I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Only Beloved by Mary Balogh
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Berkley Books on May 3, 2016
Source: the library
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Also by this author: Simply Unforgettable, The Proposal, The Arrangement, Only Enchanting, Only a Promise, Only a Kiss, Someone to Love, Someone to Hold, Someone to Wed, Someone to Care, Someone to Trust
Seventh and last in The Survivors’ Club historical romance series and revolving around seven people suffering from PTSD after the Napoleonic Wars. The couple focus is on Dora Debbins and George Crabbe with the year somewhere around 1822. (There is a loose connection to Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga.)
There’s an epilogue at the end…three years after the end of Only Beloved that catches us up on how everyone is doing.
It’s a middle-aged passion between two compassionate older adults with hideous pasts whose coming together is a gift. I know, I know, George’s past is so much worse than Dora’s, but still traumatizing for both.
It is a story that is all about the characters and the past that formed them into the people they are today, information we receive due to the third person dual point-of-view so that we hear both Dora’s and George’s thoughts and feel their emotions, their introspection through those neatly inserted info dumps.
I loved as well, Dora’s thoughts about Vincent and his accomplishments. The perspective she has on trying being so important.
George is so thoughtful in wanting Dora to be her own person, and he does crack me up with his insistence that what he’s feeling is not love. Annnd, this is where the meme of not being loved crops up for Dora. It was painful in its assumption.
Only Beloved felt long-winded if only because of those annoying memes that were too easy, and George’s annoying need to keep his past such a secret. Oh, it’s a reasonable choice for the truth is too shocking, and yet, his secrecy is what creates that too stereotypical betraying conflict. Those issues that seem manufactured, such as the “missing” family portrait. Then the memes: the Cinderella meme that was appealing for that happy “ending”, but the uncommunicative mother meme, and that of George holding so tightly to his secrets so Dora will be in danger were annoying.
Yes, I did enjoy the story for its sweet progression and that ending. It was also quite novel in that it brings the two together so early in the story. I had to wonder where Balogh would go with this…and she didn’t disappoint, on the whole.
As for Everard and Rosamund…sigh…
A sense of loss, and yet love forces George to reassess his life, his loneliness, and it’s a brief glimpse of the Rees-Parry girls that moves his assessment onward and upward. A thought of a woman he’d met.
A mature woman of thought and compassion who will work wonders on this lonely man. A man who makes people happy.
Dora Debbins is a spinster living in Inglebrook in Gloucestershire, who teaches music and does well enough. Mrs Henry is her housekeeper. Agnes Debbins Keeping Arnott is her once-again wedded sister (she married Viscount Ponsonby in Only Enchanting, 4). Dora and Agnes’ brother, Oliver, is a clergyman married to Louisa. Aunt Millicent and Uncle Harold Shaw live in Yorkshire. Some years after Sir Walter Debbins, their idiot father, divorced his first wife, he married Mrs Brough, a neighbor who had been friends with his first wife. I do not think much of this woman!
Dora’s students include Miranda Corley, who is not the prodigy her parents think, and Michael Perlman, who is amazing. Mrs Jones is the vicar’s wife. Mrs Henchley is the butcher’s wife. Mr Madison expresses interest in filling Dora’s place in Inglebrook.
George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook, did not fight against Boney, but his son, Brendan, did and died. His first wife, Miriam, committed suicide in her grief. Ethan Briggs is his efficient secretary. Julian is his nephew and heir, who married Philippa (The Escape: “The Suitor”, 1.5). Their children include Belinda. Maisie will become Dora’s dresser.
Penderris Hall, Cornwall, is…
…the duke’s country estate which he opened to officers who were gravely injured — in body and mind — including the Survivors. Mr Joseph Connor was the physician George hired. Mrs Lerner is the housekeeper. Mr Humble is the chef.
Dora is so different from Miriam, making friends such as Barbara Newman who is the vicar’s wife and Ann Cox-Hampton who is married to one of George’s own friends, James.
Eastham’s local “friends” include Mrs Yarby, the snooty Vera Parkinson (you’ll remember her as Gwen’s PITA “friend” from The Proposal, 1), Mrs Eddingsley, and Isabella Clark and her husband. Dr Dodd is the local physician who delivered Mrs Hancock of her fifteenth child.
The Survivors Club
Imogen Hayes, Lady Barclay, has married Percy, Earl of Hardford (Only a Kiss, 6). Yes, Hector is still with Percy. Margaret and Audrey, Imogen’s mother, are sisters and second cousins to the duke. Hugo Emes, who had become Lord Trentham, wed Gwen in The Proposal, 1, and they have a daughter, Melody, who is cutting her first teeth. Sir Benedict Harper is whispering of his Samantha feeling queasy (The Escape, 3). Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, with his guide dog, Shep, and his pregnant-again wife, Sophia, live with their son, Thomas, at Middlebury Park just outside Inglebrook (The Arrangement, 2). Ralph Stockwood, Duke of Worthingham, is married to Chloe (Only a Promise, 5).
Anthony Meikle, Earl of Eastham, had been Miriam’s half-brother and lives in Derbyshire.
Sir Everard Havell had been visiting relatives in the neighborhood and merely flirting. Now he and his lady, Rosamund, live in Kensington.
There are two young daughters in the Rees-Parry house in London across from George’s.
The Cover and Title
The cover finds Dora in a vivid sky blue gown, holding a lacy parasol, and standing to the left atop a flower-filled cliff, her back to us as she looks out over the sea. There’s an info blurb at the top with the author’s name to the right of Dora’s head and shoulders; both are in the blue of Dora’s gown. A testimonial in purple is below that, centered in parallel with her hand on the handle. The title is in a mix of script and serif in a shadowed yellow below her knees with the series information below that in white, bracketed by scrollwork.
The title is those barely caught words, words Dora had not expected: Only Beloved.