Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Mrs. Agnes Keeping, a young widow, lives quietly with her sister, a spinster music teacher, in the English village Inglebrook. She had married an older gentleman for comfort and convenience and doesn't expect or wish to ever fall in love. In fact, she rather fears it, thanks to her mother's scandalous behavior and consequent abandonment of the sisters when Agnes was a small child. However, when she goes to a ball given by her new best friend, Sophia, Lady Darleigh, Agnes accidentally falls in love with Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. Thankfully, he doesn't live in the area, and she believes she'll never see him again. This being a romance novel, she of course sees him again five months later when he and the other members of the Survivors' Club journey back to Middlebury Park for their annual gathering.
Flavian was shot in the head and trampled by a horse while fighting Napoleon's army in France. He has recovered from most of his wounds, thanks the the ministrations he received at Penderris Hall, home of the Duke of Stanbrook, but he still suffers from gaps in his memory, stuttering, and unexpected flashes of anger--symptoms familiar to many of today's soldiers as well. One of those frustrating holes in his memory relates to his former fiancee who jilted him to marry his best friend after he was wounded in battle. News that she's widowed and finished with her mourning period inexplicably sends him into a panic, where only marriage to Agnes feels safe. The difficulty lies in stitching together enough pieces of the past to understand the present and salvage their future together.
Mary Balogh does such a fantastic job writing multi-dimensional characters. It's one of the things I like best about her books--you feel like the people in them are real, and you enjoy spending time with them.
My only quibble with book #4 in this series is that I could have used some sort of chart or character list to help me keep the names and relationships straight. I thought I had read all three of the previous novels, but thanks to Goodreads, I just discovered that I'd only read the first one...which helps explain why I struggled mightily to connect titles, first names, and last names. My husband is in the military, and I have the exact same difficulty with his colleagues--it's taken me years in many cases to link a face with the three separate things she or he might be called, according to the circumstances. I have often wished for a cheat sheet with my husband's friends & coworkers, and I definitely wished for one while reading Only Enchanting.
For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways. Mild historical swearing and eventually a couple of sex scenes.
I received a free e-galley copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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