Wow! Mary Balogh does it again! I was super thrilled to learn that I won an uncorrected proof from the publisher. It came in the mail a few days later. I had hoped for the version with the actual cover, but it came, instead in a pale greenish-blue cover, rather than the lovely image shown on GoodReads. However, this in no way detracted from the story.
Only Enchanting is the fourth book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors’ Club series and it centers on Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. Several years back, Flavian was severely wounded during the Napoleonic War, after having received a major injury to his head, which, for several years, rendered him unable to speak properly. He lost a good portion of memory. None of this is helped due to the loss of his beloved brother (which allows Flavian to assume the title of Viscount Ponsonby) as well as his fiancé jilting him in favor of his best friend. All of this renders him something of a lost cause. Thankfully he recuperated with 5 others at Penderris Hall, thus forming an immense bond with the other recovering survivors. Each year they all meet for 3 weeks to rekindle the friendship, bond, and, well, heal. As it is, Flavian speaks with a stutter and is still unable to truly control his anger.
It is during a harvest ball that Flavian meets Mrs. Agnes Keeping, a 26 year old widow who values safety and a quiet life with her older sister, Dora. Only Enchanting starts in her POV, and literally states, from the beginning, “At the age of twenty-six, Agnes Keeping had never been in love or ever expected to be–or even wished to be.”
What a great opening as we meet our heroine. I love it when our characters come full circle and how, at the beginning of a book, we (the reader) know we are on a fun, and enchanting, ride as Agnes not only realizes she’s unhappy, she doesn’t actually realize just how unhappy she is until Flavian comes into her life.
Agnes, as mentioned, is widowed. Her deceased husband, William Keeping, wasn’t particularly exciting or passionate, but she cared for him and still misses him. Perhaps one day she will remarry and have children. She enjoys painting wildflowers in her dear friend, Sophia’s, meadows. Sophia is, of course, Lady Darleigh, Viscount Darleigh’s wife (Vincent’s story is The Arrangement, book 2 in the Survivors’ Club series). You see, there is to be a ball, and as Sophia’s dear friend, Agnes is invited. Agnes isn’t a fashionista. Her dresses are at least 3-4 years old, and certainly not in the height of fashion. Oh well, they will do, she thinks. No one will notice her. No one at all.
Ahem… excuse me while the H and h meet. 😉
Flavian, with his bedroom eyes, blond hair, and gorgeous looks, calls Agnes “enchanting.” Only Enchanting.
Agnes, who, as you will remember from the first line of this book states she never wished to fall in love, promptly falls in love.
Fast-forward 5 months. All of the Survivors travel to Vincent’s property due to the fact that Sophia is expecting her first child, and Vincent refuses to leave her side (which I love), so Flavian returns to Middlebury Park (the Harvest Ball was held there) and becomes reacquainted with the lovely, if somewhat plain, Mrs. Agnes Keeping.
He remembers dancing with her. He remembers saying he was Only Enchanted with her, but blast it all, he cannot remember her name. Damn his head injury and damn the letter he received stating his former fiancé (who jilted him) was now no longer in mourning after the death of her husband last year, and, hint-hint-hint, available to now marry him. Flavian’s family, in not so many terms, wants him to marry Velma, Lady Hazeltine, and join their families. There is a bond between their families, but Flavian cannot and will not, do any such thing as marry Velma. He remembers Mrs. Agnes Keeping and seeks her out.
Agnes wonders why the handsome viscount seems to be interested in her. Oh, she’s still in love with him, but Agnes is a smart woman and is understandably wary around him. He proposes marriage and, after a week, she accepts. It’s here that the story is drawn out perhaps 50-60 pages longer than necessary, IMO, and things pick up around the ½ mark once Flavian and Agnes are in London and his family (and the newly free Velma) finds out about his marriage to Agnes.
I pause here so that you can imagine fireworks. Good, now continue.
Poor Agnes! Well, turns out she has a pretty strong backbone and I’m extremely proud of the way Agnes handled herself, the situation, and everything in between when she realizes that it is entirely possible Flavian married her in order to avoid marrying Velma. Oh hell no. Guess who’s Lady Ponsonby, biatch? Not Velma, Lady WhatsHerName. ThankYouVeryMuch.
The backbone of Agnes is made out of concrete, steel, and 24 caret gold. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the scene in which Agnes confronts Velma. Actually confronts her. It is priceless and I’m thrilled to read about a Regency-era woman who doesn’t cower behind silly fans and innuendo.
There is much more to Flavian and Agnes’ story as they navigate her mother’s history (there is a scandal involved), as Flavian discovers hidden memories about his brother, and his true history with Velma, and as Agnes learns to trust Flavian again. I also found it refreshing that there wasn’t a true villain in Only Enchanting.
I finished the book, hoping the story would never end, but found myself utterly enchanted with Agnes and Flavian, and utterly delighted that I was lucky enough to read it before publication.