ONLY BELOVED – Mary Balogh
A Survivors' Club Novel – Book 7
England – After the Napoleonic Wars
George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanbrook, used his estate, Penderris, as a hospital and place of recovery for wounded officers coming home from war. Five very seriously injured officers and one officer's wife remained his close friends after their recovery. At the wedding of the last survivor, George, now forty-eight, realizes he is alone and wants a life partner. He even knows whom he wants as a wife: Dora Debbins, a woman he met briefly a year ago and the sister-in-law to one of his survivor friends. He doesn't want an heir. He lost his seventeen year old son in the Peninsula during the war, and his wife committed suicide shortly afterward. He has his nephew Julian for an heir. What George wants is a constant companion and friend. He thinks Dora will be perfect, and he loves her music.
Just before her first season, at age seventeen when her mother left her father, Dora gave up her chance for an advantageous marriage and took over care of her much younger sister, Agnes. When her father remarried, his new wife made it clear she wanted Dora gone. A talented musician, Dora is now self-sufficient after taking a position teaching music near another of George's survivor friends, Vincent. While she admired and even fell slightly in love with the duke at their first brief acquaintanceship, she never expected him to show up at her small cottage and propose marriage. At thirty-nine, Dora is a spinster and knows the circumstances between them are vastly different, but she knows exactly what George wants from her and willingly accepts his proposal.
These two are both survivors of very dysfunctional families, and they both bear scars from their past. Some will be healed, some not. George is an unusual hero, quiet, calm, a good listener, compassionate, and honorable. Dora knows he has wounds he never shows, but she trusts him implicitly, even when in the middle of their lavish wedding ceremony before London's ton , his former brother-in-law accuses him of murder. What neither expects is how their marriage will convey unexpected outcomes, including peril. A captivating story that leads readers through relationships of both love and betrayal among acquaintances, friends, and family, to a journey of generousness, hope, anguish, and love.