The Proposal - Mary Balogh A gentle, low-key romance between two vastly unsuitable people, a man and a woman from different social classes. The author doesn’t introduce a mystery or a thriller into her story to make it interesting. Instead, she delves deep into the thoughts and emotions of the protagonists: Gwendoline, Lady Muir, and Hugo, a former military officer. Both are ridden with guilt. Both harbor wounds of the soul, all the more painful for being invisible. The past hasn’t been kind to either of them. But now, the past is over, and the present cheerfully reasserts itself.
For his valor in Napoleonic wars, Hugo was awarded the title of Lord Trentham, but he doesn’t consider himself a lord. He is firmly middle class and proud of his roots. Now he needs a wife and he is set to look for her among his own social strata.
Gwen, a lady through and through and a sister to an earl, has been a widow for seven years. Her first marriage wasn’t happy. Still feeling fragile, she doesn’t wish to remarry.
They meet by chance, and both resent and resist their instant, senseless attraction to each other. In the beginning, they don’t particularly like each other. Besides, both are realists. Whatever the demands of their bodies, they know that there could be no happily-ever-after for them: the social chasm between an umpteenth-generation noblewoman and a son of a self-made businessman is almost bottomless in Georgian England.
But love wouldn’t be denied. It doesn’t care for social conventions, and the arrows of Cupid catch both his targets square in the hearts.
Their story – a story of two damaged people searching for absolution and peace but finding love in an unexpected place – is infused with quiet dignity. No steam, no mad escapades. Just a man and a woman groping in the dark towards each other, finding forgiveness and understanding in each other’s arms.
Tales of lovers from different classes or castes aren’t too plentiful in fiction, maybe because such stories have rarely ended happily in real life. Everyone knows that it’s much easier to adjust to a life partner, when you both have been raised with the same set of values and traditions. Common wisdom, often personified by families, invariable put obstacles into the paths of sweethearts from different social layers. But still, it's happened, in life and in fiction, more and more often these days. And among the fictional accounts of such occasions, this novel is probably one of the best.