Only a Promise by Mary Balogh #Review

Posted June 27, 2015 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 24 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh #Review
Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Signet
Released on June 9, 2015
Pages: 393
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

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As each of The Survivors Club members find healing and love in this series, I enjoy being along on the journey. Ralph’s story is no exception. His physical wounds have healed, but his survivor’s guilt, post-war trauma, and depression have left him in a cold, dark place which sadly is safer to him than actually engaging with life and living. Fortunately for him, life won’t let him wallow and he is forced to re-engage out of duty and then slowly and reluctantly, on his part, it becomes something more.

As with others in this series, the author doesn’t make the characters easy or their romances. Ralph and his heroine, Chloe, begin as fairly unlikeable folk in their own ways. They agree to a chilling bargain and wound each other along the way. I’ve read this author long enough to stick it out because her flawed characters have a way of finding redemption and growing into quite the worthy folk.

This is part of a series of course and I do think it is best to read it in order, but each are written in such a way that the reader could get one out of order or as a standalone.

The story opens with Chloe Muirhead hiding out with her godmother after she invited herself for an indefinite stay. She moves about trying to stay unnoticed and yet be a good companion to the older Duchess who was friends with Chloe’s grandmother. Her quiet stay is interrupted when Her Grace’s grandson is called home so the duchess can remind him of his responsibilities which include finding a wife and producing an heir as the duke’s health is frail and he isn’t getting any younger. Chloe has heard things from her brother of the Earl and had formed a negative opinion until she realizes that he’s not as black as she was painting him. No, this man who is not keen on marriage or participating in London Society to find said wife is haunted by his past at war. His eyes are cold and empty. This leads her to make the most audacious offer of her life as a last resort to get her chance at a contented future.

Ralph Stockwood came back from the war severely injured and minus the three best friends that he talked into going with him. He wanted to die and even tried to take his own life when he first returned. He doesn’t deserve to come home to loving family, title, and wealth and he doesn’t feel that he can love again even toward his family. He cut himself off from all that until the old duke’s health forces his hand. Ralph is then shocked by the little timid mouse he mistook as his grandmother’s hired companion at first when she boldly offers a marriage of convenience giving her list of what she wants from the marriage and offering to be what he wants. She wants a husband’s name, a family, and a quiet life in the country and she understands that he wants just to do his duty and then to be left alone.

After making such a bargain, Ralph and Chloe move forward with their plan. The marriage begins as unemotional and detached as they agreed and they are strangers at the outset. However, they both learn that they were naive to think that they could live as husband and wife and not even mildly engage because a spark of attraction is there. Life also throws them a twist to their plans and they must adapt. They have to pull together and work as a team to face their newest circumstances. In the meantime, their pasts press in on the present. Chloe learns to care for her husband and wants to help him heal while Ralph learns of Chloe’s tragic past and wants to protect her even while he fights feeling anything for her. Will her past and guilt forever keep them from a chance at happiness?

Alright, as I said, the characters are flawed and have a long journey to growth. This book starts out slow and stays that way for some time. Chloe starts to blossom first and she becomes almost a new woman under Ralph’s care even though at the time he does it reluctantly because he doesn’t want to care. Ralph was frustrating because he fought change and healing so hard. I understood it was because he was convinced that he didn’t deserve it, but I still wanted to pop him good for what he put Chloe and his own self through.

The romance is the marriage of convenience and the author doesn’t stint on how this draws out. They are a seemingly impossible pair at first and it was fabulous how she developed this so that it became something beautiful and perfect by the end. There’s passion, tenderness, rage, hurt, affection, humor, coldness, and a deep abiding love that is authentic and real.

The historical backdrop and settings were splendid. Ralph is an earl and heir to a duke. He’s as blue-blooded as they come so the settings are a ducal seat and London high society. The mannerisms, social norms, and customs all feel so authentic without overbalancing the story and bogging down the plot.

Secondary characters are engaging between Ralph and Chloe’s relations and his fellow Survivors. Ralph and Chloe are the focus, but the secondary storylines and characters made for a fuller and whole story. Ralph engages with his fellow Survivors and his family as he works through his troubles. Chloe must confront all the disastrous people and episodes that drove her from London in disgrace not once, but twice. All of this just added to the story nicely.

All in all, this was a magnificent addition to the series and a spicy, authentic historical romance with fantastic characters and interwoven plot threads. Patience is needed for it to get up to speed, but the set up is worth it. I recommend the whole series, but this one is a real star in the group.

My thanks to Penguin Group and Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.


This book utilizes the Marriage for Convenience device and I thought it was particularly well done and believable. It made me wonder what everyone thought of that particular trope. Is this a romance trope that you enjoy? Do you have any Marriage for Convenience stories to recommend?

Romance Roundabout #216 HR

Cliché Klatch #130 ‘A slight contradiction in terms’

Historical Romance #152

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • Hmmm, well I am a HUGE fan of forbidden love tropes as well as friends turned to lovers. As for this book, I’d rather for the characters to get married for love instead of convinience. Didn’t you say that’s how their case was? Anndddd, I LOVE flawed characters so I’m super happy that they came into themselves in the end and changed for the better.;)

    • Yeah, this isn’t one of those marry for love. They are nearly strangers. The romance comes afterward. It can be a nice change up.

  • Great review:D! This one sounds really good to me, but not sure if I’m up to catching up in this series quite yet;)

    • I hear you. There are some that sound good, but I don’t want to jump into the middle of a long running series either.

  • Thanks for the great review. I haven’t read anything in a couple of weeks.

    • Oh hey; Mary! Good to see you out and about in the blogosphere. Hope you’re doing well. Yeah, I’ll bet its tough to hold a book or ereader with that broken arm.

    • Oh hey; Mary! Good to see you out and about in the blogosphere. Hope you’re doing well. Yeah, I’ll bet its tough to hold a book or ereader with that broken arm.

  • I am fascinated with tropes like this. I came from a culture where this was practiced so I’ve had relatives who were “set-up”. Some of the matches turned out great, i guess love can be learned to an extent?

    • I always wondered how many arranged marriages truly worked and how many just made do. My friend at work has a lovely marriage and their parents picked for them, but they share the same values which she said is the important thing.

    • I always wondered how many arranged marriages truly worked and how many just made do. My friend at work has a lovely marriage and their parents picked for them, but they share the same values which she said is the important thing.

  • I actually love the Marriage of Convenience stories, I am even reading one right now even. Its probably one of my favorite tropes to read, I love seeing how in a practical match, you see a couple fall in love and some of my favorite books have this trope. If you need recommendations I have a very long list lol

    • I love them, too. It seems to put a whole new twist on falling in love when it’s done after the marriage vows and whatever reason the two got married in the first place.

      LOL! I am so not surprised that you have a nice list of recommendations, Renee. I get so many from your reviews already.

  • Lindy Gomez

    I enjoy watching a flawed character get redemption. The journey and character growth is easy to relate to. I love how you describe their marriage of convenience turning in to a beautiful and authentic love! The historical setting sounds so real and true the norms, values, and manners of the day. I love when you can experience something like a different place and time in history. Phenomenal Review Sophia 🙂

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    • That is exactly what I was trying to convey. You’re so intuitive, Lindy! 🙂

  • Such a pretty cover! I really do need to try these again. I attempted with the last book but it was too far into the series for me I think to just be starting out. Had more of the you’d LOVE this if you knew them kind of thing happening. And darn it I want to know them!! lol One day hopefully I’ll get back to book one. They really do sound tempting 😀

    • Yes, some series I are like that. I started with book two which worked out for me, but much later in the series there is a family reunion feel about some of it. This one takes place mostly away from the others, but eventually they come together at the end.

      I love these covers, too.

      • Family reunion feel is a great way to explain it. Or a get together where everyone has been friends for years and really know each other and you’re a new friend of someone’s that’s just joining. It was a case of me not having read the rest so really don’t hold it against the book. I just need the hours to get back and read them all 😀

        • Well, update! I got so mad at a book I was just reading and set aside (read: restrained from throw against the wall) that I was influenced by our chat to grab up book one and finally read it. LOL!

          • Oh no! Boo on having a read like that (I hope not the one we were talking about earlier!). But yay on getting back to the early one in this series. Hope it soothes the grrrs!

            • Oh whoops, no, didn’t mean to give that impression. I’ve been reading the Glory St. Claire series by Gerri Bartlett as my Series Challenge books trying to get caught up. I got really irritated with the heroine back in the first book b/c she has some serious issues with her body (she’s a size 12 and acts like she’s a size 40). She gets mad b/c her boyfriend likes her just the way she is and feels so misunderstood just b/c a diet salesman gets her issues with her weight better (yeah, salesman who wants her to buy his stuff). She does this double-standard thing where she can get all lusty and drooly over guys, but the guy who is her love interest can’t even talk to another woman without her getting all crabby. Oh and God help him if he tries to do something nice for her b/c seriously how dare he be so overbearing. She even set up a fake fiance sitch, but expects her boyfriend and the other guy to toe the line and accept it. There’s just so much…sigh…

              • Oh my word. Sophia. I don’t know if I would have been able to NOT throw the book. That always drives me insane when a heroine behaves like that. Very good to know.

                • Yeah, I saw lots of that in the first book, but there was enough other stuff that I thought was fun to give it another go. I enjoyed books 2,3, and 4 b/c they got away from all that, but here we are again right back in the middle of all that for book 5. I’ve made the executive decision to be done. I will either start the In Death or Psy-Changling books to finish my series challenge goals for the year.

                  • Oys. Sometimes you just have to do that :/ It’s one thing if they start out that way and grow and worth through their issues but to land right back at the beginning after so many books would have me tapping out too.

                    I need to get on my In Death books. Eeps! I’ve not read a one this year and that’s my series for the challenge too.

                    • I think I really should read that series soon. Even my MIL looked at me like I was nuts when I saw her. She was raving about the series and couldn’t believe I hadn’t started them yet.