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Only a Promise
Cover of Only a Promise
Only a Promise
Survivor's Club Series, Book 5
The new Survivor's Club novel from the New York Times bestselling author.
The Survivors' Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, for one of them, striking a most unusual bargain will change his life forever....

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on...and find a wife so as to secure an heir to his family's title and fortune.
Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes an outrageous suggestion: Strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.
The new Survivor's Club novel from the New York Times bestselling author.
The Survivors' Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, for one of them, striking a most unusual bargain will change his life forever....

Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on...and find a wife so as to secure an heir to his family's title and fortune.
Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes an outrageous suggestion: Strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.
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    1

    There could surely be nothing worse than having been born a woman, Chloe Muirhead thought with unabashed self-pity as she sucked a globule of blood off her left forefinger and looked to see if any more was about to bubble up and threaten to ruin the strip of delicate lace she was sewing back onto one of the Duchess of Worthingham's best afternoon caps. Unless, perhaps, one had the good fortune to be a duchess. Or else a single lady in possession of forty thousand pounds a year and the freedom to set up one's own independent establishment.

    She, alas, was not a duchess. Or in sole possession of even forty pence a year apart from her allowance from her father. Besides, she did not want to set up somewhere independently. It sounded suspiciously lonely. She could not really claim to be lonely now. The duchess was kind to her. So was the duke in his gruff way. And whenever Her Grace entertained afternoon visitors or went visiting herself, she always invited Chloe to join her.

    It was not the duchess's fault that she was eighty-two years old to Chloe's twenty-seven. Or that the neighbors with whom she consorted most frequently must all be upward of sixty. In some cases they were very much upward. Mrs. Booth, for example, who always carried a large ear trumpet and let out a loud, querulous "Eh?" every time someone so much as opened her mouth to speak, was ninety-three.

    If she had been born male, Chloe thought, rubbing her thumb briskly over her forefinger to make sure the bleeding had stopped and it was safe to pick up her needle again, she might have done all sorts of interesting, adventurous things when she had felt it imperative to leave home. As it was, all she had been able to think of to do was write to the Duchess of Worthingham, who was her mother's godmother and had been her late grandmother's dearest friend, and offer her services as a companion. An unpaid companion, she had been careful to explain.

    A kind and gracious letter had come back within days, as well as a sealed note for Chloe's father. The duchess would be delighted to welcome dear Chloe to Manville Court, but as a guest, not as an employee—the not had been capitalized and heavily underlined. And Chloe might stay as long as she wished—forever, if the duchess had her way. She could not think of anything more delightful than to have someone young to brighten her days and make her feel young again. She only hoped Sir Kevin Muirhead could spare his daughter for a prolonged visit. She showed wonderful tact in adding that, of course; as she had in writing separately to him, for Chloe had explained in her own letter just why living at home had become intolerable to her, at least for a while, much as she loved her father and hated to upset him.

    So she had come. She would be forever grateful to the duchess, who treated her more like a favored granddaughter than a virtual stranger and basically self-invited guest. But oh, she was lonely too. One could be lonely and unhappy while being grateful at the same time, could one not?

    And, ah, yes. She was unhappy too.

    Her world had been turned completely upside down twice within the past six years, which ought to have meant, if life proceeded along logical lines, as it most certainly did not, that the second time it was turned right side up again. She had lost everything any young woman could ever ask for the first time—hopes and dreams, the promise of love and marriage and happily-ever-after, the prospect of security and her own place in society. Hope had revived last year, though in a more muted and modest form. But that had been dashed too, and her...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    April 20, 2015
    The fifth Survivor’s Club Regency romance (after Only Enchanting) introduces a fine specimen of Balogh’s trademark wounded heroes: Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick, who returned from war scarred inside and out. Unable to forgive himself for the deaths of his school chums, he has little interest in society but knows he must eventually secure an heir. While visiting his grandmother, Ralph meets her young companion, Chloe Muirhead, who believes herself to be unmarriageable. Chloe surprises them both by proposing a loveless but mutually respectful alliance, and Ralph accepts her offer, promising her a secluded life in the country. But when Ralph’s grandfather dies, the young couple become the Duke and Duchess of Worthingham, and Chloe must face the family scandal that caused her to flee London. As her cold husband becomes a pillar of strength, Chloe begins to yearn for more than passion in the dark, not realizing Ralph feels the same way. No one does a marriage of convenience like Balogh, and this series entry will leave the reader longing for the next book.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2015
    Fighting Napoleon, Ralph Stockwood suffered devastating loss and now feels dead inside, but as the sole heir to a dukedom, he needs a wife; when a family friend suggests they marry, she seems as good a choice as any, since love is off the table. When Ralph Stockwood went to war with his three best friends, he was an idealistic 18-year-old, but watching them all fall in battle and nearly dying himself has left him a shadow of the vibrant, charismatic young man he was. However, his grandfather, a duke, is fading, and his grandmother has summoned Ralph to their country estate to express how imperative it is that he marry. While there, Ralph meets Chloe Muirhead, who has sought sanctuary with his grandmother, her mother's godmother, after a couple of disastrous seasons have left her practically ineligible in the eyes of the ton. After overhearing a conversation between Ralph and his grandmother on the urgency of marriage, Chloe approaches him with the idea that they marry. Since she has no desire to be in society, and he seems content in the country, they strike a bargain to wed quickly and stay at the estate, but immediately after the ceremony, Ralph and Chloe must bear unexpected responsibilities and travel to London, where they confront unpleasant gossip and drama due to Chloe's family's past scandal. Ralph is continually disconcerted by his new wife's efficient capability and brave resolve, and he discovers his frozen emotions might be thawing beneath her warm demeanor and sunny competence. Always at the edge of Ralph's consciousness is his own war-wrought trauma, which he's tried to bury but might just be able to face with Chloe by his side. Balogh continues her popular Survivor's Club series with a tender story of two strangers who agree to a loveless marriage yet develop a grand passion as they navigate turmoil together. An elegant, romantic exploration of the trauma of war and the healing power of love.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from June 15, 2015

    Dismally aware that her undeserved scandalous past has destined her to a reclusive spinsterhood, Chloe Muirhead seizes her one chance for a home and a family. She impulsively proposes to Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick, the battle-scarred heir to the Duke of Worthingham, who is in reluctant search of a bride. It's the perfect solution. Neither expects love, and both will get what they want. Then Ralph inherits, and the couple are forced back into the London limelight to confront the demons that haunt them. VERDICT A guilt-plagued hero who believes he is incapable of love and a brave, resilient heroine who once ran from her fears and refuses to do so again find healing, courage, and eventually love in another beautifully unfolding story. Balogh's (Only Enchanting) insightfully conceived and brilliantly executed series focuses on the difficult aftermath of war. The author lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Only a Promise
Survivor's Club Series, Book 5
Mary Balogh
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