This series just keeps building on itself so that each new Survivor story is as good as the last with each new couple fighting different and yet similar barriers. This is Ben’s story and that of the woman perfectly suited for him. The book was all the enjoyable, engaging things that I have come to expect from the author over the years touching several emotions and leaving me well-satisfied at the end, ready to see the next Survivor see his or her happily ever after.
This is the third book in a series and the books are slightly versatile in that they should be read in order, but can be read out of order in a pinch if the reader doesn’t mind general mild spoilers as to the previous couples.
Sir Benedict Harper is at the annual Survivor’s Club meeting that is held each year at the same time so that they can all come together amongst friends where they can just be themselves and draw strength and encouragement to continue the healing process. The war has left each of them scarred in some way and needing to recover. In Ben’s case, he had to recover from multiple wounds including having a fall from his horse and being crushed by the horse. All, but his legs have made recovery. He was told he should have them amputated and told he would never walk again, but he endured and now he can walk with the aid of his crutches. His limbs are a bit twisted and deformed and there is pain, but after six years he is left with the realization that he needs to accept that he will never be what he once was. He needs to start looking about him to figure out what he will do for the rest of his life. He is now the Baronet and owns the family estate which his younger brother and his family live in and run for Ben, but Ben doesn’t want to deal with the ticklish situation of ousting his brother and managing the estate. Instead, he takes the other Survivor’s encouragement to heart and decides to take some time to ponder his options. He will go to his older sister Beatrice and keep her company while he thinks.
Samantha McKay feels smothered to death by the trappings of widowhood. Her husband’s sister is in residence and preaches the strictest propriety there is forcing Samantha into the deepest of widow’s weeds, cutting her off from all, but a brief outing to church from which they leave immediately and keeping her contained in a closed up, darkened house. Samantha does indeed truly grief for her husband of seven years whose life was cut short and the last five years of it were spent sickly and in pain after a shot to the chest that never healed. Samantha was his only caregiver and he was fretful and demanding. She had not been in love with him at this point as her love died four months into her marriage when she discovered his infidelity and his ulterior motive for marrying her, but she still cared for him and did her duty. Now six months into her widowhood, she yearns to truly be free- to walk out in the sunshine with her lovable dog, to wear color, to dance, to make friends. Her one little escape into the sunshine when her sister in law was occupied elsewhere led to a prickly first meeting with a rude stranger on his horse who nearly trampled her and then refused to get off his horse to see if she was injured even while blaming her for the encounter.
Ben knew he was very much in the wrong for his handling of the accident near the hedge so with the help of his sister, he makes the acquaintance of the Widow McKay to beg her forgiveness. This leads to a series of meetings that end up with the result that Mrs. McKay seeks him out in desperation to help her escape from her husband’s family who will force her to continue to live cheerless and under their disapproval at the main family estate. Her solution is to journey into Wales to claim the dubious inheritance of a cottage where she can maybe start a new albeit simpler life. Ben is reluctant both for propriety’s sake because the journey would be unchaperoned, but also because he is afraid of getting too close to the woman who stirs him for the first time since he was injured.
Samantha wants to be free and unfettered and she all but coerced poor Ben into helping her. Now that she has been on the long journey with him and gotten to know him, she is reluctant to say good-bye. She asks for one more week of this idyll thing they have and he agrees. He has been there for her all along and she doesn’t see him the way he sees himself. The situation in Wales is not what she imagined and her relationship with Ben can only be temporary. She has her freedom and can truly live, but now she understands that freedom without Ben around might be at a high cost. He is not one for idleness and he still needs to make his own way so she must let him go.
The plot is gentle and moves at an even pace for the most part. It is mostly a character-driven piece. Personal growth and romance develop steadily. The characters have their moments of discord, but it is generally handled with a low degree of angst. Truly most of the barriers are their circumstances and their own need to find themselves before they are ready for a relationship. The romance is more tender than spicy though passion does take place. I enjoyed these two together.
Samantha has nearly withered away under the neglect of her first husband, the pressure to conform to harsh standards by his family and even her own remaining family not wanting her. She can only think in terms of breaking away from her life’s fetters. She boldly states what she wants sometimes shocking Ben and realizing later that she is constantly putting him in a battle of his conscience. She has gone too long without and it is Ben himself who gives her the confidence she needs to break out even if she snipes at him whenever he seeks to gently guide her. He lets her speak with honesty and without judgment, he encourages her to do the things that would make her happy and he looks on her as a lovely, desirable woman even while he tries to be a gentleman and friend. His appreciation for her engenders her ability to be so confident even if she doesn’t see this at first.
For Ben, each encounter with Samantha puts him in a quandary. His chivalrous side wants to help the lonely, suppressed woman, but the way he responds to her feminine beauty tells him that it’s dangerous to get close. He is conflicted, but he goes along with it all. In the process, Samantha gives him something of himself back and shows him that he is still a man. She accepts his limitations, but shows him that he is not as limited as he thinks he is or that he has to shut himself away from the possibility of a regular life with a woman and family. As he helps restore her to life, she does the same for him.
So in the end, I loved this journey these two took together and toward each other. It was a sweet, gentle romance set against lush, beautiful backdrops of country village life of England and Wales. The author’s writing is poignant and beautiful in its own right and the character descriptions, dialogue and development my favorite part. I would recommend this book, its series and its author to historical romance lovers.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for my honest review.