Mary Balogh is one of my favorite romance authors and I jumped at the chance to review her newest title, The Proposal. And while I ultimately can say I quite enjoyed it, I'm wondering if maybe I've reached the end of my suspension of belief as far as romance goes.
The story follows the gruff Lord Trentham, a military hero from commoner beginnings whose friendship with those with whom he recovered his wounds is solid and endearing. It is while he is visiting this Survivors' Club (I sense sequels), that he comes upon the widow Lady Muir, who has fallen and sprained her ankle while out walking. Ever one to do his duty, Lord Trentham (known as Hugo), scoops the resisting Lady Muir (Gwen) up and takes her back to the house of the Duke he is visiting for recovery, thus delivering her from the company of the so-called friend she had been visiting. But almost immediately, sparks fly between the two, and mutual attraction gives way to a sexual encounter. The two then leave separately for London, where Hugo's younger sister is longing for an introduction to the ton, and Lady Muir agrees to be her sponsor. Along the way, Hugo proposes marriage and Gwen declines, but does invite him to court her. Lots of family events and doubts ensue before the ultimate happy ending. Plot holes such as why Gwen must stay at the Duke's home and the quick forgiveness of Hugo's stepmother toward her family happen as well.
You pretty much know what you're getting when you pick up a Balogh romance: witty banter, love, denial, society, and a tad bit of angst. I liked Gwen quite a bit and enjoyed the fact that she was a slightly older widow who knew her way around and had made peace with her lot. Hugo...well, here is where things go awry for me. He is overly forthright and stiff; I cannot imagine that anyone would speak to a Lady as he does Gwen at that time. I kept picturing Arnold Schwarzenegger in his overly bumbling Kindergarten Cop movie, and thus I just wasn't as enamored of him as Gwen seemed to be. But other than that, I got what I wanted, with the banter abounding during a rather fast read. I suspect I'll be back on board if the other members of the Survivors' Club decide to entangle themselves romantically with unlikely prospects.