Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her.
Hugo never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous - if beautiful - aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier whose bravery earned him a title; a merchant's son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. He doesn't wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen's guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?
The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman's heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo's devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.
Mary Balogh is an auto buy author for me. She is one of my favourites (if not the favourite) romance authors. The reason why I love her books so much is that she always tugs at my heartstrings; she moves me to tears one minute and makes me give a happy sigh the next. Her characters always have some problems to face before they reach their HEA but we do know they will get it, what makes her stand apart is the journey they make to get there.
In The Proposal we see an old secondary character finally getting its own story. Genevieve, Lady Muir, was a secondary character in One Night For Love and A Summer to Remember. I loved both books (a reread might be in order soon) and I was curious not only at the type of story we were going to have now but at seeing those beloved characters once again.
The beginning of the story was obviously to set up the beginning of another series. We are introduced to Hugh, Lord Trentham and 6 more members of the Survivor's Club (the title of the new series). Hugh was the survivor of a forlorn hope, during the war, and he has had to deal with the guilt of having survived when most of his fellow soldiers died.
Gwen, Lady Muir, is in Cornwall visiting a friend. One day she is at the beach walking and twists her ankle. She is found by Lord Trentham who carries her to the home where he is staying with his friends. Gwen and Hugh don't exactly start off as friends but in time an attraction grows between them. The problem is that both of them are dealing with traumas from the past and have trouble trusting one another. We get to know the truth about those problems in the course of the story, especially the truth about Lady Muir's first marriage. They eventually give in to their feelings and in time Hugh proposes to Gwen who declines unless he courts her properly.
Besides their traumas there is a class difference (Hugh having been elevated to the nobility by is actions in the war) and I quite liked that part of the story. Gwen getting to know Hugh's family and fitting right in. They all seemed really nice people and it wasn't difficult to believe that they could work out as a couple. I guess my one problem with the book was that I didn't freely the angst that Hugh and Gwen should be feeling. Given that I am a big fan of Balogh's earlier novels where that angst is always present I open every book hoping to feel all that tension and pain before the very satisfying HEA, in recent books that is not as present (in fact the author has already said that she won't go back to that kind of story) and this is another example. It's still a good story but I felt a bit detached from what they were feeling.
I'm am looking forward to continue this series as I do like stories with wounded characters, physically or emotionally, and all the members of the survivor's club fit that description. I'm left wondering if will keep seeing the same set of secondary characters that we've been following since the Bedwyns...