Survivors Club 4
by Mary Balogh
Mass Market Paperback/e-Book/Audio Narr.: Rosalyn Landor 10:57
ISBN 9780451469663 400 Pages
28 Oct 2014
E-Galley provided by publisher for review. no remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
This is Book 4 of the Survivors’ Club series, after The Proposal, The Arrangement, and The Escape. Hugo’s story has been told, as have Vincent’s and Ben’s. Now it is the turn of Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. He is the Survivor who suffered a severe head injury as a cavalry officer during the Napoleonic Wars, with resulting memory loss, the inability to think or speak coherently, severe headaches, and sudden rages. He spent three years with the other members of the group at Penderris Hall in Cornwall, recovering and learning to cope with his remaining handicaps.
Flavian is handsome, witty, charming, and aloof. His heart was broken when his beloved fiancée broke off their engagement soon after he was brought home from the Peninsula and married his best friend. The double betrayal has left him cynical and apparently quite immune to the lures of romantic love.
Agnes Keeping, a young widow, lives in a small village with her elder sister. She is a water colorist and loves to wander about the countryside painting wild flowers. She had a relationship with her husband of very mild affection and believes herself to be too sensible and prosaic ever to feel the pangs of a romantic passion, though she recognizes that such love does exist. Her friend Sophia, Viscountess Darleigh, is in a deep love relationship with her husband, the blind Vincent, one of the other Survivors.
Agnes and Flavian meet for the first time at a harvest ball given by the Darleighs at their magnificent country home. Flavian is visiting Vincent at the time and Agnes, along with everyone else in the neighborhood, has been invited. Flavian dances with her twice, and, fatally and unexpectedly, Agnes falls in love with him, though she laughs at herself for being so foolish. Flavian finds her enchanting and tells her so, but he promptly forgets her.
They meet again the following spring when Flavian returns for the annual reunion of the seven members of the Survivors’ Club. When he rides past Agnes on the village street, however, he has a hard time even remembering her name. He is delighted to be with his friends again, but one morning he is feeling a bit upset and wanders off to seek some solitude. But when he reaches the meadow in a far, usually deserted corner of the park, he finds daffodils in glorious bloom and Agnes lying among them, gazing upward at the sky. Agnes has come to paint the daffodils while they are still blooming, but she cannot capture their essence to her satisfaction and so is lying among them to see the world as they see it. Her concentration is broken when Viscount Ponsonby steps into her line of vision.
And so begins a magical, unlikely courtship leading to an equally unlikely marriage. Only afterward do these two wounded souls confront their individual pasts and demons together and begin the serious business of falling more deeply in love and committing their lives and their hearts to each other.
This story is both magical and real. Alchemy and chemistry.
Magical in that it brings two people in odd circumstances together and transforms them; not just with love, but with insight, tenacity and perseverance. I had a hard time seeing at he start how the couple would get together but once they did I was rooting for them. The alchemy comes in how the relationship transforms them both. The chemistry between the two is not based on looks, money or title, but on interaction and conversation.
It’s real in that almost all the characters, and especially Agnes and Flavian, feel real, human. And, not just in the details given, but in their feelings and behaviors. Agnes seems all meek, but once she gets going she fights for what is hers; even when she is hurt. I think what read as meek is self-possession and protective. Flavian is truly confused and wandering in a hazy existence. His mother and sister are slightly conniving but there’s another conniving female present too, and she really tries to throw a monkey wrench into it. The rest of Flavian’s friends and family are enchanting. I want to go to their parties.
While the story is sexy there’s only a little sex and NO VIRGINS!!! We don’t often get a widow as the heroine.
The medical aspect of such recovery after a massive head wound leading to aphasia is a little fantastical, but very much a contrivance of the genre.
My only complaint was that the story felt rushed and sometimes expository. There are a lot of allusions to back story I wish I had. On the other hand, Balogh provides atmospheric details such as the chatter of the towns people at the local church.
I highly recommend this book and, if I ever whittle down my backlog would like to go back and read the first three books.