Friday, January 10, 2020

Mary Balogh - The Proposal

Lady Gwendoline Muir has experienced her fair share of tragedies in her short life: she lost her husband to a freak accident, and developed a limp after falling from horseback. Still young, Gwen is sure that she's done with love, and that she will never be married again.
Gwen tries to be content with her life as it is, and to live through the happy marriages of her brother and her best friend, Viscountess Ravensberg. She's happy for them, and for years that is enough for her . . . until she meets Lord Tretham - a man who returned from the Peninsula Wars a hero, but is unable to escape the bite of his survivor's guilt. For he might just be the man who can convince her to believe in second chances. 

Comment: Another year, another series by Mary Balogh for me to go through... I'll space out the reads so the stories don't get to feel repetitive but I'm quite expectant about how much enjoyment I'll have with this Survivor's Club series.

In this first installment we meet Hugo, lord Tretham, as he and his fellow brothers in arms join the duke of Stanbrook in one of his estates where they all convalesced after the war ended and where they could heal  - or try to - in peace and understanding from the others.
Hugo has always been considered a war hero but he doesn't think he deserves that label and since joining the military his personality has become more serious and thoughtful. He has decided, though, it's time to take care of all the properties and responsibilities his late father left for him and that includes marrying and getting an heir.
Gwen, Lady Muir is a widow and she is regretting having accepted to visit an acquaintance for a month for she discovers apart from superficial things they don't have a lot in common. While walking on a beach close to her friend's house, she falls and sprains her ankle and Hugo, being on the duke of Stanbrook's propriety and seeing what happens to Gwen, helps her. From this hazard meeting starts something neither was even considering but both can't seem to want to ignore...

As usual when one starts a Balogh story, the settings, the rational explanations all make perfect sense for those characters and one can easily recognize the writing style of the author.
There is something to be said about knowing what you will get when you start a book by a specific author and I trust Mary Balogh to provide something addictive, not with unlikely characters only concerned about sexual escapades or too focused on problems that they can't enjoy the small great things either.

This story is quite basic in its premise: Hugo decides he needs to marry so he can continue fulfilling his duties and Gwen isn't looking for marriage again but after realizing she can still feel attracted to someone maybe it's time to change her mind.
The characters are and behave as adults. I could say there's perhaps a little too much rationality on their parts at times and there could be a bit more spontaneity when it comes to how they go from thinking into acting on their feelings but the author keeps her characters in track and she rarely detours from the personality traits we get when the book starts, which means consistency throughout the book.

Hugo is a very self conscious man and I admire his choices and the way he acted in certain situations. He still feels guilty over what happened at war but that's to be expected from a character we could describe as "decent" (as any Balogh hero usually is) and we come to want to see him find happiness.
Gwen is a secondary character from other novels by the author who here has her chance of getting an HEA. I also liked her personality, her quiet but joyful look on life despite negative things from her past. She isn't loud and she thinks before she acts which means she can be the perfect partner for someone who also has a steady look on things, like Hugo. I think they were a good match because they want similar things and I believe the author convinced me of that.

The romance is more on the sweet, disciplined side, especially after they agree there is something between them and perhaps they should court to see where things lead. Considering the plot development and secondary situations, we get to see them interact with others and face some situations, including one or two that are a little unpleasant, but I must say that it did seem as if the author had put all the ingredients in a neat row and things had to to make sense. 
I'd say this is her biggest fault in my point of view, the courtship between characters doesn't always seem passionate nor adventurous to their emotions. Even in complicated scenes, they are levelheaded and part of me loves it and wishes I could be that calm too, but the romance fan side thinks perhaps they could show more emotion in certain moments.

As the story progresses, the main characters' personalities reveal them as conscious people, human beings who went through a lot and who are still trying to process what happened in their lives but with communication, shared goals and interests and mostly supportive families and friends, there wouldn't be any other choice but to be together and happy too.
I'm now curious to see how the next member of the Survivor's Club will do.
Grade: 8/10

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