Series: Survivors' Club #3
Published by Dell on 2014-07-01
Genres: Historical Romance
Source: purchased, the publisher
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Also in this series: The Proposal, The Arrangement, Only Enchanting, Only a Promise
Also by this author: The Proposal, The Arrangement, Only Enchanting, The Heart of Christmas, Christmas Gifts, Christmas Miracles, Only a Promise, Someone To Love, Someone to Hold, Someone To Honor
In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.
After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws—until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.
Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.
Includes Mary Balogh’s charming short story, “The Suitor.”
One of my favorite things about Mary Balogh’s writing is the respect she has for her characters. Main characters in Balogh’s books aren’t perfect. They’re usually flawed, and as often as not they are also wounded in some way, either before or during the course of the book. But they aren’t weak or whiny, and nor, by and large, have they become cruel, callous, spiteful, or selfish as a result of whatever misfortunes they’ve suffered. They are strong even in, or despite, their brokenness.
That makes Balogh’s characters sound like saints, and nothing is farther from the truth. What they are are well-intentioned, honorable, caring people who are trying to find a little happiness — and healing, though they don’t always know it.
Take Ben, for instance. Injured in the war, his legs badly crushed, he has fought single-mindedly for five or six years to regain as much use of his body as he can. He lives in almost constant pain, but he can walk… with canes, and not far. It has finally dawned on him that he will never regain his full strength, never again walk with ease. He’s trying to come to terms with that, and find a direction for his life.
Then there’s Samantha. Married unwisely and too young, she has spent the last five or six years nursing her husband, an officer also injured fighting Napoleon’s armies. Now widowed, she’s hemmed in by the rigid social expectations of her sister-in-law, who adheres to the very strictest interpretation of mourning. And there’s little end in sight.
One small act of rebellion for each of them — a ride, a walk — results in a sudden and quite unexpected meeting – one I won’t spoil by recounting for you. (Trust me, it’s memorable!) This leads, rather circuitously, to a growing friendship and attraction as well as the wrath of Samantha’s straight-laced in-laws. And so, eventually, when Samantha remembers her small inheritance in Wales with its promise of freedom, Ben agrees to escort her there.
When Balogh makes use of a common romance trope — for instance, the unmarried couple traveling together — it never feels like a plot device. Instead, it feels like the natural outgrowth of who the characters are and the circumstances they find themselves in. Of course Samantha, being who she is, will choose freedom and her possibly dilapidated Welsh cottage over the stifling emotional prison her in-laws would impose on her. Of course Ben will insist on escorting her, not because it’s The Thing To Do if you’re a Regency-era romantic lead, but because he is a decent and honorable man, because she is his friend, and because, frankly, he needs to feel useful again.
You know that these two wounded people are going to find healing in each other, and they do — but not (just) in the ways nor when you would expect. And that’s another thing I appreciate about Mary Balogh’s stories. She doesn’t adhere to a formula or timeline in deciding how and when the relationship will progress. That’s dictated solely by the characters and the plot, which leads to some refreshing surprises, in this book particularly. Watching Ben and Samantha find love and emotional healing in unexpected ways was one of the joys of this book.
One final note: The book (both Kindle and paperback) contains the short story/novella “The Suitor.” If you read book two in this series, The Arrangement, and wondered what became of Miss Philippa Dean, the young woman from whom Vincent fled rather than marry. . . wonder no longer. She’s smarter and a little more devious than she let on in that book — and rather sweet.
The Survivors’ Club series so far
1) The Proposal (review)
1.5) The Suitor (novella)
2) The Arrangement (review)
3) The Escape (this review)
4) Only Enchanting (forthcoming)
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2014
Sounds lovely! I’m all about characters when I read – I mean of course the story matters, but having well-formed characters like that is what I really look for. Do the stories connect from book to book or could they really be read as stand alones? Gret review Lark 🙂
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
They can be read as standalones – in this series perhaps more than some of her others, but honestly, she’s pretty good about that generally. I really love her books. Some people don’t like her writing style, which is a bit more formal (particularly in the dialog) than contemporary, but it fits the period so perfectly!
I’ve somehow missed this entire series! I have The Escape and am hoping to read it next week. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Balogh never disappoints!
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
No, she doesn’t. I think my least favorite so far of all her books was The Proposal, and that may have been where I was at the time I read it (stressed out, as I recall.) And even that one I liked, I just didn’t love it as much as the others.
The characters she writes and respects sounds like something I could enjoy as well.
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
I hope you give her a try!
Jan @ Notes from a Readerholic
I’m looking forward to reading The Escape! Maybe after we get home tomorrow I’ll have time during the week. You’ve whetted my appetite for it, Lark! I do like Mary Balogh’s writing.