This book is: refreshing and delightful.
Other elements: slightly illicit romance, war veterans, widows, narrowly-avoided scandal, Wales.
Read it: if you like historical fiction and character-driven romance novels with interesting plots, strong female characters, and good writing.
Overall rating: 8/10
I’ve always thought I would love romance novels if I could find the right romance novels, and Mary Balogh proved me right.
The Escape begins by introducing us to the “Survivor’s club,” a group of veterans who formed strong friendships while recovering together after the Napoleonic wars. The group is concerned about one of their number, Sir Benedict Harper. After many long months struggling to regain as much use of his legs as will be possible, Ben’s physical recovery from his war wounds is about as complete as it will ever be. He’s never going to walk again without crutches, and that is that. Ben is realizing that he doesn’t have much left in his life except for his injury. He can’t go back to the life he always wanted – the Army – so he has to figure out what else there is for him.
Samantha McKay is a woman trapped. After years of nursing her her sick husband through his war wounds (and crippling self-pity), she is now a widow under the iron thumb of her puritanical in-laws. Without a family of her own to turn to, Samantha doesn’t see a way out of her situation. That is, until one day when she runs into a rude gentleman who is staying with his sister in the neighborhood. When he calls on her to apologize for nearly running her down with his horse on their first meeting, Samantha discovers that Ben is a veteran of the same war that left her husband bitter and injured. The two strike up a friendship and struggle to observe the bounds of propriety as a crackling tension mounts between them.
When Samantha’s father-in-law moves to throw her out of her late husband’s estate, Ben and Samantha work to hatch a daring plan for her to escape her in-laws’ control. Self-discovery, unforeseen events, and opportunities for trysts ensue.
Things that rock about this book:
- The heroine is a fully person with wants, needs, backstory, and personal growth who makes her own decisions and about her life and her body.
- The hero is a fully developed person with wants, needs, backstory, and personal growth who makes his own decisions and about his life and his body.
- Both characters go through significant growth of their own, separately. This is a novel as well as a romance novel.
- There are no rape-ey, no-means-yes scenes where the woman isn’t into what’s happening at first and then changes her mind.
- The romantic hero is disabled. His legs don’t work properly, but he’s still a strong, clever, virile man with physical desires.
- Both of the romantic leads are willing to put aside their feelings of romance/desire for their own and the other person’s general well-being.
- The writing is excellent.
- It’s not just sex scenes stuck together by filler. It’s a story about two people and, as part of each of their stories, sex scenes do occur. But never at the cost of narrative or character development.
As you know if you’ve been keeping up with my What I’m reading posts, this book sent me into an epic romance novel binge that’s currently coming in at 31 books by Mary Balogh since I finished The Escape. I can’t give you a higher recommendation than that.
My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell for providing me with a copy of The Escape by Mary Balogh for review.