3.5 star review

Review – Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Only A promise

While I have read some very good books of late, they have been decidedly less optimistic in tone and I felt the need for change. Fortunately the Houston Public Library was able to come to my aid. Since the previous four books gave me the warm fuzzies, I figured this would hit the spot.

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 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 the outrageous suggestion to 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.

Yes, I figured there would be a high degree of angst, this being book 5 in the Survivors Club series (a group of friends who survived the Napoleonic wars at great personal cost). But based on past behavior I expected an unmitigated happy ending, which of course this being Balogh I got.

The survivor here is Ralph, but Chloe has survived more than her fair share of heartache. They are two abjectly lonely people, no matter how they fill their lives with people and things to do. And much of their romance and being in their heads was lovely. But damn me if this wasn’t absolutely depressing for the first three quarters of the book. Chloe and Ralph, along with us readers are ran through the proverbial ringer. There are no Big Misunderstandings, no Big Secrets, just two lonely and damaged people finding their way, often painfully, to each other. And then we see the turn, and for me at least I realized that that turn had been inexorable, it was only when mired in the midst of tragedy that there seemed to be no way out of the morass. I can only suspect that our two protagonists felt much the same way.

And damned if I don’t sound overwrought and melodramatic. I suspect it is just that Balogh makes me feel that way. The ending though was rather delightful, if wrapped up a bit too neatly. But I just didn’t care if it was overly perfect and overly neat, I wanted the sweetly sappy and romantic and that is just what I got. And I felt that Ralph’s PTSD was handled very sensitively and that while he found true love and happiness, it wasn’t that he was cured by true love.

This was another satisfying read by Balogh and I can’t wait for the 6th one to come available from the library.

Only a Promise: A Survivors' Club Novel


OpenLibrary Review- A Soldier’s Heart

A Soldier’s Heart
by Kathleen Korbel

Blurb from Goodreads:

Over twenty years earlier, an unnamed nurse had struggled to pull Tony Riordan away from the brink of death. And now, Tony could see the confusion in Claire Henderson’s eyes, could see her struggle with the same nightmare images that had haunted him for years. Claire Henderson had saved his life, and it was time to return the favor.

This book caught my attention when I saw the Dear Author Classic Review because it’s not often you see a book with a female protagonist with PTSD from war. It was originally published in 1995, so may be one of the first, if not the actual first romance novels to tackle PTSD in women. This book is available to check out from OpenLibrary. As always with OpenLibrary, use Adobe Digital Editions to download the PDF version because it is a scanned copy of a physical book.

Tony Riorden gets the boulder moving when after 20 years, he finally seeks out Claire, the nurse who saved his life during Vietnam. Of course, that boulder was already tipping from the stress of her job as a supervisory nurse, trying to open her own bed and breakfast, and the fact that she has a 17-year-old son who is wild to join the military to become a fighter pilot all happening during the UN intervention in Somalia.

When Tony sees that he’s caused harm by his visit, he decides to stick around to see if he can help. So of course, they fall in love.

The romance part of this book is fairly light because most of the emphasis, and rightly so, is on how Claire is handling or in some of the cases, not handling, her life. The intimate scenes are pretty meager as well and for all of the interest they added, should have just been completely fade to blacks.

What worked for this book for me were the cast of secondary characters and the experience of PTSD that rang true based on what I know of the people in my life. What also worked for me was the way Tony tried to help without being a macho overbearing alpha male and then when Claire finally did decide she needed help he gave her the information she was seeking and then stepped back to allow her to heal on her own. Naturally, this made him a bit of a Mary Sue; you can’t win for losing with me.

Solid 4 stars for the story and the mustache 😉
3 star review

The Return of Brody McBride

The Return of Brody McBride
by Jennifer Ryan

3 Stars

I picked this up because I was looking for the sort of soap opera-esque slush novel that is just perfect sometimes as escapism when you are stressed. And mostly that’s what I found. Here we have Army Ranger Brody McBride, the former town bad boy who impregnated the town bike and the town virgin in once week, then promptly jetted out of town to find himself. He’s back 8 years later, scarred and with PTSD and ready to take back up with Rain Evans, the woman he thinks he might finally be worthy of. It’s a set up ripe for hijinks.

Brody is a Mary Sue hero (the scarred and damaged edition). He is as contrite and apologetic and self-flagellating as even the most hard core woman could want when it comes to cheating heroes. Granted, he didn’t exactly cheat, because he and Rain weren’t exactly together when he took a ride on the town bike, but that level of groveling was definitely there. And while he desperately wants Rain’s love he just can’t quite believe he can obtain it once he knows everything she has had to sacrifice over the years. Plus he is instantly in love and just about perfect (with the exception of his PTSD) with the daughters he only just found out existed.

But it’s ok. Rain is almost a Mary Sue herself. 8 years ago she certainly was furious with Brody, but of course when she found herself pregnant she forgave him. And because of her great love for him, when she finds out Roxy-the town bike and most evil woman in the town is also pregnant, she buys the baby from her so that Roxy won’t kill it. She sacrifices all her dreams and is basically in her heart of hearts just sitting on a shelf waiting for Brody to come back (I am tired of this trope, but at least Rain is active in her town and her dad’s shop so she wasn’t a complete husk). And sure, when he does come home, she is mad for just a little bit until her better nature takes over and she gives herself, her love, and her forgiveness to him. Hijinks ensue and they deal with the evil Roxy and everything is now perfect and they live happily ever after.

It probably seems like I didn’t like this book, but honestly I did. I thought I was getting a book that was over the top ridiculous and wouldn’t take itself too seriously, but while there were a few OTT spots, this was a book that was trying to be very serious, it really wasn’t humorous nor did the author tell this story tongue in cheek. It was a nice story with a pretty good treatment of a former soldier with PTSD. I liked the characters to despite the fact that they were all just a little bit too nice and too understanding. Except of course for Roxy who had not one redeeming quality, not one redeeming moment in her whole entire misbegotten life. So when I was able to suspend disbelief (much harder for me when I am reading contemporary) it was an engaging story with supporting characters I am interested in reading more about.

It is still a slush book, but not an over the top ridiculous one, so you shouldn’t go in expecting the sort of over the top cheese of something like Pregnesia, but it is still worth a read, especially if you can pick it up at a library.