A Gypsy and a war hero

The Escape - Mary Balogh

In this book, #3 in the Survivors series, the hero Benedict had lost the use of his legs in the war. Now, a few years later, he is healed as much as he could. He walks slowly with two canes and he doesn’t know what to do with his life. His dream of a military career was crushed together with his legs during one of the battles against Napoleon. He drifts through life, searching for directions.

The heroine Samantha buried her husband a few months ago. During his long illness, she was a dutiful wife to him, nursing him and not complaining, even though she didn’t love him. Now, her in-laws are smothering her with their strict propriety rules. She wants to escape, to be free, to dance, but she has to wear unrelenting mourning dresses and hide her face behind a dense veil. She isn’t even allowed outside except to an inner garden or to church.

When Samantha decides to escape her in-laws and run away to a cottage she inherited from her long-dead mother, Benedict is compelled as a gentleman to accompany her.

I liked Samantha, liked and understood her yearning for freedom, away from the stifling conventions of society. Of many fictional heroines, Samantha most reminded me of Scarlet O’Hara. But then, Samantha is quarter Gypsy.

I also respected Benedict’s need to prove himself and his worth despite his crippled legs. Both seem to find their salvation in each other, but the novel itself has its share of problems.

I don’t understand the heroes’ mutual resistance to their growing attraction. It defies common sense and feels like a simple literary device. Some obstacle should stand in the way of the protagonists’ love, shouldn’t it? Let them resist it.

Another problem comes with Samantha’s grandfather. He is a successful businessman, an owner of several coal mines and ironworks. He should be smart and ruthless; after all it was a cutthroat business in those days. Instead he is as tame and nice as a puppy. I don’t believe it.

There are some other logical gaps in the plot and the characters’ development, but I won’t mention them to avoid spoilers.

Despite the problems though, I liked the story well enough. I won’t buy it but I’ll seek out the next novel in the series at our library. I want to know what happened to the other members of the Survivors Club. Three more books to go. The expectation fills me with contentment.