Only A Promise
by Mary Balogh
Page Count: 400
Release Date: June 9, 2015
How got: personal library, bought from Amazon
First attention getter: the series and author
Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family's title and fortune.
Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.
Star Rating - 5
This is my favorite volume for this series to date. I know I rated Book 2 with a five stars, but this one is above and beyond that one. I think it’s the blend of darker elements and more dramatic emotional content that tips the balance. And this book has that in spades.
Where Vincent’s and Sophie’s story was more gentle and sweet, Ralph’s and Chloe’s tale is fraught with despair, pain, and low expectations in life. Ralph’s wartime experience was as much emotional and mental as physical; survivor’s guilt is a big and looming presence in his tale, more so than the other Club members I feel. I liked the depth and layer that it adds to this budding romance.
Chloe is scarred in her own fashion as well socially and as a result of that, emotionally. Her family’s transgressions have stained any hope she had for a normal life and so she finds herself in the position as an unmarriageable woman. While not on the same level as wartime angst, her emotional pain still adds weight to an already dramatic story.
This story is a “marriage of convenience” story, a cliché that I find myself enjoying more and more. It’s a miracle me saying that as I usually HATE clichés of all sorts. Yet, this one seems to dovetail beautifully with the emotional states our leads are in, two damaged individuals who don’t think they can find love but want the benefits that the married state can bring them. Being in such close proximity all the time allows for some lovely character development and relationship enrichment.
Balogh has created a world class historical romance here. Emotionally resonant and with characters that shine, I devoured this book. It’s the best of the Survivor’s Club so far and because of how good it is, I look forward to the finishing two novels coming out soon. Another example of why Balogh is turning into one of my favorite authors for this genre!