Only Enchanting, by Mary Balogh

>> Saturday, November 07, 2015

TITLE: Only Enchanting
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh

PAGES: 400

SETTING: Early 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: #4 in the Survivors' Club series

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, in the fourth novel of the Survivors' Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation-in the love of a most unsuspecting woman.…

Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée's desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back-and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love-and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she's determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.

Only Enchanting is part of the Survivors' Club series. The 'club' in question is a group of people who bonded over the traumatic effects on their lives of the Napoleonic Wars. Recovering together led to a strong friendship and the seven, six men and a woman, meet up once a year to catch up. Well, by the fourth book in the series, and given that each of the first three has featured one of them falling in love and getting married, their gatherings have become larger and larger. This year they're coming together at Vincent's (from The Arrangement), since the dates of their meeting fall shortly after his wife, Sophia, is due to give birth.

For Flavian, Lord Ponsonby, this comes at a very good time. His former fiancé, who deserted him when he came back from war with brains pretty scrambled after being kicked in the head by his horse, is now widowed. Worse: his and her family make it very clear that they hope for a renewal of their relationship. Flavian is in a bit of a panic.

He finds a distraction in Agnes Keeping, a widow who's good friends with Sophia. He's very attracted to her, and she falls in love with him practically at first sight. And of course, since she's a respectable woman and a friend of his friend's wife, the only real way to do something about that attraction is marriage.

Balogh is one fo the few historical romance authors I still read, but I think I might be falling out with her as well. It may well be an "it's not you, book, it's me" thing, but I'm afraid Flavian and Agnes bored me to tears. I didn't find anything about them interesting, or feel they were particularly well-developed characters, and there really didn't seem to be any sort of realistic conflict keeping them apart. This series started out well, but the last couple of installments have been a bit meh and suffered from characters with motivations that didn't quite make sense, and this continued that trend.

I thought things might get a bit better a the halfway point of the book, when the focus changed from the self-contained and boring romance to the drama of dealing with Flavian's family and his ex-fiancé. Things did slightly perk up then, but that improvement didn't last long, and the conflicts that came up felt like much ado about nothing. Flavian's attitude towards Velma never really gelled. Why is he in such a panic? And while Agnes' issues with her mother (who left the family when Agnes was very young) could have been really interesting, they felt like they came out of nowhere at the end of the book, and Balogh didn't really do much with them.

MY GRADE: This was a C. Meh for me, but your mileage may vary. I think I should probably reread the (as I remember) wonderful Slightly Dangerous and see if it really is just me and not Balogh.

PS - It tickled me that Flavian was Viscount Ponsonby. There was a real Viscount Ponsonby who was alive at the time (although he was not created Viscount Ponsonby until a little bit later), and he was the one who was basically responsible for Uruguay being an independent country (to explain it very simplistically, we wanted to join up with what's now Argentina, but a buffer state between Argentina and Brazil was better for Britain's commercial interests, so here we are).


Bona Caballero 2 December 2015 at 18:20  

I like your PS. It reminded me when I read a Lisa Kleypas' book and a 'Spanish ambassador' appeared, with all the topics of a Mediterranean pig. I felt curious and read about the real Ambassador in those times. Writers should create imaginary characters that nobody could relate to real historical figures. I didn't know that about the independence of Uruguay, it's very interesting.

Rosario 4 December 2015 at 06:39  

Yeah, I agree. And it's even worse when they take real people and have them as secondary (or even main!) characters in their books. That always makes me really uncomfortable.

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