After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering.
After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws – until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey. Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.
Rating: Narration A; Content B+
This is the third book in Ms Balogh’s Survivors Club series of books that follows a group of war veterans who were physically and/or mentally wounded in the Napoleonic Wars.
In The Escape, our hero is Sir Benedict Harper, whose legs were so badly damaged that he was told he would never walk again. Through a combination of his own sheer bloody-mindedness and the support of his friends, he has confounded expectations – and though he will never be able to walk without the aid of his canes, he does walk and is able to live a more or less normal life. Previously a career soldier, that avenue of occupation is now closed to him, and because he has still not worked out exactly what he wants to do with his life, he’s restless and aimless.
While riding one day, Benedict almost runs down a young woman who is walking her dog, and in his shock at how close he’d come to inflicting serious injury upon her, he yells at her and blames the dog for spooking his horse. When he calms down, however, he realises how ungentlemanly his conduct was, and determines to apologise to the lady for his poor conduct.
Samantha McKay is twenty-four, and a widow of some four months. Her husband of seven years has recently died following a protracted illness caused by injuries sustained in the war, and during that time she was his sole carer. Despite the fact that she discovered the truth of her husband’s selfish, philandering nature not long after their marriage, and even though he was fractious and demanding throughout the course of his illness, Samantha took “for better, for worse” at face value, and devoted herself to his care for five years. His sister, Lady Matilda, now resides with Samantha, and feels it her duty to squash every little piece of joy Samantha may be able to find in her life. Being in “deep mourning”, they never go anywhere other than to church, they must be heavily veiled when venturing outside, the house has taken on the aspect of a mausoleum, and Matilda is adamant that her esteemed father, the lofty Earl of Heathmoor, would not approve of their doing anything as sinful as calling upon a neighbour or going out for a walk.
But Samantha has had enough of living for others and has decided that now it’s time to live for herself. When Ben discovers the identity of the woman he almost mowed down, he asks his sister to accompany him on a visit, during which he manages to apologise to Samantha. They find it surprisingly easy to talk to each other about personal subjects and a friendship quickly develops between them. Ben invites Samantha to ride with him – and his sister, of course – but her intention to do that pushes Lady Matilda over the edge and she packs her bags and leaves in a huff. Samantha is rather glad to see the back of her – but when the coach returns a few days later, complete with several burly servants and a letter from the earl instructing her that she will be taking up residence under his roof where he can make sure she behaves in an appropriate manner, Samantha is distraught.
She remembers suddenly that she had been bequeathed a cottage in Wales some years ago by her great aunt. She has no idea exactly where it is or whether it’s habitable, but if she wants her freedom, then it’s her only chance. Ben has already planned to travel for a while and he offers to accompany Samantha on her journey.
You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals