gradually move from loving opposition to full support.
As her fans already know, Mary Balogh’s narrative voice is distinctive: quiet and more formal than most of the authors writing historical romance today. Her style suites the time period as much as it does the character-driven romances she writes. In Always Remember, she skillfully and sensitively depicts Ben’s complicated feelings about his parentage, his place in the Ware family, and his lack of knowledge about his birth mother. She is equally adept at unfolding Jennifer’s feelings about her disability and the effects of her family’s overprotectiveness. And the scenes showing Ben with his young daughter simply made my heart melt.
Both Ben and Jennifer love and appreciate their respective families, but each has consciously and unconsciously shaped themselves to fit their family’s expectations. The friendship between them develops because they are able to see and share with one another their hidden dreams, feelings, and needs. Jennifer and Ben see past not only the other’s social façade, but past the superficial obstacles—Ben’s illegitimacy, Jennifer’s disability—that initially kept them from noticing one another at all. As their friendship deepens, they encourage each other to acknowledge and explore their dreams: Jennifer’s for greater mobility and independence, and Ben’s to learn about and connect with his mother’s family. Ben’s approach to Jennifer’s disability is blessedly practical, figuring out ways to help her achieve more independence. Jennifer’s approach is more empathetic but equally helpful and insightful, given that Ben’s issues are more emotional and social than physical in nature.
I loved this strangers-to-friends-to-lovers story, and highly recommend it to Balogh’s fans and to lovers of well-written (and well-researched) historical romance generally. My only caveat is that the cast of secondary characters is enormous, and keeping track of them is made even more confusing by the use of titles or nicknames interchangeably with given names. For that reason, you should probably read the first two Ravenswood books before you read Always Remember; you will have a much easier time keeping track of who everyone is and how they are related. Even then, if you aren’t blessed with a genealogist’s memory for names and relationships, I suggest keeping a notebook handy to jot down the dramatis personae!
Challenges: COYER Upside Down (2023), Chapter 3; NetGalley & Edelweiss Challenge 2024
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 3
- NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2024