Only a Promise

Written by Mary Balogh
Review by Lynn Guest

Ralph Lockwood, Earl of Berwick, encouraged his three schoolfellows to join him in fighting Napoleon’s army in the Peninsula. When only he survives, he is racked with guilt despite his own terrible wounds. Embittered and suicidal, he knows he must live and he must marry to produce an heir to continue the line of the Duchy of Worthingham.

At 27, after two disastrous London Seasons, Chloe Muirhead faces life as a spinster companion to the elderly Duchess of Worthingham. When Ralph visits his grandparents, she learns he needs a wife and an heir. She wants a husband and children. Courageously, she proposes a bargain: marriage with no emotional ties. He accepts. They promise to expect nothing from each other except what duty requires. But on their wedding night, the old duke dies and everything changes.

Author of 100 historical novels, Balogh is a pro and it shows. Although the reader knows love will blossom, Balogh makes convincing barriers between them by Ralph’s frozen heart and Chloe’s public humiliation by the ‘ton’. Ralph’s inner turmoil is especially well done, but both are rounded characters. The period background, social details and dialogue are excellent, naturally developing the plot and characters. There is a lot of repetition, but that is a minor complaint in an enjoyable and satisfying read.