A widow clinging to a safe, dull life falls in love with a former soldier recovering from a head injury in this entertaining novel.
Balogh builds on her many past successes with the fourth book in her Survivors’ Club series, which features six men and one woman who have all been irreparably damaged during the Napoleonic wars. Agnes Keeping’s life was changed forever when her mother ran off with a lover when Agnes was 5. As a result, Agnes grew up thinking of romantic passion as her biggest enemy, one that might steal her reason and cause her to hurt the people she most cares about. So she was quick to embrace an unexciting marriage with William Keeping, “a neighboring gentleman of sober address.” When he dies, Agnes moves to the village of Inglebrook, where her spinster sister, Dora, teaches music. There, Agnes befriends the new Viscountess Darleigh, whose husband is a member of the Survivors’ Club. At their home, Agnes meets Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby, a golden god of a man whose stammer is the only outward sign of the trauma and tragedy he experienced during the war. For Agnes, falling in love with Flavian is a risk to her tranquil life of painting watercolors and taking tea with the viscountess. For Flavian, Agnes represents a safe harbor from the manipulations of his family. Their precipitous marriage is a shock to Flavian’s mother and sister, who want him to marry Velma, the widowed Countess of Hazeltine. Velma was once betrothed to Flavian, but she abandoned him for his best friend when he returned home injured from the war. Fortunately, Agnes refuses to be cowed by the self-important Arnott family.
Although it lacks pizzazz, Balogh’s latest effort is a comfortably entertaining read.