May 1 2012 1:00pm

First Look: Mary Balogh’s The Proposal (May 1, 2012)

NEW!: Comment below for a chance to win 1 of 2 copies of Mary Balogh’s The Proposal!*

The Proposal by Mary BaloghMary Balogh
The Proposal
Delacorte / May 1, 2012 / 
$16.97 print, $12.99 digital

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?...

It is both a blessing and a curse to be a heroine whose story readers have yearned for lo these thirteen years. The Proposal, the first book in Mary Balogh’s new series, the Survivors’ Club, is the story of Gwendoline, Lady Muir, whom we first met in One Night For Love, which was published in 1999.

Gwen is a loving sister, daughter, cousin, aunt, friend, and all of Balogh’s readers have come to appreciate her.

Gwen is a widow with a permanent limp because of a riding accident that not only injured her severely, but also caused a miscarriage. Her husband died within the year, in what is described as “a tragic accident.” The blessing is that there is an enormous amount of pent-up curiosity about Gwen’s mysterious back-story.

A quick segue, if I may, to introduce the members of the Survivor’s Club. In Mary Balogh’s words, the Survivors’ Club is “a group of wounded veterans of the Napoleonic Wars who spent a few years together on a country estate recuperating from their wounds and who now gather there for a few weeks each year. [] The hero of this book is Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham, a dour giant of an ex-army officer, who was awarded his title for extraordinary bravery during battle and then, as he put it, went out of his head and had to be brought back to England in a straitjacket.”

For me, the curse is the awkwardness of cobbling Gwen’s story with a new series. What makes it work so effectively is that Gwen is nothing if not a survivor herself. The pattern of Gwen’s predictable life is broken when she decides to visit Vera, a recently widowed friend, for a month, a decision she soon comes to regret. Her friend’s caustic, cruel reaction to a letter from Gwen’s mother leads Gwen to leave her friend’s house and commence a slippery dangerous walk across the pebbly beach nearby. While attempting to scramble up the cliff above the beach, Gwen twists her ankle severely. But wait, our hero, Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham, is on a solitary ramble of his own and sees her plight and rescues her. Gwen’s injury is so severe that Hugo’s host invites her to join the Survivors’ Club gathering while she recuperates.
Gwen and Hugo, much to their mutual surprise, share their innermost thoughts. The themes and conflicts of The Proposal are revealed when Gwen tells Hugo about her marriage and explains why she has not considered remarriage in the intervening years:

… That one marriage brought me brought me great joy, but it also brought me almost more misery than I could bear. I wanted peace afterward. I wanted it for the rest of my life. I have had it now for seven years and am perfectly content to remain as I am.

They continue discussing her situation, and she clarifies,

“He would have to be the perfect man,” she said, “and there is really no such thing as perfection, is there? He would have to be an even-tempered, cheerful, comfortable companion who has known no great trouble in his life. He would have to offer a relationship that promised peace and stability and … Oh, and simplicity with no excessive highs and lows.”
. . . . . .
“No passion?” he asked her. “He would not have to be good in bed?”

To which she replies:

"Pleasure in the marriage bed need not involve passion, as you put it. It can be simply shared comfort. If I were looking for a husband, I would be happy with the shared comfort. And if you are looking for a wife who is practical and capable, passion cannot count a great deal with you either, can it?”

But he rejoins with:

“A woman can be practical and capable and lusty too,” he said. “She would have to be lusty if I were to marry her. I am going to have to give up other women when I wed…

Gwen is the sheltered daughter of an earl, living a widow’s rather circumscribed and conventional life. Hugo is not an aristocrat by birth but he, through his extraordinary courage in war, has garnered a legendary reputation. He has also inherited a considerable fortune from his tradesman father. They are at a crossroads in their lives, but once they meet, talk, and love, they are unable to turn away from the promise each offers the other. The Proposal quietly and movingly explores the love story of two people who always communicate honestly, often with dry, self-deprecating humor.



To enter for a chance to win one of two copies of Mary Balogh’s The Proposal, make sure you’re a registered member of the site, and then simply leave a comment about the post below.

*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, who are 18 or older. To enter, fill out entry at https://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/05/first-look-mary-balogh-the-proposal-may-1-2012 beginning at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 14, 2012. Sweepstakes ends at 2:14 p.m. ET on May 21, 2012 (the “Promotion Period”). Void outside of the 50 US and DC and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules at https://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/page/official-rules-mary-balogh-the-proposal-comment-sweepstakes. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Janet Webb

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Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. willaful
Thanks for the review! I'm looking forward to reading this one.
2. Janet W
I am dying to do a re-read of all the books (well, the most important ones) where we've met Gwen before. I've always sort of regretted starting with A Summer to Remember -- it took me forever to warm up to Neville in One Night for Love (altho Lily was always a love) after reading Lauren first. Have you read those two?
4. Vi Dao
Great review, Janet! I can't wait to read it.
5. Sharonct
Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors and I lhave read all of her books. I would love to add this one to my collection.
6. Barbed1951
I always enjoy Mary Balogh's books, and I'm looking forward to reading The Proposal.
Catherine White
7. catriona51
How wonderful! I love it when Ms. Balogh starts a new series. And its even better when she tells her readers about a character that we have come to know from a previous book. The Proposal sounds like a winner and I cannot wait to read it. Congratulations, Ms Balogh on another best seller.
Lindsay Beeson
8. lindsayb
I loooooved this book! It's probably my favorite of the year. This was actually my first Balogh book and I was happy to see that my library has a nice ereader section and that my local Meijer store had some of her other books for sale. I am a sucker for wounded hero/heroine books and this one certainly fits the bill. It isn't often that I read a book and truly care about the characters on a more personal level.
10. Scherzlein
I've been reading Ms. Balogh's books for years; they're on my keeper shelf and are automatic buys when (far too rarely) there's a new one. I'd love to win this one to finish the earlier arc -- also about survivors -- and start a new one!
11. Wendy Chen
I am a huge fan of Mary Balogh. I look forward to all her books.
12. Laura Bahr DeLeon
I would love it . Thank you!
14. ElaineS
I love love Mary Balogh!! I can't wait to read this book!!
15. Melysah
Oh, love the cover. Looks good to me!
16. Pam B
A new Mary Balogh book would be wonderful to hold.
17. Laurenkusa
Sounds interesting. I look forward tto reading it.
18. Muse of Ire
Mary Balogh is my crack.
20. Kim
Thanks for the giveaway. I'd enjoy having a copy of this book.
21. G Burrowes
Don't enter me in the giveaway because I pre-ordered this one WAY long time ago. "The Proposal" has all of the graceful language, exquisite pacing, terrific characters, and warmth of heart of any Mary Balogh story, and--be still my thumpin' heart--a cameo appearance by a certain duke whom I've been missing slightly terribly.
A terrific read. Gush, gush, gush terrific.
Keira Soleore
23. KeiraSoleore
What first caught my eye when Mary published this cover on her FBook page was how lovely and refreshing and mainstream it was. It's undeniably romantic, but also elegant, and thankfully, a departure from beefcake.

I liked the back cover copy and had put it on my list of books to buy, but now on reading your excellent commentary here, Janet, I want to read it ASAP. Balogh's imagination and how she words it is unsurpassable. The nuances of emotions she depicts, especially with her characters that are damaged in some way, is superb. For exmaple, that bit about Gwen's expectations of a marriage now--I want to know how she's going to change over the course of the book and how that will change her expectations.

Please do put my name in the hat for a print version.

As you know, Janet, I'm slowly working my way through Balogh's backlist. There are so many and most of them are so good. My progress is further slowed by re-reads. :) I'm currently re-reading "Simply Love."
Marian DeVol
25. ladyengineer
I read Balogh's first two novels, A Masked Deception and The Double Wager, when they came out in the mid 80's and loved them. After that though, I didn't read a lot of romance at all for a decade or two, reading science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively except for the occasional Georgette Heyer reread.

This romance drought lasted until just a few years ago when I rediscovered the joy of a well crafted HEA. I'm now making my way throught MB's backlist, and she is the first of my auto-buy romance authors. I am grateful that a number of her out-of-print books are being reissued.

I haven't yet picked it up, but this book has an automatic place on my TBR list. ;->
26. Shannon G
I have heard such good things about Mary's writing that I really want to read this and her previous works. They are all on my TBR list.
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