ONLY A PROMISE – Mary Balogh
Sussex and London, England, the 1820s
Because of family matters, Miss Chloe Muirhead, daughter of Sir Kevin Muirhead, had a delayed introduction to Society at age twenty-one. It was less than successful, mainly because of the scandalous actions of her younger sister. She also had her heart broken when her beau proved himself a cad. She tried again recently, but this time was no better when rumors concerning her legitimacy began circulating. Unable to face her future at home, Chloe wrote offering herself as companion to the Duchess of Worthingham who had been her late mother's godmother. The duchess wrote back to welcome her as a guest for as long as she wanted to stay. It was as happy an arrangement as possible in the circumstances. The elderly duchess was as kind as could be. And then the duchess's grandson came to Manville Court…
Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick and Worthingham's heir, is one of the seven members of the Survivors' Club, those veterans of the Napoleonic wars who became steadfast friends when they spent three years together recovering from their wounds, visible and otherwise, at the Duke of Stanbrook's home in Cornwall. As his aging grandfather's only heir, Ralph is expected to marry and produce a son…and soon! Truthfully, he's loath to do so; he's only twenty-six, and still not recovered from seeing his three best friends die in the battle that he barely survived. Nor does he feel any attraction toward the young—barely out of the schoolroom---misses he's supposed to choose from.
When Chloe hears his discussion with his grandmother, she wonders if a marriage between them might be the answer to her hopes for a home and children of her own. She suggests a convenient marriage to Berwick, and as neither is looking for an emotional tangle, a bargain is struck. Is Chloe's dream of a quiet life in the country going to come true? While Ralph has physical scars—the one on his face takes little away from his good looks—his psychic ones run deep. Though Chloe's heart carries some scars, it's still a kind and caring organ. But fate is not going to be easy on the pair…
Mary Balogh consistently writes great books with wonderful stories and realistically portrayed characters. This is certainly no exception. I highly recommend ONLY A PROMISE with only one suggestion. It's the fifth book in a series that began in May of 2012, and there are many recurring characters. If you haven't already started the series, now would be a good time to do so. If you have begun the Survivor's Club books, you don't need me to tell you to get the latest.