THE ARRANGEMENT – Mary Balogh
The Survivors' Club , Book 2
England after the Napoleonic Wars
I introduced THE PROPOSAL, the first book of the series, with this:
The Duke of Stanbrook lost his son in the wars and generously opened Penderris Hall, his estate in Cornwall, as a place for other officers to recuperate. The duke, five former officers and the widow of another shared their traumas and became fast friends as a result. So close did they become that they dubbed themselves the Survivors' Club and agreed to gather for a few weeks each year. They all carry scars of some sort, either visible or hidden.
Vincent Hunt, the youngest member of the club, grew up the son of a gentleman schoolmaster who died when Vincent was fifteen. His maternal uncle bought him a commission in the army a couple of years later. He was wounded in his first battle where he lost his sight and his hearing. Without the Duke of Stanbrook, he probably would have lost his mind as well. Vincent soon recovered his hearing, but is blind for life.
Today, after unexpectedly inheriting a title and fortune, Vincent is Viscount Darleigh of Middlebury Park in Gloucestershire. His mother and grandmother moved there to take care of him, his three older sisters visit often. At twenty-three, except for Martin—his childhood friend, former batman, and now valet—he's treated like a helpless infant. And now they are promoting a betrothal by inviting a young lady and her family to stay…he must produce an heir! It is finally too much for Vincent; he and Martin run away from home. After two glorious weeks of freedom in the Lake District, Vincent decides to go back to the home where he grew up for a period of solitude, hoping to figure out how to regain his independence. Unfortunately, his return was noticed and the news passed from mouth to mouth until everyone in the area knows that the viscount has arrived.
Miss Sophia Fry saw Vincent and Martin arrive at Covington House, but she was not the one who told. The orphaned Sophia is an observer of life; isn't she called the mouse by her relatives? After being orphaned, she first lived with a negligent aunt until the aunt died. Now she's still living mostly unnoticed with her father's other sister. That's how she hears this aunt, her uncle and her cousin plan to force a marriage proposal out of Vincent. Sophia manages to thwart their plans and is thrown out by her uncle in the middle of the night. When a grateful Vincent hears of her plight, he offers her an arrangement.
A most moving and entertaining story follows. It's not only about the two wounded souls, but involves his family, friends old and new, and most of the survivor's club's members. Mary Balogh is an author loved by many, including me. Her books readily engage one's intellect and feelings. She seamlessly invokes the time and place with description and dialogue and can make her characters matter to us. Her love scenes are more about her heroes' and heroines' emotions than about the purely physical.
The Survivors' Club is a terrific series with more to come. Don't miss any of it.