Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh
(Survivor’s Club series)

Publisher & Release Date: Signet, June 9, 2015
Time and setting: 1820, England

Genre: Historical Regency Romance

Length: 393 pages

Heat Level: 1 Scorching Hot Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description:

The new Survivor’s Club novel from the New York Times bestselling author.

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, for one of them, striking a most unusual bargain will change his life forever.… 

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 so as 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 an outrageous suggestion: 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.

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Vikki’s Musings

I have been a huge fan of Mary Balogh for years, ever since I read her Slightly series. She is an auto-buy author for me, and I have enjoyed her Survivor’s Club series immensely. Each book has been unique, which is surprising since the protagonists all have such a common bond. Only a Promise is another great addition to this wonderful series.

Chloe Muirhead is visiting the Duchess of Worthingham and acting as her companion, even though Chloe is the daughter of a Baron and has no need to work. The duchess’s grandson, the Earl of Berwick, is coming to visit. What she knows of him is not favorable, so she hopes his visit will be short.

Ralph Stockwood has been summoned by his grandmother, and he is positive it is to inform him again that as the heir to his grandfather, it is time for him to marry and set up his nursery. When he arrives, he has a long conversation with the duchess regarding that subject in front of Chloe, totally ignoring her presence.

When Chloe hears the conversation and finds out that while the earl is willing to do his duty and marry, he does not want to fall in love or have any emotional attachment to his future wife. This suits Chloe perfectly because while she does want to marry and bear children, she does not want a love match, having been disappointed in her youth.

When Chloe offers herself in marriage to Ralph, he is astounded by her audacity, but once he has time to mull it over, he realizes a marriage with her, just might be exactly what he wants. Can this unlikely pair learn to care and respect each other, yet keep their hearts intact?

As usual, Ms. Balogh has penned a another character-driven novel. I am fascinated with her ability to get me enmeshed with her characters, even if I may not even like them very much. This was the case with Chloe. It took a good part of the book before I liked her, but by the end, I not only liked Chloe, I loved her.

Since I had brief glimpses of Ralph in the previous books in this series, I had a general idea what his issues were, so I had empathy for him from the start. As the story unfolds, I could truly feel his pain, even though he goes to great lengths to hide it. He is truly a tortured soul, in mind and body, my favorite archetype. I loved seeing his growth from a dark, troubled young man he is at the start of the book, to the energetic, charismatic person he was before his injuries, both physically and emotionally, which caused him to withdraw from everyone, except his fellow survivors, by the end of the story.

Although this is not my favorite book in this series, it is still a fantastic read. I enjoyed it immensely and can’t wait for the next one to come out in the fall. In fact, I have already pre-ordered it. If you have not read Ms. Balogh’s books, I highly recommend them. While many of her stories involve a marriage of convenience, she is able to give a fresh spin on each, making them original and a joy to read. I have yet to read one that I did not love. Happy reading!

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