Also by this author: Only a Kiss, Only Beloved, Someone to Wed, Someone to Care
Published by Signet on June 9th 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
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Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family's title and fortune.
Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother's godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.
Sally’s Review of Only A Promise
In the novel Only a Promise Chloe Muirhead, a single maiden and 27, an age considered quite close to spinsterhood in her day, decided to spend some time with the Duchess of Worthingham, a dear family friend. She had nothing better to do and loved her company. She had convinced herself that she was content with her life and the fact that she may never marry.
One could be lonely and unhappy while being grateful at the same time, could one not?
She had been through the worst of ordeals, not once but twice and the first was at a time that should have been her greatest. So now she was lonely and unhappy, but living with it and graciously enjoying the distraction that were the Duke and Duchess of Worthingham. She was enjoying it until she heard that company would be arriving soon.
Chloe was tired of hearing of his virtues. She doubted he had any. Not that she had ever met him in person to judge for herself, it was true. But she did know him by reputation.
Chloe did not expect to like the Earl of Berwick, then, even if he was the Duke of Worthingham’s heir and the duchess’s beloved only grandson. She had not forgiven his description of her brother as a lily-livered coward.
Ralph Stockwood came back from the war a changed man. He was the complete opposite of the charismatic, confident and adored gentleman who left.
Well, he had his life. Many did not. Many who would have been his own age, that is, or younger, he was twenty-six and sometimes felt seventy. He enjoyed decent health despite the numerous scars of battle he would carry to the grave, including the one across his face. He had friends. Though that was not strictly accurate. He had numerous friend acquaintances, but deliberately avoided forming close friendships.
He knew as heir to the dukedom, he had to find a wife, but did not want to do it. He had no love left for himself much less any to give to a woman.
But the word love had so many meanings that it was in fact virtually meaningless. He had deep attachments to certain people, but he knew he was incapable of love , that something special that held together a good marriage and sometimes even made it a happy one.
This was the discussion he was having with his grandmother, which Chloe overheard. Hearing that Ralph didn’t want to expose a young, naive girl to a loveless marriage, she found hope in that she was old and jaded enough to not be sensitive to his lack of feelings for her should he take her as his wife. All she wanted was to be married and all he needed was an heir. She bravely approached him with her offer.
“You would do better to marry me.”
“I have no interest in you, Miss Muirhead.”
“Of course you do not. I would not expect it or desire it. I am suggesting a mutual…bargain, Lord Berwick. Something that would suit us both without hurting either.”
Does Chloe really know what she’s getting herself into? He has huge demons to fight in order to find his former self and the capability to love. Something chased her out of London and she has to find the courage to face it and a huge family secret. These things can weigh heavy, even in a marriage of convenience.
I was first introduced to Historical Romance 20 years ago while I was in college. Mary Balogh, Catherine Coulter, Julie Garwood, Susan Johnson and Stephanie Laurens to name a few, filled my bookcases before real life stepped in and took my free time away. I was ecstatic when presented with the opportunity to read a novel by Mary Balogh again. She has not lost her touch and I enjoyed her writing now more than ever.
“You presume to know me inside and out, do you Miss Muirhead.” he said, his voice matching his feelings, “after…what is it? An eighteen-hour acquaintance?”
“I do not know you at all,” she said. “I believe you have made yourself unknowable.”
“But you have concluded that I am empty.” He looked contemptuously at her. She did not even have the decency to look uncomfortable, apart from those gripping hands. “Therefore you believe you must know all there is to know about me.”
“How inadequate words are,” she said, shaking her head slightly. “However it is, Lord Berwick, you need a wife and you are dreading the thought of going back to London to search for one in the ballrooms and other haunts of the ton.”
“Dreading.” He laughed. “How foolish I would be if that were true, Miss Muirhead. I am, without exaggeration and without conceit, one of the most eligible men in the land. Young ladies–beautiful, rich, well-born young ladies–already cluster hopefully in my vicinity. They will positively swarm when it becomes clear that I am ready to make my choice among them.”
“Young ladies,” she said. “I suppose you mean straight from the schoolroom. Poor girls– as you yourself observed last night. The one you choose is not likely to remain happy for long, is she?”
“Because I look like this?” He flicked his fingers of one hand in the direction of his scarred cheek. “Or because I have an empty soul?” He did not know why he was enduring conversation.
“Because you have nothing to offer,” she said. “Nothing that would make a young, hopeful, innocent girl happy after the euphoria of the wedding is over.”
“A countess’s title, with the prospect of a duchess’s to follow, will not make her eternally ecstatic?” he asked. “And taking precedence over almost every other lady in England for the rest of her life? Having wealth untold at her fingertips? And all the clothes and carriages and jewels and other faradiddle she could ever dream of?”
“I know by the tone of your voice that you agree with me,” she told him.
He laughed again. “You think I will be a cruel husband, Miss Muirhead?”
“Probably not knowingly.” she said.
Well, he thought irritably, it was nice to be known, to be understood. He wondered idly if anything ever shook her calm, if she ever lived up to the promise of that red hair.