Classic Balogh: Romantic, Emotional and Strong
Mary Balogh continues her wonderful historical series about a group of seven survivors of war dealing with devastating physical and mental injuries.
THE STORY: Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby suffered a traumatic brain injury during the war. He returned insensible and his fiancee ended up marrying his best friend. Flavian recovered but still suffers from stuttering and memory problems. Now his former fiancee has been widowed and his mother and sister are determined to match them up again.
Agnes Keeping is a widow who has never been in love. She is haunted by her mother’s actions and thus is determined to live a life of moderation where passion has no place. When she meets Flavian, she ends up falling in love with him.
Five months after their first meeting, the two encounter one another again and the passion between the two grows. Flavian knows that he cannot have Agnes unless he marries her and thus he proposes to her feeling that he will be “safe” with Agnes. When Agnes finds out about his former fiancee, she believes that Flavian married her out of vengeance shattering their new marriage.
OPINION: I loved the structure of this book. Flavian suffers from memory problems which leads of a mystery about what happened wtih his former fiancee. His problems with expressing himself lead to questions about what his intended relationship with Agnes is. The story is complex and I have appreciated the way that Balogh seriously explores the injuries that each of the survivors’ have. The honest and undramatic way that the ravages of war are explored give this book a realism and emotional heft. I am also a great fan of Balogh’s measured exploration of the relationships in her book. The emotional depth of the book comes from the slow and steady exploration of the ordinary interactions between her characters. By the time the happy ending arrives for these characters, the journey has made the ending feel satisfying and complete. I know who Flavian and Agnes are by the end of the book and I have complete confidence that the two will truly be happy. The book is not flashy or fast paced, but rather feels like a walk through a lovely garden.
WORTH MENTIONING: I loved that this book paused and gave us an update on all the survivors. The series began with one of the “retreats” of the survivors and this middle book gives readers a new retreat elevated by the addition of three wives which brings life to these haunted people even as their difficulties remain.
FINAL DECISION: I think this book is a beautiful addition to the series. I have come to deeply appreciate the care that Balogh gives to the damage that war causes for each individual survivor. That care elevates the romance as each couple deals with the aftermath of pain and disillusionment in their lives.
CONNECTED BOOKS: ONLY ENCHANTING is the fourth book in the Survivors’ Club series. The book can be read independent of the others in the series, but the whole of the series elevates each book as readers are introduced to the pain of each survivor in turn.
STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars. I might have given it 4 stars, but I appreciate its beauty within the series itself with gives it extra value.