Review: Only a Promise: A Survivors’ Club Novel

Only a Promise: A Survivors' Club Novel
Only a Promise: A Survivors’ Club Novel by Mary Balogh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Wonderful, Deeply Emotional Survivor’s Story

“We can all be hurt.”

THE STORY: Chloe Muirhead has given up on her dream of marriage and children. Twice she has been in London and twice scandal has followed her. Instead, she has taken on the role of companion to a duchess. When the duchess’ grandson, Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick, comes to visit, Chloe recognizes him as the childhood nemesis of her brother. Ralph returned from war injured and also depressed. He encouraged his childhood friends on join him in war only to watch them blown to bits. Ralph knows that as the future Duke of Worthingham, he has the obligation to marry and produce an heir, but he knows that he has nothing to give a wife. Soon Ralph and Chloe have a deal, they will have a marriage of convenience without expectations so that neither will be hurt. Through marriage, however, they both discover that it is not so easy for either of them to stick to the emotionless bargain that each intended to make.

OPINION: Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series is incredibly deep and emotional. ONLY A PROMISE is no different. This is a serious story about wounded people. Chloe and Ralph begin their story as emotional damaged people. They cannot hope for more than a marriage of convenience.

Chloe has been slapped down by life too many times for her to hope for more even as she wishes for a husband and children. She does not believe that she can have love so she thinks that she will be satisfied with an unemotional marriage. She makes tremendous growth in this story as she confronts her deepest fears and becomes more than she imagined she could be.

Ralph has locked away his emotions after his experiences in war. He deeply blames himself for the death of his friends and cannot find forgiveness in himself. His physical wounds are damaging but his emotional wounds are deep and dark. He is unwilling to open himself up emotionally again because he fears attachment and doesn’t believe himself worthy of a happy future.

The relationship between Chloe and Ralph slowly evolves from the cold bargain that they thought they were going to have. Their journey is difficult and dark and they hurt one another on the way. This is a brave book that begins with a cold bargain but allows the space and time for the two protagonists to open up to one another and to life.

Beautiful, compelling and ultimately about redemption, strength and forgiveness, ONCE A PROMISE is incredibly painfully real.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are some nice updates on characters for fans of the series.

FINAL DECISION: Balogh’s Survivor novels are a wonderful emotional exploration of damaged individuals and their discovery of love. Chloe and Ralph are both damaged by life and yet more to find such joy and love with one another. Beautiful and dark and ultimately redeeming.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONLY A PROMISE is book 5 of the Survivor’s Club series. It can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this story 4.5 stars.

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