The Proposal by Mary Balogh
May 1, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
Lord Trentham or Hugo, has been home from the Napoleonic War for a few years now. But he didn’t come home unscathed, much like many other soldiers. The Duke of Stanbrook who lost his son in the war, and eventually lost his wife due to her grief, has opened up his home to Hugo and six other wounded former soldiers (one is not a soldier, but a widow whose husband was tortured and then shot, which she witnessed). Some are wounded on the outside, and all are wounded on the inside. Every year for a few weeks, these seven people meet at the Duke’s house and just hang out. They talk, they share how they are faring, and they find peace in the companionship.
Hugo was brought up middle class, but due to a heroic move on the battlefield, he was handed a title. That along with inheriting his father’s vast business empire upon his recent death, Hugo finds himself a titled and very wealthy man and it makes him uncomfortable. He bought himself a decent sized house, but still feels more comfortable out in his gardens or tending baby animals. But he knows he has a duty, which means he must marry and beget an heir. Joking with his fellow companions (and by joking, I mean maybe a slight smile, Hugo isn’t one to joke) he decides to take a walk on the beach and find a wife. What he doesn’t realize is how accurate he is.
Lady Muir or Gwen is visiting a friend who recently lost her husband. Gwen knows the sadness of losing a husband, as hers fell off a balcony a few years ago. Before that, she also lost her pregnancy when she fell off a horse (she also permanently injured her leg and walks with a limp). Gwen has had much trauma in her life, but her friends and family who she lives with have kept her spirits up. Gwen goes out for a walk and due to her limp; she falls on some rocks and sprains her ankle badly. Luckily, Hugo just happens to be in the area and swoops her up and takes her back to the Duke’s house for a doctor. Gwen is embarrassed and feels like she is imposing on their house party. Hugo doesn’t really know what to do around a Lady. As Gwen is forced to stay at the Duke’s house for a week until her family can send a carriage, she ends up spending a lot of time with Hugo.
As I mentioned earlier, this series is all about “The Survivors Club", six men and one woman who have been deeply affected by the Napoleonic War. While Hugo has no physical injuries, he is deeply tormented on the inside. He led a “Forlorn Hope” where 300 men died, yet it was a successful attack. He has been given a hero status for this, but has a hard time letting go of all the men that died and now being rewarded for that. The others in the group include a blind man, one with crushed legs, one with a scar, one with a bad stammer and a woman who watched as her husband was shot after an extended torture. So, if you like tortured characters, this very well might be a good series for you. There is much drama. This set-up really intrigues me and I very much look forward to getting into all of these characters heads and learning their story.
With all the hurt in this book, I found it to be very slow. Hugo is very blunt, and not a man with a lot of words. Pairing him up with Gwen, who is a little cold at first, it was hard to get into this couple. Things eventually start to move along, and that warmer, well done banter that I love from Mary Balogh peeks in every once in awhile. But I did find myself wandering off through a lot of this book. There just wasn’t a ton to keep my interest.
What I did appreciate is that there isn’t really a suspense plot, or a revenge plot or even really a villain. The villain manifests internally in these characters. Hugo must accept what he did in the war, and who he is now. And Gwen must accept the circumstances of her husband’s death and that she is allowed to have a happy future. I appreciated the fact that this is a very character driven story. But like I said, it felt sluggish at times.
I have to read the next one though, because I’m so intrigued by this Survivor group.