ONLY ENCHANTING – Mary Balogh
A Survivors' Club Novel , Book 4
England, Late Regency Era
A marriage in which husband and wife are merely fond of each other can be quite comfortable. That's what Agnes and William Keeping had for five years until death took William over a year ago. Agnes still misses him deeply, though she's now content to live with her unmarried older sister Dora, who teaches piano, violin and harp, in a village in Gloucestershire. Agnes is about to discover that there really is such a thing as romantic love, and she experiences feelings that just might be incipient passion.
The Napoleonic wars took a huge toll on the men and women of England, and the end of war did not always mean an end of suffering. The Duke of Stanbrook still mourns his son lost in the fighting and has opened Penderris Hall, his estate in Cornwall, as a place for other officers to recuperate from wounds, physical and otherwise. Five former officers and the widow of another benefited from his hospitality and the friendships they developed as they struggled together in the years spent there. They call themselves The Survivors' Club and have agreed to gather each year for a few weeks.
One of the war's survivors, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh benefited greatly from his time at the duke's and now lives on his estate in Gloucestershire with his new wife, Sophia, who helped him become as confident and independent as his blindness allows him to be. They are holding a harvest ball and have invited most of the people from the neighborhood, including Agnes and Dora. This will be Agnes's first real ball, and she digs out her favorite gown for the occasion; she feels good, though she's sure she could never be a beauty even in something stylish. She actually dances the opening dance with a friend of the host, one of the Survivors: Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby. It's a waltz, and as the music dies, Agnes is in love! She doesn't know her friend Sophia asked him to dance with her.
Flavian's wounds are not obvious. His brain was severely injured in battle, enough that he could remember nothing, even how to talk. Everyone gave up on him except our generous duke who took him in and coaxed words out of him. His memory is nearly all back, but there are blanks in it still. One thing he knows, though, is that his fiancée married his best friend.
After the ball, Agnes and Flavian are not to meet again for five months when the reunion of the Survivors takes place at the Darleigh estate. Does Agnes have a chance with Flavian? Not only is he soured on love, but his ex-fiancée is now a widow, and his family is determined to see them wed.
If you like wounded heroes, you'll love the Survivors' Club series in which ONLY ENCHANTING is one more enchanting episode. Flavian and Agnes are the stars, but many other characters—new and ones met before—people this fine work. Mary Balogh is a master at bringing her characters to life and making you care about them. This is the fourth novel in the series, and—lucky us—there are three more to come.