Only a Kiss (Survivor’s Club #6) by Mary Balogh

only a kiss

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The Survivors’ Club: Six men and one woman, injured in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendships forged in steel and loyalty. But for one, her trials are not over….

Since witnessing the death of her husband during the wars, Imogen, Lady Barclay, has secluded herself in the confines of Hardford Hall, their home in Cornwall. The new owner has failed to take up his inheritance, and Imogen desperately hopes he will never come to disturb her fragile peace.

Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford, has no interest in the wilds of Cornwall, but when he impulsively decides to pay a visit to his estate there, he is shocked to discover that it is not the ruined heap he had expected. He is equally shocked to find the beautiful widow of his predecessor’s son living there.

Soon Imogen awakens in Percy a passion he has never thought himself capable of feeling. But can he save her from her misery and reawaken her soul? And what will it mean for him if he succeeds?

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Publisher and Release Date: Signet, September 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Post Napoleonic Wars, Cornwall
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4

Review by Lady Blue

Percival Hayes, the recently named Earl of Hardford, is celebrating his thirtieth birthday in a state of inebriation, surrounded by his cronies, all in a similar state. For the last several years, Percy has been living the good life, drinking, womanizing, and pursuing the idle pleasures typical for a wealthy young nobleman. But something about this birthday is making Percy think about his life, and he decides it’s time to pay a visit to the estate he inherited in Cornwall. He arrives at the estate to find it in good repair, but inhabited by two older ladies, a menagerie of misfit animals, and Imogen Hayes, the widow of his cousin, who would have inherited the title Percy now has if he had survived the war.

Imogen is the only female member of a group who call themselves the Survivor’s Club, because though they survived the Napoleonic wars, they did not do so unscarred. With Percy’s arrival, Imogen is anxious to move back into the dower house, where she had been staying until the leaking roof made living there impossible. She has no desire to be around the handsome young lord, and looks forward to his leaving so that she can get back to her normal, placid life.

At first, Percy finds Imogen only mildly attractive and much too stern. He can’t imagine why he even travelled to the wilds of Cornwall, and plans to return to town immediately. Those plans get thwarted when he learns that his mother is en route with an entourage of relatives in tow to plan a big birthday celebration for him. Though horrified at the prospect, Percy knows he can’t leave, so he begins to inspect his estate. While at first he mocks country squires who enjoy running their remote estates and staying away from town, he soon finds himself enjoying the bucolic life. Thoughts creep into his mind of improvements he could make, and what life would be like if he actually did reside here. The frivolous young man without a purpose in his life seems to have found one rather quickly.

The more time Percy and Imogen spend together, the more attracted they become to each other. Imogen remains an enigma for much of the book. She appears cold, and is determined to avoid love, though she’s not averse to an affair. As Percy matures, he also falls genuinely in love for the first time in his life. We see occasional, little cracks in Imogen’s hard shell, and it becomes obvious that something very devastating happened in her past that caused her to vow to never love again.

It was a joy to watch Percy grow up from a frivolous, careless boy to a responsible, caring man. All of the relatives and the assorted animals added a charming and light touch to the darkness surrounding Imogen. I also enjoyed how many times Percy just let the wrong thing flow from his mouth, almost as if he had no control over what he said. His oft repeated, “I can’t believe I said that,” was good for many chuckles.

This book has a slightly different feel than the previous ones in the series. Despite Imogen’s mysterious bleakness, there was much to smile about while reading. I did believe that Percy and Imogen had a genuine love, but somehow, I didn’t feel it as intensely as in Only Enchanting, or The Escape, or The Arrangement. Still, it’s a very enjoyable, well written, and highly recommended addition to the Survivors’ Club series.

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