I think in many ways this series is tailor-made for me. Each installment is focused on a survivor of the Napoleonic wars. Each has suffered in the aftermath: some, in more obvious ways than others. You know I love a tortured hero and these books are chock-full of them. In the hands of a lazy author, this could result in essentially the same story playing out over and over again, different in only the details. Thankfully, that’s not what happens here. I love how different Mary Balogh has made each one of these books, and especially, each one of her heroes. What’s more, she gives us just a taste of each man prior to his book, but then reveals him slowly over the course of his story.
As the book began, the only thing I knew about Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was that he had a stutter and that his fiance left him after the war. Here, we learn that there is so much more to his issues. You see, Flavian was shot in the head, took a nasty fall from his horse, and was nearly trampled to death. It left him brain damaged. He could not talk at all for some time; he had fits of rage; and even now, he has holes in his memory, both short and long term. That fiance not only left him, she left him for his best friend. And now, her husband is dead, leaving her sniffing around Flavian to rekindle their relationship. He wants no part of it.
Flavian is angry –and rightfully so– especially since his family is pushing him to wed the new widow. So when he becomes enchanted by the simple and seemingly safe Agnes Keeping, it seems a grand idea to try to make a life with her instead.
Readers of the series may remember Agnes as Sophie’s best friend from The Arrangement. She is a widowed artist who lives with her musically inclined spinster sister. She is comfortable in her life, but Flavian awakens passions in her that are downright terrifying. Yet she can’t turn him away. The story follows their whirlwind relationship as Flavian struggles to remember his old life and commit firmly to his new one –and Agnes tries to decide if love and passion will destroy her life or make it worth living.
I had a hard time believing in the super-fast development of this relationship. The way Flavian became so quickly enamored of Agnes just didn’t ring true. His snap assessment of her as “safe” seemed totally arbitrary and her acceptance of his suit after his inconsistent behavior was a little puzzling.
I did like the book overall, though. Flavian isn’t your standard tortured hero with the damage to his brain, and I liked the novelty of it. I liked that while he made some boneheaded choices in the beginning (specifically in keeping secrets) — he LEARNED from his mistakes and made better choices, even when they were difficult. I liked how well Agnes and Flavian complimented one another and I loved having a villain I could hate in his ex. Though the love connection was tenuous for me in the beginning, I was totally on-board with it by the end.
As always, the time spent with whole group in the survivor’s club was great. I love seeing this whole group together and watching the true family they are. I like this series a lot.
*ARC provided by publisher for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Mary Balogh
Release Date: October 28, 2014