Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby, is a member of the Survivors’ Club, a group of men and one woman who have suffered traumatic injury or loss of some form or another. Their purpose is to support and help each other to heal. The strong bonds and friendships they have formed with each other have given these damaged people a solid foundation for moving on with their lives and accepting themselves. They still meet at least once a year to spend time together. Flavian suffered a serious head injury when he was a soldier. For a time he couldn’t speak, or control himself, and often had fits of rage. While he has mostly healed, there are still gaps in his memory that he fears may never come back.
Agnes Keeping is a widow who lives a quiet life. She had a respectful, comfortable marriage, and was fond of her deceased husband, but she’s never experienced real passion or true love, nor does she want to. While attending a ball given by a friend, she’s expecting to be the usual wallflower. She’s surprised to be asked to dance by the oh so handsome and very flirtatious Flavian. She accepts, and later they have a second dance, a waltz. Flavian comments that he expected to find sensible conversation with her, but instead found her only enchanting. For the first time in her life, sensible Agnes falls head over heels in love on the spot. Though they don’t meet again for several months, when they do, Agnes finds her love rekindling, and Flavian finds that he’s still enchanted. As their encounters grow more passionate, Flavian surprises himself and Agnes by proposing. What begins as a convenient, albeit passionate, marriage (at least on Flavian’s part) soon becomes much more.
I love to see characters having to leave their comfort zones in order to achieve their happiness. Agnes was living a comfortable, yet unexciting life. She was venturing into unknown territory by agreeing to marry. I admired her courage for facing her fear of emotion and passion, and taking a risk that Flavian may never love her. My admiration grew when she was able to hold her own against Flavian’s disapproving family, and to stand up to his former fiancée, who was determined to exact some revenge.
Flavian broke my heart. The gaps in his memory left out so many important things, and caused him to feel terrible guilt about his late brother. I felt his anxiety over the pressure he was receiving from his family to marry his former fiancée, who jilted him when he was ill. He knows that he feels safe with Agnes, and needs her in his life.
The only problem with attempting to review a book this good is trying to write words that will do it justice. Mary Balogh has created a real masterpiece in this story. Both the hero and heroine are wounded, though in different ways. You can’t help but fall in love with both of them, as you watch their love story slowly unfold. They have the strength to stand up to the forces against them, and the determination to make their marriage work. It’s a joy to watch Flavian slowly regain his life, and fill in the missing pieces, while Agnes becomes stronger and more sure of herself. When the road has been so rough, the happy ever after is even sweeter. This is book four of the Survivors’ Club series. It may be read alone, but there is so much background information in the previous three books, and reading them will only add to your appreciation. I found this to be not only the best of the series so far, but one of Mary Balogh’s best books, ever. It’s romantic, satisfying, and sigh-worthy. It’s also one of my very favorites from this year and I recommend it most highly.
Reviewed by Rose for Smitten by Books