From the legendary New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Only a Promise comes the final book in the rapturous Survivor’s Club series—as the future of one man lies within the heart of a lost but never-forgotten love…
For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again.
Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.
For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?
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Mary Balogh brings her wonderful Survivors’ Club series to a conclusion with the story of George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook. From previous books, we know that George opened up his home as a hospital to those injured in the war. Six of those people, some injured in body, some in spirit, stayed on for an extended time at the Duke’s invitation. These six formed the self titled Survivors’ Club, and they became family to each other as they struggled to heal. One by one, each member found love and a new life, and moved on. With the last member now happily wed, George begins to ponder his own life and loneliness.
George is now forty eight years old, and a widower. His only son was killed in the war, and shortly after that, grief drove his wife to commit suicide. While being very happy for his friends, George wonders if there’s a chance he can still find some happiness of his own. He has no delusions of romantic love, but hopes for companionship, friendship, and someone who will warm his lonely nights. He has no desire to marry a young lady, but wants someone closer to his own age. Only one person comes to mind – someone he met last year – Miss Dora Debbins.
Dora is a music teacher. She raised her much younger sister, when their scandalous mother ran off with a younger man. This cancelled Dora’s plans of making her debut, and she has long since given up any hope of marriage. She met the Duke last year because her sister actually married one of the Survivors’ Club members. He treated her with courtesy and respect, and truth be told, Dora fell a little in love with him back then. Suddenly, a year later, the Duke turns up at her cottage unexpectedly, and without hesitation, proposes marriage.
The Duke doesn’t profess love, he simply expresses his loneliness and his admiration for Dora, and states that he thinks they could make a good life together. At thirty nine years old, Dora makes it clear that it’s extremely unlikely that she could ever have a child, but that’s the farthest thing from George’s mind, as his nephew is his heir. Dora accepts, and they marry.
George has been a bit of a mystery in previous books. He’s obviously extremely generous and kind hearted, yet we knew nothing about his first marriage. As we get to know him better, it’s plain to see that he’s a giver, and doesn’t really know how to take. He’s a wonderful, wonderful man, and my heart broke for him as the pieces of his history are revealed. George showers Dora with affection, and their life together starts out amazingly well. Still, whenever Dora tries to talk about George’s past, he withdraws and changes the subject.
George and Dora are both amazing and generous people who are perfect for each other. Mary Balogh slowly and skillfully builds their romance, so before too long, they are deeply in love, not to mention, having an unexpectedly hot sexual chemistry. I love the fact that they are not youngsters and still feel the strong physical and emotional bonds. ONLY BELOVED is my favorite book of this stellar series, and is a brilliant work. There is much more to this story of two deserving people who have waited a long time for their happiness. The journey is emotional, romantic, and ever so satisfying. I give ONLY BELOVED my wholehearted recommendation, and will include it as one of my favorites of this year.