Series: Survivors' Club #4
Published by Penguin on 2014-10-28
Genres: Historical Romance
Also in this series: The Proposal, The Arrangement, The Escape, Only a Promise
Also by this author: The Proposal, The Arrangement, The Escape, The Heart of Christmas, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Miracles, Only a Promise, Someone To Love, Someone to Hold
The Survivors' Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, in the fourth novel of the Survivors' Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation—in the love of a most unsuspecting woman....
Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.
Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage. When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.
Mary Balogh has another winner in Only Enchanting. Balogh consistently writes deep, satisfying romance; her characters are realistic and complex. In this book, Flavian, a member of the Survivors’ Club, is still dealing with traumatic brain injury years after a bullet tore through his head. He lost the ability to speak for some time, and still speaks with a slight stammer, but the real issue is the huge gaps in his memory and the frustration his disabilities bring him. It slowly becomes clear that he’s carrying great deal of emotional pain not directly related to his injuries, as well. Yet he’s kind and capable of being charming, and he loves and is supportive of his fellow Survivors’ Club friends. In short, he’s a wounded hero, but not a darkly dangerous one.
Agnes is a youngish widow. Her marriage was a practical one; there was companionship but not passion. She’s an artist, although that plays a bigger role in the opening chapters than in the latter half of the book. She’s sensible and restrained – almost too much so. It’s clear that there is a more passionate, impulsive woman locked inside her, but for reasons that again become clear only over time, Agnes is unwilling to give her feelings free reign.
That begins to change when she meets Flavian and quickly falls in love with him. (I would call it more of an infatuation at that point – almost a first crush.) He finds her “enchanting”, but his feelings aren’t really engaged; in fact, when they next meet, some months later, he has forgotten her name, though he remembers it again fairly soon. Agnes, for her part, doesn’t want to feel this way and tries to avoid him. (This being a romance novel, you can guess how well that works!) I loved watching the two of them feel their way in a relationship that in some sense disconcerts both of them. Once Flavian decides he wants to marry her – though he doesn’t really know why, except that he’s attracted to her and he feels safe with her (a key point, by the way) – he won’t take no for an answer. He’s not aggressive, merely persistent, and because Agnes does love him, she eventually and uncharacteristically gives in to impulse and agrees.
Balogh’s romances often don’t end with an engagement or even a wedding, but continue on to show the work involved in building and maintaining a marriage. Many Regency marriages were not based on love; they were often undertaken for more practical reasons. Balogh’s characters usually have some attraction to each other, but in some of her books, the marriage precedes the characters’ realization and declarations of love, either because marriage offers a solution to a problem (as in Slightly Married and The Arrangement), or because the young woman has been compromised in some way. In this case, both Agnes and Flavian want the marriage, but the nature of their feelings hasn’t worked itself out yet – and there are several unforeseen obstacles looming in their way. I don’t want to give anything away, but this half of the book was, if possible, even better than the first. Agnes shows herself to be strong and willing to fight for what matters to her, as does Flavian. One or two scenes made me want to cheer, and I loved seeing them open up to each other more and more. Both are wonderful characters, and I really wanted them to reach their happy-ever-after.
If I had any complaint, it’s that by the end of the book one of the potential threats, while neutralized in terms of wider society, hasn’t been neutralized on a more personal level and could potentially still wreak some mischief. Of course, that’s often true in real life; true love doesn’t mean a couple will face no challenges, only that they’ll do it together. . . and these two undoubtedly will.
There are three more books to come in the Survivors’ Club series, and I can’t wait to read them. I’ll have to wait until May, though, which is when Only a Promise comes out. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do with re-releases of two of Balogh’s earlier novels, Beyond the Sunrise and Longing, neither of which I’ve read – so they’ll be new to me!