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the-arrangement
(The Survivors Club, #2)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I loved this sweet, poignant, character-driven, marriage-of-convenience story which is written with warmth, depth and emotion.

This is the second book in the series about a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, all left scarred (emotionally, physically or both) by their experiences, who form a close bond while convalescing. The Arrangement is Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh’s story.

At 23, Vincent is the youngest member of the Survivors’ Club and, as a result of an act of recklessness, he lost his sight in battle six years earlier. After returning home, he unexpectedly inherits the viscountcy, following the death of both his uncle and his uncle’s son. Being the only male member of his family, he is constantly protected and cosseted and worried over and planned for by all his well-meaning female relatives, but Vincent longs to live a more independent life. When the aforementioned females decide to select a bride for him – one who professes not to mind marrying a blind man but obviously does – it’s one step too far for Vincent and he flees with his valet and friend, Martin Frisk. After three weeks in the Lake District, he decides to go home to the more modest Covington House in Barton Combes where he grew up.

Orphaned Sophia Fry lives under sufferance with her aunt and uncle in Barton Coombes. Treated as little more than a servant, she has learnt that it is better to blend into the background rather than draw attention to herself…to become the mouse in the corner.

She was known by her relatives, when she was known as anything at all, and perhaps by their servants too, as the mouse.

However, she is not prepared to watch her scheming cousin trap Vincent into marriage, but her intervention results in Sophia being turned out of her uncle’s house. Feeling responsible for Sophia’s predicament, Vincent proposes a marriage of convenience with an arrangement that will suit them both.

“You could eventually have your cottage in the country,” he said, “with your flowers and your chickens and cats. I could eventually prove to myself that I can be master of Middlebury and of my life alone. We could have a marriage now, when we both need it, and freedom and independence and a dream come true in the future.

Having to live with his blindness and suffering from panic attacks, Vincent could so easily have been your typical tortured hero. Instead, he never wallows in self-pity, determined to live his life to the full and I love that he is kind, caring and sensitive to others’ feelings. Sophia has led a lonely life and a brief, soul-shattering romance destroyed her self-esteem but, like Vincent, she does not indulge in self-pity and secretly finds an outlet in drawing satirical caricatures of her relatives and those around them.

I love how the story focuses on the growing relationship between Vincent and Sophia. There is no great drama or big misunderstanding (a small hiccup maybe), just two people getting to know and like each other and falling in love. From their very first meeting, when Sophia saves Vincent from her cousin’s scheming, Ms. Balogh creates a real sense of rapport between them.

“…you are trapped in a life not entirely to your liking by the fact of your parents’ death, just as I am trapped in a life that is not always entirely to my liking by the fact that I lost my sight six years ago.”

I love how they help and support each other as shown in Vincent’s determination to restore Sophia’s self-esteem and Sophia’s practical efforts to help Vincent achieve the independence he seeks. I enjoyed seeing Sophia having the confidence to assert herself to win over Vincent’s family and Vincent taking an active role in running his estate and making an effort to meet his neighbours.

There are so many lovely moments in this book, but the one that really tugged at my heartstrings is the scene where Sophia and Vincent waltz together.

Candlelight was wheeling overhead. Colored gowns were a kaleidoscope of pastels about the perimeter of the ballroom. Mirrors multiplied the candlelight and the twinkling of jewels to infinity.
“Such sounds and smells,” he said. “I will never forget this moment. Sophie. I am actually waltzing.”

I enjoyed seeing the other members of the Survivors’ Club and their interactions with Vincent clearly reveal the close bond that exists between the group.

MY VERDICT: A gentle, heart-warming and beautifully written romance. Highly recommended.

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

 

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(The Survivors’ Club, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.

THE PROPOSAL

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous–if beautiful–aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Mary Balogh weaves an intelligent and touching story of two people from different social classes who find love. It’s an emotionally satisfying, character-driven romance written with her insightful glimpses into the human heart.

This is the first book in the series about a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, all left scarred (emotionally, physically or both) by their experiences, who form a close bond while convalescing. THE PROPOSAL tells Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham’s story.

Hugo inherited his father’s vast business and trading empire and is vastly wealthy but proud of his middle class roots. He is brusque and plain spoken, and frowning seems to be his perpetual expression. He likes to spend time at his country home where he can enjoy peace and privacy and share the company of his adored half-sister, Constance. Hugo also carries a heavy burden of guilt, blaming himself for the deaths of his three hundred men lost in battle. There is something endearing about Hugo because despite his fierce and dour appearance, I knew he was kind and caring as it is so evident in his love for Constance and his desire to see her happy.

Gwen is the perfect lady…beautiful, elegant, poised and charming. Since the tragic death of her husband, she has been happy to remain a widow, content in providing help and support to her family and friends. I loved her cheerfulness and sense of humour and the fact that she never lets her physical handicap define who she is. I admired her strength during the difficult times in her marriage and the way she cared for and supported her “sick” husband. She also carries a heavy sense of guilt over his death, believing that had she acted differently, he may not have died.

The romance between Hugo and Gwen developed slowly which I really liked. It allowed time for mutual trust to grow until they were able to confide their deepest secrets to each other. It allowed them both to realise they shouldn’t feel guilt over their past actions. Both of them both grow and change as they fall in love but it is Hugo who undergoes the most significant but subtle changes; doing things he’d never done before…

He winked at her. Winked. He could not remember ever winking before in his life.

things he found himself enjoying…

He had never had a teasing relationship with any woman— or any sort of relationship, for that matter. It was all new and strange to him. And wonderful.

I love how Gwen is accepted wholeheartedly by Hugo’s family and the scenes played out against the background of the anniversary celebrations are some of my favourites – full of fun, laughter and lovely family moments.

We are introduced to the others members of The Survivors’ Club and I know I will be reading their books too.

MY VERDICT: A wonderful classic Regency romance. Highly recommended!

 

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

 

Read March 2016


The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

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Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Heart of a Duke, #7)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

She’s longing to be loved:
Lady Cara Falcot has only served one purpose to her loathsome father—to increase his power through a marriage to the future Duke of Billingsley. As such, she’s built protective walls about her heart, and presents an icy facade to the world around her. Journeying home from her finishing school for the Christmas holidays, Cara’s carriage is stranded during a winter storm. She’s forced to tarry at a ramshackle inn, where she immediately antagonizes another patron—William.

He’s avoiding his duty in favor of one last adventure:
William Hargrove, the Marquess of Grafton has wanted only one thing in life—to avoid the future match his parents would have him make to a cold, duke’s daughter. He’s returning home from a blissful eight years of traveling the world to see to his responsibilities. But when a winter storm interrupts his trip and lands him at a falling-down inn, he’s forced to share company with a commanding Lady Cara who initially reminds him exactly of the woman he so desperately wants to avoid.

A Christmas snowstorm ushers in the spirit of the season:
At the holiday time, these two people who despise each other due to first perceptions are offered renewed beginnings and fresh starts. As this gruff stranger breaks down the walls she’s built about herself, Cara has to determine whether she can truly open her heart to trusting that any man is capable of good and that she herself is capable of love. And William has to set aside all previous thoughts he’s carried of the polished ladies like Cara, to be the man to show her that love.

*** Please note, this is an approximately 48,000 word novella.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Source: Purchased from Amazon Kindle

(The Survivors’ Club, #1)

Cover Blurb:

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

In Mary Balogh’s engaging and seductive new novel of drama and romance, a woman comfortable in her solitude allows temptation to free her heart, when a daring war hero shows her how truly extraordinary she is.

THE PROPOSAL

Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.

Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous–if beautiful–aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

 

Source: Complimentary copy received from the author in return for an honest review

(Accidental Heirs, #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Late Victorian)

Cover Blurb:

When a scheming marquess’ daughter offers her one hundred pounds to publicly kiss a nobleman, a desperate Jessamin Wright agrees. She believes the money will save her failing bookstore and finally free her from her father’s debts. But when Jess bursts into an aristocratic party and shocks the entire ton, she never expects to enjoy the outrageous embrace she shares with a grim viscount.

Lucius Crawford, Viscount Grimsby, has never met, or kissed, anyone like the beautiful suffragette who unsettles him with a single touch. He has always strived for control and avoided passion at all costs. Lucius is determined to protect his title and restore the estate he’s unexpectedly inherited, but Jess’ appearance in his life poses a threat to his plans and his heart. After a country house party brings them together once more, neither can resist temptation, and both find that one scandalous kiss just isn’t enough.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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(The Survivors’ Club, #3)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

Six years after being severely wounded in the Peninsular Wars as a cavalry officer, and three years after leaving Penderris Hall in Cornwall, where he had stayed with his fellow Survivors during his long road to recovery, Ben finally admits to himself that he will never be able to walk properly again or resume his old way of life. But he feels adrift. Although he is a wealthy man and owns a profitable estate, his brother has been running it for him with great efficiency and Ben cannot summon the will to oust his brother and family. The trouble is, though, he does not know what else he is going to do with his life. He decides to spend some time with his married sister in the north of England while he makes some plans and decisions.Samantha McKay is a recent widow. Her husband died after suffering for several years from battle wounds, and she is feeling drained and empty, for he would allow no one to nurse him but her and he was a demanding patient. It does not help that her sister-in-law has recently come to live with her and has very strict ideas on what is proper—and improper—for a widow to do. And the sister-in-law is fully backed by her autocratic father, who lives far away in the south of England but who nevertheless owns the house in which Samantha lives.

Ben and Samantha meet for the first time when he is out riding and jumps a hedge, narrowly missing coming down on top of her after she and her dog have left the confines of her own park, unknown to her sister-in-law. It is not an auspicious beginning to their relationship, though later they forge something of a friendship, cut short when Ben fears to embroil her in gossip and possible scandal. But her father-in-law judges her unfit to live without male supervision anyway and summons her south to live with him. Samantha chooses rather to escape to Wales, where she owns a dilapidated hovel of a cottage left her by her mother, though she has never seen it. Ben, the only one in whom she confides plans, insists upon escorting her there. And so they escape together into a new world and a new life with new discoveries and challenges and possibilities—and new temptations.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

What a fabulous, classy storyteller Mary Balogh is. She never disappoints and her story lines are original, interesting and captivating. This particular series is so addictive;  six men and one woman, all affected in some devastating way by participation or connection with the Napoleonic war.

This is the third in the series and Ms. Balogh has cleverly reminded us of the involvement of the others without boring, long winded explanations. There are quite long periods between publication of each of The Survivor’s stories and she tells us just enough to remind us of the surrounding circumstances.

This is Major Sir Benedict Harper’s story. Having suffered debilitating injuries, mainly to his legs, he is determined to walk and make a life for himself outside of the Army which was his love. What to do to utilise his military skills is the question. Benedict (Ben) has mastered horse riding again and, whilst out riding on his sister’s estate, he jumps a high hedge unaware of the heavily veiled, black clothed widow sitting on the ground on the other side. Antagonistic towards each other to begin with, Ben’s innate good manners drive him to make his apologies and he discovers the lovely young woman beneath the widow’s weeds.

Ben becomes embroiled in Samantha McKay’s troubles and , after their second meeting, the rapport between them is instantaneous and develops into an attraction that escalates over the coming months. Married at 17 to a dashing Military man, Samantha ends up nursing her complaining, demanding husband after he suffers life threatening injuries in the same war. Finally widowed after 6 years of nursing, she craves freedom and ‘escape’, especially from her autocratic and aristocratic in laws. Samantha decides to make her escape to Wales where she has been willed a cottage by a maiden aunt, which, as far as she knows, could be in ruins. Anything is better than the life she is now living. Honourable Ben offers his services as her escort to the wilds of South Wales.

These two characters are utterly wonderful. Honourable, charismatic and brave, Ben’s injuries only add rather than detract from his attraction. Warm, vital, and vivacious, Samantha, a breath of fresh air to Ben, sees the man beyond the crippled legs.

Mary Balogh is a native of Wales and it shows…I know Tenby and her wonderful description of the place and people transports me to a place I love. There are no bored, aristocratic rakes or mention of Regency ballrooms. The only ball is a Christmas gathering of all the local people – mistletoe, a waltz – totally heart-warming.

Written in Ms. Balogh’s usual fluent, original writing style, I enjoyed this wonderful, witty tale so much.  A well-earned  5 stars.

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM

♥♥♥♥♥♥

(The Survivors’ Club #4)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb:

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, in the fourth novel of the Survivors’ Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation—in the love of a most unsuspecting woman…

Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

This series just gets better and ONLY ENCHANTING is another winner. Mary Balogh’s years of experience show, but instead of running out of ideas, her novels just get richer, more empathetic and entrancing. How has she managed to come up with the diversity shown in this series alone? Each story is different; each character endearing, charismatic and loveable and definitely worthy of his (the men so far) happy ever after.

This is Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. Rich, bored, cynical and handsome, he is nevertheless a very unhappy and unfulfilled man. Enter plain…at least on first sight…Agnes Keeping, widowed and virtuous. She believes passion and love have no place in marriage. In spite of this, at the ball given by her friend Sophia, wife of Vincent, Lord Darleigh, a fellow survivor, she is completely captivated by Flavian after dancing with him on two occasions. Flavian, on the other hand, prepares himself to be charming but bored. Instead he finds himself enchanted by this no frills, sweet, young widow with a sense of humour and no guile.

Flavian has suffered devastating injuries in the Napoleonic wars and is rescued in the nick of time and carried off to the home of George, Duke of Stanbrook, in Cornwall. Here his terrible head injuries can heal in the company of others with horrific injuries of their own. Supporting each other through the healing process, The Survivors Club becomes the salvation for all seven members. However, they cannot save each other once they finally face the world again, forever changed to their families and loved ones. Flavian’s life threatening head wounds have healed, at least on the outside. He still suffers from memory loss, severe headaches and temper outbursts brought on by frustration at his inability to remember huge chunks hovering just out of range, tantalisingly close. He knows something devastating happened, but can’t catch it from his subconscious. It is all somehow wrapped up with his ex-fiancé Velma, who ended their betrothal on his return from the wars, to all intents and purposes a madman. Now that he is, at least on the surface, recovered, Velma would like to resume their relationship as she is recently widowed. Both her parents and his family support the match but Flavian has other ideas.

Mrs Agnes Keeping is the object of Flavian’s attention. He can’t explain to himself why he must marry her, he just knows she makes him feel safe. Eventually he wears down her misgivings and they marry by special license. Agnes is, against her better judgement, madly and deeply in love with Flavian and they enjoy a close and loving relationship until she discovers his previous relationship and feels he has married her simply to wreak revenge on his ex-fiancé Velma. Her gut reaction is to leave him but Flavian has discovered that Agnes is much more to him than ‘safe’ and does all in his power to keep her by his side.

Agnes decides to stay and her love and care slowly help Flavian to unlock the secrets of his mind. He in turn helps her to face her own demons; those same demons that insist that passion has no place in marriage.

Mary Balough has crafted another fabulous page turner from her talented pen. The other characters of the Survivors Club are in attendance, though slowly finding peace and love. I’d love to see George settle down. He is the saviour of this group of damaged human beings, offering them help and refuge, and should definitely find his own HEA. I do hope it will be Agnes’s elder sister Dora who captures George’s heart.

Again for pure entertainment value and originality, a resounding 5 stars.

REVIEW RATING: 5 /5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: WARM


The Survivors’ Club series (click on the book covers for more details):

The Proposal (The Survivors' Club #1) by Mary Balogh The Arrangement (The Survivors' Club #2) by Mary Balogh The Escape (The Survivors' Club #3) by Mary Balogh Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4) by Mary Balogh Only a Promise (The Survivors' Club, #5) by Mary Balogh Only a Kiss (The Survivors' Club, #6) by Mary Balogh Only Beloved (The Survivors' Club #7) by Mary Balogh

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