Review: Only a Kiss

Only a Kiss
Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Survivor’s Guilt and the Story of Opposites Who Definitely Attract

“Life is made up of opposing pairs — life and death, love and hatred, happiness and misery, light and darkness, and on and on to infinity. Finding balance and contentment is like trying to walk a tightrope between all those opposites without falling off one side or the other and believing that life must be all light or all darkness, when neither one is truth in itself.”

“You and me” he said, turning fully to face her. “Another pair of opposites.”

FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, sad but ultimately joyful, this book is about the guilt of surviving and learning to live again. The pain that Imogen has gone through has caused her to cut herself off from the possibility of joy and love in her own life. When she meets a man who has known little but easy times, the two are immediately at odds and yet recognize in one another something that each needs. Fans of the Survivor’s Club series will be pleased with this book (It is nice to see they whole group together again).

THE STORY: Imogen, Lady Barclay witnessed the death of her husband who was captured by the French during the war. In the years since, she has managed to regain a fragile peace that allows her to live her life. Now a man has come into her life that threatens her peaceful existence. Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford has inherited the title and land that should have been Imogen’s husband. After years of ignoring the property, he has decided to visit and is shocked to realize the widow is living on the estate. Percy considers himself “the most fortunate man on earth” as he has had no dark past or deep secrets or sadness in his life. He and Imogen could not be more opposite when they first meets. Percy is cheerful and bright and he sees Imogen as cold and marble-like. Percy’s unwilling attraction to Imogen, however, threatens to pull him into her darkness while Percy threatens to pull Imogen unwillingly back into life.

OPINION: Truly the story of living versus surviving. At times painful and sad, but ultimately life affirming, this is the story of a woman who has merely been surviving for years and the man who ends up pulling her from the darkness. I loved how Imogen was the haunted one here and Percy was the golden boy. I also liked how their interaction challenges and changes both of them. By becoming involved with Imogen, Percy open up his charmed life to danger and darkness.

Surprisingly, both had been living half lives. The lesson of this book is that life can neither be all darkness nor all light. Only the contrasts and the tension between them make life worth living.

Percy and Imogen’s story does not start off well. The two seriously annoy one another when they first meet. All Percy sees in Imogen is coldness and all Imogen sees in Percy is superficiality. The book is a glorious journey of how they get to truly know one another and open themselves up to one another.

The sweetness of the story where Percy finds joy in making Imogen laugh and smile. Imogen’s ability to make Percy see complexity and accept imperfection. These are the driving forces of this book. As with many of Barlogh’s books, this one is a slow unfolding of the relationship between these characters. Trust, love and hope take time to develop with these characters and the journey is well paced.

To give the story some momentum, there is also the story about uncovering smuggling that is happening on and around the estate. This story at times feels unnecessary but is neatly folded into the whole by the end of the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: The Survivor’s Club is composed of six men and one woman (Imogen) who were all somehow changed by the Napoleonic War. They all were deeply harmed (emotionally and/or physically) by the war and its consequences. I have loved the relationship between these survivors. Imogen thinks of the six men as brothers and they are clearly protective of her while treating her at a full and equal member at all times.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONLY A KISS is book 6 of the Survivor’s Club series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.25 stars.

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