Review: Only A Promise

Title: Only A Promise (The Survivor’s Club #5) 23274098

Author: Mary Balogh

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

Review: One of my favorite Mary Balogh books in recent memory. And if I could impart any wisdom on those interested in reading this book, then it would be to not pay attention to the synopsis. I did not read the back of this book to learn what it would be about; all I needed to know is that it was the latest in the Survivor’s Club series. Due to this decision, I did not know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by the paths the story took. The changes the characters must face are swift, and in this way the development was constantly pushed forward. The twists seemed to defy the usual conventions of the genre. I will say nothing about what happened in this book because I want you to experience it the way I did.

As for the romance? I think it is one of the best I have encountered in a long time. Ralph and Chloe must come to gradual terms with one another. It was done over time, in a way that made it feel authentic and that came across to me, the reader, so that I could feel with them. Another noteworthy aspect of the story is how the repercussions of war are dealt with. There is much talk about war and the effect it has on those on the battlefield, those who choose to remain home, those left at home, and those who return home. To read each of the characters’ thoughts on this subject was a surprise to me, for I was actually moved by some of the things that were said. All in all, this was just an incredibly well done book, and I recommend it.

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Review: Only Enchanting

Title: Only Enchanting (The Survivors’ Club #4) 21805544

Author: Mary Balogh

Rating: ★★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: After two dances at a country ball hosted by their mutual friends, Agnes inwardly claims to be in love with Flavian. The realization of her feelings is momentous, since she is a widow that only experienced contentment in her previous marriage. Six months later, Flavian returns to the country home of his friends for a house party, and the mere acquaintance between the two is deepened. At this point, I was not a fan of this story at all. For one, I do not care for being told numerous times that a character is in love with another; I want to be able to feel the love, and I did not feel any emotion extended from Agnes to Flavian, or vice versa. Then, the setting of the house party created repetition within the storyline as the two danced around each other and took steps that — to me – were hastily done without concrete reason.

Once the storyline moved to London, however, it was as if I had begun to read another book; a much better book, in fact. Flavian is a survivor of the Napoleonic Wars; he was wounded from a gunshot to the head followed by a fall from his horse onto his head, which left him with muddled memories and the inability to speak. Healed to the point that he now speaks with a stammer, he had a lot of bridges to cross in terms of remembering exactly what happened with a broken engagement, the death of his elder brother, and his inheritance of a title. His journey brought twists I had not envisioned, in terms of where I thought the story of the past was going to go. I was intrigued with this.

Also, the emotion in the relationship between Agnes and Flavian becomes more apparent once they are in London. Agnes, too, has a past she must come to terms with, and Flavian is there for her so both of them might learn of the hidden memories within themselves so their relationship can be strong and flourish. I leave this book very happy with these two as a pairing and pleased the story was able to make a turnaround to give them a conclusion I believe to be deserved.

Review: The Escape

18007521Title: The Escape (The Survivor’s Club #3)

Author: Mary Balogh

Rating: ★★

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: In The Escape, the somewhat recently widowed Samantha needs to flee from the overbearing rules of her late husband’s family. Rather than be forced to live according to the desires of others she chooses to remove herself to Wales, which was the home of her deceased mother before she fled to London. Major Sir Benedict Harper had become acquainted with Samantha by way of a horseback riding accident gone wrong, and considers it to be his duty to accompany her to Wales for protection. In Wales, Samantha discovers a home she can be a part of and a family she never knew she had. Along the way, she and Benedict manage to fall in love.

Unfortunately, instead of being involved within this story I coasted through the pages aimlessly; towards the end of the book I was so bored with the predictability and long-windedness that I began to skim to the end. In my opinion the problem with the pairing of Samantha and Ben is that I was told they had fallen in love rather than shown it. Yes, the two of them have conversations to open themselves up to one another, but I did not feel any emotion beneath the dialogue to fuel this romance. I wanted a lot more from this story than what I received.

Review: The Arrangement

Title: The Arrangement (The Survivor’s Club #2) Image

Author: Mary Balogh

Rating: ★★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.
 
At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

Review: My only complaint about the regency romance novels that I typically read is that they always contain a plot element in which the man and woman are at odds with each other about what will be at the end of the relationship. By this I mean that they are usually convinced that the other does not love them, even when there is plenty of evidence to scream otherwise. The Arrangement by Mary Balogh did not differ from other stories since it contained the mentioned element, but it did surprise and delight me with it’s main characters.

Has anyone else ever read of a hero in these stories who is blind? Because I have not. Vincent had been blinded during his time as a soldier in the Peninsula Wars. His handicap has meant that the women of his family are in a constant flutter around him to attend to his every need. He wants to be free; he wants to have independence. So he devises an arrangement with Sophia to be his bride so that he may be rid of his family’s smothering attention and she might have a home to call her own. Sophia, likewise, was another unique character; she is an artist who draws caricatures to satire the situations she observes around her as an invisible member of her extended family. Both Sophia and Vincent brought out the best in each other. I loved to read about them falling in love and doing things to inspire independence and confidence within the other. This is the type of relationship that I want to have!

I don’t think this is a story that is surprising by any means plot wise, yet I still believe that many will enjoy it due to the endearing nature of the main characters. Both of them are such kind and lovable personalities that you want something happy to happen to them, and you are so pleased when it does. Balogh is also a wonderful writer that was able to connect the reader to all of the senses to describe characters and settings. Since Vincent is blind he has to rely on his other senses, and the author conveyed his point-of-view with stirring insights into what he feels and smells.