I have a library hold backlog gathering on my kitchen table, so I decided best plan was to knock out a few quick reads and hopefully catch up. Part of the backlog is a few of The Survivors’ Club books by Mary Balogh. I enjoyed The Proposal and The Arrangement earlier this year and had immediately put holds on the rest of the series. In typical me fashion I was nervous about the next book, The Escape, when I wrote my review for The Arrangement (as I was nervous about the focus of The Arrangement when I finished The Proposal) but I should learn to just stop being nervous – Balogh seems to have everything well in hand.
The Escape is the story of Benedict Harper (referred to as Ben throughout) and Samantha McKay. They each have their own share of suffering – he lost full use of his legs as well as many other injuries in battle and she has spent the past five years nursing her dying husband. After said husband’s death, Samantha is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws with her sister in law Matilda running her life and enforcing the strictest type of mourning. Samantha wants to live, and the burgeoning friendship with Ben and his sister provides an outlet, until Matilda returns home to her parents and they demand Samantha remove to their home where they can enforce a “proper” mourning. Desperate, Samantha plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Ben insists that he escort her on the journey, both based on his gentlemanly responsibilities and the niggling flirtation he can’t quite leave be (equal parts glad to have a return of sexual desire after six celibate years but aware that it is entirely inappropriate to have said feelings for a widow a mere four months into mourning).
Over the next several weeks of travel and relocation to Wales, Ben admits to himself how much he wants Samantha, and she invites him to share a weeklong affair before they separate forever. Romance novels being what they are, they continue to fall quietly and deeply in love. Mary Balogh’s common theme of broken people fitting their pieces together means that Ben and Samantha find much more in their relationship than they had ever expected, but that doesn’t mean that the timing is right or that it is going to work. Since Balogh characters are always sensible and wonderfully grown up Ben does leave at the end of the week, but a way back is set up.
I was surprised how much I felt for Ben and Samantha, for their pain and their struggles, their commitment to doing what was right, to being together, but making sure Samantha wouldn’t be stained by rumor. Ben and Samantha each had full character arcs separate from the romance storyline and I grew incredibly fond of both of them. Balogh lays in references to the previous two books, giving us a sense of time and pulling the various characters together to set us off on the back half of the series. I have the next two books here at the house; we’ll see when I get to them.