THE ESCAPE is the third novel in the Survivor’s Club Series. The Survivor’s Club is a group of people who recovered together from injuries they received during the Napoleonic Wars. They recovered at the estate of the Duke of Stanbrook and meet annually to reconnect. They constitute what would in modern times be considered a support group. The prior two books were THE PROPOSAL and THE ARRANGEMENT.
This book is about Sir Benedict Harper who received serious injuries to his legs during the war and has struggled against being crippled both physically and mentally because of his injuries. At the beginning of the book, Ben has reached a crossroads. He has finally accepted his limitations but doesn’t know what he will do with his life now that he is accepted that he will never be able to live the life he expected to live before his injuries.
Samantha McKay is a widow of four months. She was married for seven years. For five years, Samantha had nursed her husband because of wounds that he suffered in the war. His constant demands meant that Samantha had no life except for acting as a nurse. Samantha is now being suffocated by the demands that her father-in-law and sister- in- law impose upon Samantha in the name of mourning properly.
Ben and Samantha meet when Samantha escapes her de facto prison to take a walk. Their meeting was not auspicious for the start of a romance but soon they have found out that both have damaged souls that they are trying to rebuild. They are drawn together even as they know that neither is ready to have a long term relationship.
What I loved about this book is how the relationship between Ben and Samantha is realistic and mature. Finding a kindred spirit is not enough for either of them to be completely healed of their emotional scars. Their relationship opens each of them to the possibility of being complete people, but they cannot heal one another. What this book posits is that in order for their love to last, they must be complete people on their own. They must each rebuild their lives and find healing inside before they can share themselves completely with each other.
This book is a slow journey. It’s not boring, but rather an intricate look at the lives of these two people. They have a long journey to travel and part of the journey must necessarily be taken alone. The slow journey allows the characters to get to know one another. It also allows the knowledge that these two are not concerned about superficial concerns with one another. Once they have committed themselves to one another at the end of the book, it is clear that these two will have a long, happy loving relationship. Ben and Samantha have a complicated adult relationship. There is definite beauty in that these people come together at the end as whole people who have fulfilling lives and not ones who are needy and looking for escape in another person.
Balogh has done a wonderful job with this series. There are no simple answers for these characters. They are mature and independent and wounded. The books in this series is not just about the romance between two characters but the story of building strength and a life after devastating circumstances.
I’d rate this book a 4.25 because of the emotional impact.
ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest opinion.