Book Review: Mary Balogh’s The Proposal

June 5, 2013 4 out of 5, Historical Romance, review 0 ★★★★

Book Review: Mary Balogh’s The ProposalTitle: The Proposal
Author: Mary Balogh
Genre: Historical Romance
My Rating: four-stars
My Copy: ARC via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: 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.

It’s been a little over thirteen years since we last saw Gwendoline, Lady Muir in a book. She first makes an appearance in One Night for Love as the Earl of Kilbourne’s, widowed sister who offers support to her cousin Lauren when she’s left at the altar. The Gwen we see in The Proposal is different from the Gwen we meet in One Night for Love. Gone is the haughty girl who looks down on the lower class. I found it a bit hard to believe she would change her ways because I still see her as the Gwen from One Night for Love, but I remind myself it’s been thirteen years and people do change.

Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham, wasn’t born an English gentleman. He was awarded his title after showing bravery by leading his men in a forlorn hope, but he doesn’t consider himself a hero. He’s a son of a successful merchant and promises his father on his deathbed to marry and produce a son, but he weighs the decision of marrying above his station or picking a woman who understands hard work. Gwendoline, Lady Muir, is contempt with her life, but can’t shake off the feeling of loneliness she’s been experiencing. An accident brings Hugo to Gwen’s life and both fight the attraction they are feeling, but for different reasons. Gwen is devoted to her husband’s memory and Hugo cannot foresee marriage to a lady of quality. Will they put aside their differences and give love a chance or will they go their separate ways?

I have mixed feelings regarding The Proposal. One the one hand, it’s a classic Balogh book especially in terms of writing and plot, alas a bit slow at times. Balogh is one of the few authors whose specialty in the Regency period clearly shows. On the other hand, The Proposal is missing the special courtship phase most of her characters experience. As a couple Hugo and Gwen don’t spend that much time together and when they do, Hugo is moody and dour. He spends a lot of time in her company saying, “that’s daft” and yet, despite not wanting to be among aristocrats, he goes out of his way to launch his sister in society. He’s a man who likes to get his hands dirty and helps his neighbors do chores. I just can’t imagine Gwen as his partner. She’s very much a lady and while she can help Hugo by telling him where to plant shrubs and how to enhance his estate, I doubt we’ll be seeing her getting her hands dirty. I felt we were missing a scene, one that shows her as his equal among the estate. Don’t get me wrong, she’s his equal in terms of being damaged herself. Hugo suffers from the violence of war despite not showing any war injuries and Gwen is still dealing with the accident that caused her miscarriage and the death of her husband. Together, they do heal each other and it’s Hugo that helps Gwen move on. Perhaps in the end, this is how she’s his equal because they both have experienced pain.

Balogh tends to mix a bit of mystery in her novels and The Proposal is no exception. This time there are allusions to Hugo’s cowardice on the field by the current Lord Muir, who happens to have been present during the accident Gwen suffered shortly before her husband’s death. He’s a bit shady and when all comes to light regarding the death of her husband, I’m not satisfied at how quickly it was wrapped up. It felt at times as if Balogh wasn’t sure which way she wanted her novel to proceed. There was also, in my opinion, some unfinished business with her friend, Vera Parkinson. Hugo points out that Vera is only her friend because of Gwen’s connection in society and I wish Balogh had explored that a little more.

Beloved characters make an appearance. In addition to Neville and Lilly, Lauren makes an appearance as well as the rest of Gwen’s family. I was excited when Wulfric Bedwyn, the Duke of Bewcastle appears because he’s my favorite of Balogh’s heroes and he was a highlight for me! If you’ve never read the Bedwyn Prequels don’t fret because it’s not necessary to do so in order to read The Proposal; however, if you’ve read them before, you’ll be left with the feeling of wanting to do a reread.

Memorable quotes:

“There is no such place as the promised land, but it would be foolish to reject even an unpromised land as worthless without first inspecting it thoroughly.”

“Stanbrook once told me,” he said, “that suicide is the worst kind of selfishness, as it is often a plea to specific people who are left stranded in the land of the living, unable for all eternity to answer the plea.”

I enjoyed Mary Balogh’s The Proposal. If you’re looking for a good historical romance and one that lets you immerse yourself in the Regency period, I highly recommend The Proposal. Just be aware, this won’t be a quick read and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series.

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