How I love Mary Balogh, let me count the ways. One, Mary Balogh has incredibly authentic historical narrative and dialogue. When I read her books, I truly feel like I’m hearing true, British dialogue from that time period. Two, her premises always catch my interest and promise a great read. And finally, the books always, always deliver.
She’s just awesome. I hadn’t read a book of hers in a while and this one was so good, I want to start re-reading all her books again. Only a promise is the latest book by this author and it’s definitely one not to miss.
This is the story of Chloe Muirhead, a spinster at the tender age of 27 (back then, anything over 25 was ancient). She’s staying with her mother’s godmother trying to figure out what to do with her life since marriage is already passed her by. Back in the time period, a woman who didn’t marry had few if any choices available to her. In spite of that, Chloe is courageous, determined and level-headed. I liked her immensely.
Ralph, our hero, arrives at the same location to visit his grandparents and try to reassure his grandmother that he’s looking for a wife. He’s the only living heir to his grandfather’s dukedom and marriage is a ducal responsibility he’s been avoiding. Ralph is a survivor from war with scars on his face to prove it but there are others, not any less painful, in his soul and those are the ones that stop him from risking marriage.
I don’t think I’m disclosing any secrets because it’s written on the jacket but I’ll say the warning nonetheless. If you hate reveals, skip the next paragraph.
Chloe proposes to Ralph, something quite outrageous for a woman of that time. So much so, that she loses her nerve half way through the speech and tells him to forget it. He doesn’t though and pursues her until they do marry. This takes place at the early part of the book but, instead of losing steam, this is when things become interesting.
The book is really the story of how they adjusted to their marriage, to each other and to their new position in society. Along the way, they have to face old fears, enemies and accept themselves. Only Mary Balogh could make their struggles both realistic and challenging without going over the top. I loved that this story had plenty of villains but none with guns or weapons. I loved that Chloe and Ralph had to grow and challenge their darkest fears but those weren’t necessarily outside themselves. I adored most of all, their love story because it grew gradually and seemed so natural that I never once doubted they were meant for each other.
This book captivated me from the very start and didn’t let go. The proof is that we had a storm while I was reading and lost power. Desperate, I got an old camping lantern to read by because I couldn’t put this one down. My husband had trouble getting home because of the storm but, truth be told, I barely noticed. I was in the book, hanging on to every turn in the story. And it was such a beautiful love story, I know I’ll go back and re-read it again and again.
I want to add a little quote to this review. It’s the first paragraph, so it won’t disclose any secrets. My hope is that you get a taste of the great writing I found in this book.
“There could surely be nothing worse than having been born a woman, Chloe Moorhead thought with unabashed self-pity as she sucked a globule of blood off her left forefinger and looked to see if any more was about to bubble up and threaten to ruin the strip of delicate lace she was sewing back onto one of the Duchess of Worthingham’s best afternoon caps. Unless, perhaps, one had the good fortune to be a duchess. Or else a single lady in possession of forty thousand pounds a year and the freedom to set up one’s own independent establishment.” Pg. 1
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