My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I read a top-notch Mary Balogh novel I feel like I'm getting the additional bonus of a class in "How To Write Really Good Romance With All The Feels". Balogh's use of subtle body language, spare description, slow builds and real, adult characters makes reading her books not only deeply, emotionally satisfying, but also illustrates what a good romance novel can be in the hands of the right author.
Only a Kiss is the latest Survivors' Club book. The Survivors are a group brought together by shared traumatic experiences during the Napoleonic Wars. Some are battle veterans and visibly scarred, others have hidden, but no less serious trauma. Lady Imogen Barclay is the only woman in the group, and this is her story.
We know parts of it from previous novels: Imogen's husband was a recon office behind French lines. His wife followed the drum. They were captured, Imogen's husband was tortured before her eyes, and he died while in the hands of the French. That's pretty much all we know when the story opens.
If you looked up "Entitled Upper Class Dude" in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford. Percy's life has been a charmed one. He's rich, ridiculously handsome, took two firsts in the Classics at Oxford, has good friends and a loving family. Nothing bad has ever happened to him, and his life's a crashing bore. He travels to Cornwall in February to check out the property he's inherited from a distant relative, meets Imogen (who's living in the dower house) and Percy's world is upended. Oh, and there are delightful rescue dogs and cats and dotty aunties abound in this story.
It's a slow build to true love and a HEA, but the story will have you staying up late into the night or phoning in sick so you can finish. All of the Survivors' Club stories have been outstanding, and this is one of the best of the series.
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