THE PROPOSAL – Mary Balogh
The Survivors' Club Septet , Book 1
Delacorte Press (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-385-34332-9
eBook ISBN: 978-0-345-53357-9
May 2012
Historical Romance

England after the Napoleonic Wars

The Duke of Stanbrook lost his son in the wars and generously opened Penderris Hall, his estate in Cornwall, as a place for other officers to recuperate. The duke, five officers and the widow of another shared their traumas and became fast friends as a result. So close did they become that they dubbed themselves the Survivor's Club and agreed to gather for a few weeks each year. They all carry scars of some sort, either visible or hidden.

Hugo Emes, former major and newly made Lord Trentham, is the only one—other than Lady Barclay, of course—who was not born a gentleman. He's the son of a wealthy merchant whose death a year ago kept him away from the last reunion. Having promised his father to take over the family business and to pass it on to a son of his own, and to look after his young sister, he's now in need of a wife. Though Hugo was elevated to the peerage for his heroism on the Peninsula , he prefers a simple life in the country, but he's prepared to do his duty. His announcement to the others of his need for a practical wife of his own sort leads to much good-humored teasing by his friends.

Gwendolyn, Lady Muir came to Cornwall in answer to a plea from a newly widowed casual friend from their mutual come-out days. It wasn't long before she realized her mistake. After a quarrelsome display from her hostess, Gwen takes a walk by the rocky shore. Gwen has a weak limb and a limp from a youthful, poorly set break, and when she steps on a loose stone becomes stranded on a hillside with a badly strained ankle. She's rescued by Hugo and carried to Penderris Hall where a doctor tells her to stay off her feet for a week. She's given a warm welcome from the duke and others.

One can hardly imagine a more mismatched pair than Hugo and Gwen. He's large, grim, thoroughly middle class, and—except for the six other survivors—deeply dislikes the upper class. Since widowed after a troubled marriage six years ago, Gwen wants nothing to do with the institution. But sometimes our bodies feel things contrary to our minds…

Ms. Balogh excels in plumbing her characters' depth for all to see. She writes with wit and wisdom as she shows their own development and their interaction with others. THE PROPOSAL is both moving and entertaining and the beginning of what promises to be an outstanding series.

Here is a hint of things to come: George, Duke of Stanbrook mourns the loss of his son and heir. Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby's wound is hard to see, other than a slight, occasional stammer. Ralph, the Earl of Berwick's face carries a prominent scar. Sir Benedict Harper struggles to walk after having his legs crushed so badly the doctors wanted to amputate. Imogen, Lady Barclay was with her husband on the Peninsula when he was tortured and murdered. And the youngest of them all, Vincent, Lord Darleigh owns a pair of beautiful blue eyes that see no more.

Some minor characters will be familiar to readers of Ms. Balogh's earlier works. In fact Gwen herself has appeared before in ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE, her brother's tale. Ms. Balogh creates intersecting lives in a realistic world that hangs together beautifully. Once you enter it, you're guaranteed to become deeply and happily involved.

Jane Bowers