The Proposal (Survivors' Club Series #1)

The Proposal (Survivors' Club Series #1)

by Mary Balogh
4.3 68

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The Proposal (Survivors' Club Series #1) by Mary Balogh

“This is Mary Balogh at her riveting best.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber
Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her. Hugo is a gentleman in name only: a war hero whose bravery earned him a title, a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. Hugo doesn’t wish to court Gwen, yet he cannot resist her guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face. He wants her, but will she have him? The dour ex-military officer who so gallantly carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, Hugo captivates her more—with his desire, with his love, and with the promise of forever.
“[Mary Balogh] writes with wit and wisdom. . . . The Proposal is both moving and entertaining and the beginning of what promises to be an outstanding series.”—Romance Reviews Today
“A historical romance of unusual thoughtfulness and depth.”—Publishers Weekly

Includes a preview of Mary Balogh’s The Arrangement

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440245308
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/2013
Series: Survivors' Club Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 167,386
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books, including the acclaimed Slightly and Simply novels, the Mistress trilogy, and the five titles in her Huxtable series: First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, Seducing an Angel, and A Secret Affair. A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Gwendoline Grayson, Lady Muir, hunched her shoulders and drew her cloak more snugly about her. It was a brisk, blustery March day, made chillier by the fact that she was standing down at the fishing harbor below the village where she was staying. It was low tide, and a number of fishing boats lay half keeled over on the wet sand, waiting for the water to return and float them upright again.

She should go back to the house. She had been out for longer than an hour, and part of her longed for the warmth of a fire and the comfort of a steaming cup of tea. Unfortunately, though, Vera Parkinson’s home was not hers, only the house where she was staying for a month. And she and Vera had just quarreled—­or at least, Vera had quarreled with her and upset her. She was not ready to go back yet. She would rather endure the elements.

She could not walk to her left. A jutting headland barred her way. To the right, though, a pebbled beach beneath high cliffs stretched into the distance. It would be several hours yet before the tide came up high enough to cover it.

Gwen usually avoided walking down by the water, even though she lived close to the sea herself at the dower house of Newbury Abbey in Dorsetshire. She found beaches too vast, cliffs too threatening, the sea too elemental. She preferred a smaller, more ordered world, over which she could exert some semblance of control—­ a carefully cultivated flower garden, for example.

But today she needed to be away from Vera for a while longer, and from the village and country lanes where she might run into Vera’s neighbors and feel obliged to engage in cheerful conversation. She needed to be alone, and the pebbled beach was deserted for as far into the distance as she could see before it curved inland. She stepped down onto it.

She realized after a very short distance, however, why no one else was walking here. For though most of the pebbles were ancient and had been worn smooth and rounded by thousands of tides, a significant number of them were of more recent date, and they were larger, rougher, more jagged. Walking across them was not easy and would not have been even if she had had two sound legs. As it was, her right leg had never healed properly from a break eight years ago, when she had been thrown from her horse. She walked with a habitual limp even on level ground.

She did not turn back, though. She trudged stubbornly onward, careful where she set her feet. She was not in any great hurry to get anywhere, after all.

This had really been the most horrid day of a horrid fortnight. She had come for a month-­long visit, entirely from impulse, when Vera had written to inform her of the sad passing a couple of months earlier of her husband, who had been ailing for several years. Vera had added the complaint that no one in either Mr. Parkinson’s family or her own was paying any attention whatsoever to her suffering despite the fact that she was almost prostrate with grief and exhaustion after nursing him for so long. She was missing him dreadfully. Would Gwen care to come?

They had been friends of a sort for a brief few months during the whirlwind of their come-­out Season in London and had exchanged infrequent letters after Vera’s marriage to Mr. Parkinson, a younger brother of Sir Roger Parkinson, and Gwen’s to Viscount Muir. Vera had written a long letter of sympathy after Vernon’s death, and had invited Gwen to come and stay with her and Mr. Parkinson for as long as she wished since Vera was neglected by almost everyone, including Mr. Parkinson himself, and would welcome her company. Gwen had declined the invitation then, but she had responded to Vera’s plea on this occasion despite a few misgivings. She knew what grief and exhaustion and loneliness after the death of a spouse felt like.

It was a decision she had regretted almost from the first day. Vera, as her letters had suggested, was a moaner and whiner, and while Gwen tried to make allowances for the fact that she had tended a sick husband for a few years and had just lost him, she soon came to the conclusion that the years since their come-­out had soured Vera and made her permanently disagreeable. Most of her neighbors avoided her whenever possible. Her only friends were a group of ladies who much resembled her in character. Sitting and listening to their conversation felt very like being sucked into a black hole and deprived of enough air to breathe, Gwen had been finding. They knew only how to see what was wrong in their lives and in the world and never what was right.

And that was precisely what she was doing now when thinking of them, Gwen realized with a mental shake of the head. Negativity could be frighteningly contagious.

Even before this morning she had been wishing that she had not committed herself to such a long visit. Two weeks would have been quite sufficient—­she would actually be going home by now. But she had agreed to a month, and a month it would have to be. This morning, however, her stoicism had been put to the test.

She had received a letter from her mother, who lived at the dower house with her, and in it her mother had recounted a few amusing anecdotes involving Sylvie and Leo, Neville and Lily’s elder children—­Neville, Earl of Kilbourne, was Gwen’s brother and lived at Newbury Abbey itself. Gwen read that part of the letter aloud to Vera at the breakfast table in the hope of coaxing a smile or a chuckle from her. Instead, she had found herself at the receiving end of a petulant tirade, the basic thrust of which was that it was very easy for Gwen to laugh at and make light of her suffering when Gwen’s husband had died years ago and left her very comfortably well off, and when she had had a brother and mother both willing and eager to receive her back into the family fold, and when her sensibilities did not run very deep anyway. It was easy to be callous and cruel when she had married for money and status instead of love. Everyone had known that truth about her during the spring of their come-­out, just as everyone had known that she, Vera, had married beneath her because she and Mr. Parkinson had loved each other to distraction and nothing else had mattered.

Gwen had stared mutely back at her friend when she finally fell silent apart from some wrenching sobs into her handkerchief. She dared not open her mouth. She might have given the tirade right back and thereby have reduced herself to the level of Vera’s own spitefulness. She would not be drawn into an unseemly scrap. But she almost vibrated with anger. And she was deeply hurt.

“I am going out for a walk, Vera,” she had said at last, getting to her feet and pushing back her chair. “When I return, you may inform me whether you wish me to remain here for another two weeks, as planned, or whether you would prefer that I return to Newbury without further delay.”

She would have to go by post or the public stagecoach. It would take the best part of a week for Neville’s carriage to come for her, after she wrote to inform him that she needed it earlier than planned.

Vera had wept harder and begged her not to be cruel, but Gwen had come out anyway.

She would be perfectly happy, she thought now, if she never returned to Vera’s house. What a dreadful mistake it had been to come, and for a whole month, on the strength of a very brief and long-­ago acquaintance.

Eventually she rounded the headland she had seen from the harbor and discovered that the beach, wider here, stretched onward, seemingly to infinity, and that in the near distance the stones gave way to sand, which would be far easier to walk along. However, she must not go too far. Although the tide was still out, she could see that it was definitely on the way in, and in some very flat places it could rush in far faster than one anticipated. She had lived close to the sea long enough to know that. Besides, she could not stay away from Vera’s forever, though she wished she could. She must return soon.

Close by there was a gap in the cliffs, and it looked possible to get up onto the headland high above if one was willing to climb a steep slope of pebbles and then a slightly more gradual slope of scrubby grass. If she could just get up there, she would be able to walk back to the village along the top instead of having to pick her way back across these very tricky stones.

Her weak leg was aching a bit, she realized. She had been foolish to come so far.

She stood still for a moment and looked out to the still-­distant line of the incoming tide. And she was hit suddenly and quite unexpectedly, not by a wave of water, but by a tidal wave of loneliness, one that washed over her and deprived her of both breath and the will to resist.


She never thought of herself as lonely. She had lived through a tumultuous marriage but, once the rawness of her grief over Vernon’s death had receded, she had settled in to a life of peace and contentment with her family. She had never felt any urge to remarry, though she was not a cynic about marriage. Her brother was happily married. So was Lauren, her cousin by marriage who felt really more like a sister, since they had grown up together at Newbury Abbey. Gwen, however, was perfectly contented to remain a widow and to define herself as a daughter, a sister, a sister-­in-­law, a cousin, an aunt. She had numerous other relatives too, and friends. She was comfortable at the dower house, which was just a short walk from the abbey, where she was always welcome. She paid frequent visits to Lauren and Kit in Hampshire, and occasional ones to other relatives. She usually spent a month or two of the spring in London to enjoy part of the Season.

She always considered that she lived a blessed life.

So where had this sudden loneliness come from? And such a tidal wave of it that her knees felt weak and it seemed as though she had been robbed of breath. Why could she feel the rawness of tears in her throat?


She was not lonely, only depressed at being stuck here with Vera. And hurt at what Vera had said about her and her lack of sensibilities. She was feeling sorry for herself, that was all. She never felt sorry for herself. Well, almost never. And when she did, then she quickly did something about it. Life was too short to be moped away. There was always much over which to rejoice.

But loneliness. How long had it been lying in wait for her, just waiting to pounce? Was her life really as empty as it seemed at this moment of almost frightening insight? As empty as this vast, bleak beach?

Ah, she hated beaches.

Gwen gave her head another mental shake and looked, first back the way she had come, and then up the beach to the steep path between the cliffs. Which should she take? She hesitated for a few moments and then decided upon the climb. It did not look quite steep enough to be dangerous, and once up it, she would surely be able to find an easy route back to the village.

The stones on the slope were no easier underfoot than those on the beach had been; in fact, they were more treacherous, for they shifted and slid beneath her feet as she climbed higher. By the time she was halfway up, she wished she had stayed on the beach, but it would be as difficult now to go back down as it was to continue upward. And she could see the grassy part of the slope not too far distant. She climbed doggedly onward.

And then disaster struck.

Her right foot pressed downward upon a sturdy looking stone, but it was loosely packed against those below it and her foot slid sharply downward until she landed rather painfully on her knee, while her hands spread to steady herself against the slope. For the fraction of a moment she felt only relief that she had saved herself from tumbling to the beach below. And then she felt the sharp, stabbing pain in her ankle.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“This is Mary Balogh at her riveting best. Everyone loves a wounded hero, and Balogh introduces us to an unforgettable one who discovers the healing power of love.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

“[Mary Balogh] writes with wit and wisdom. . . . The Proposal is both moving and entertaining and the beginning of what promises to be an outstanding series.”—Romance Reviews Today
“A historical romance of unusual thoughtfulness and depth.”—Publishers Weekly

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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The Proposal: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt the author did a marvleous job, as always...this one didn't disappoint, and I am a big fan of hers anyhow. I just love the style and flow of her words and could read her books all day. She held my attention for the entire length of the book, and I didn't want it to end. Beautiful story and I left with a wonderful feeling that stayed with me long after I put the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms Balogh has recovered her status as a great writer to me, because the "secrete mistress" was written so bad i was willing to not ever read anything else by her.
CAJ45 More than 1 year ago
I liked The Proposal. I read it in one sitting but in certain places the book would have the same sentence a few lines down. I would go back to check to make sure that I wasn't reading the same paragraph again. I wasn't it was just the same sentence. This bothered me a little. Both the Gwen and Hugo were likeable. I wanted a little more something, anything to happen other than him just courting or considering courting Gwen. It got to be a bit boring and when I thought there might be some action or a twist nothing ever became of it. Evaporated with some small explanations of why it happened. I liked it but I wanted more, it left me wanting more out of the story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first book by this author, I thought it was a very good read. It left me wishing to know more about their life together; but since I see that the author is a series writer, I'll make sure I get the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this story very much. Well developed characters, light humor and entertaining.
ramore More than 1 year ago
II'm going to start this review off with a quote from the book: “'You are not by any manner of means the sort of woman I am in search of as a wife,' he said, 'and I am in a totally different universe from the husband you hope to find. But I feel a powerful urge to kiss you, for all that.'” I loved this paragraph and it certainly sets a tone for the entire book. “He” is Hugo, and the object of his “powerful urge” is Gwendoline. They come from different social classes, but fate has brought them together. They are both irritated to be in each other's company. But at the same time each is intrigued by the other. It is not difficult to see where this will lead, but the path to that endpoint is a thoroughly entertaining read! There are no plot twists or suspenseful moments, no intrigue and no mystery. This book is straight romance. I would call it Regency-like, since it strays from the common theme of nobility courting nobility, and mixes strong characters of different social backgrounds. What's more, you find out that a) there is hardworking middle class in Regency England and b) the ton and the middle class are not necessarily oil and water. I liked the refreshing look at that time period. Ms. Balogh is an entertaining storyteller. If you enjoy romance, historical or otherwise, I recommended you check out The Proposal!
Critiqua More than 1 year ago
I completely agree with the previous reviewer who both loves and is annoyed by this wonderful author. Mary has created characters and situations so real and memorable that they bring you to tears and stick with you for years afterwards. At the same time, she also has certain tricks of the trade--the unnaturally stilted dialogue, the characters who end each and every utterance with the self-deprecating rhetorical question, and the dreaded please God not again pursing of the lips--that recur to a greater or lesser degree in many of her books. I am sorry to say that this is a book where the latter outweighs the former. Anyone with a fondness for Gwen from previous books will want to know how her story ends, but this book will not be on my shelf of Balogh keepers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love her family series' and eagerly awaited Gwen's story. Hugo is a troubled war hero who helps Gwen unlock the shell of loneliness she wrapped herself in after her husband's untimely death while she in turn helps him out of his own self imposed exile. Another Balogh keeper. Cannot wait to see how their lives progress as this series comtinues.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of Mary Balogh, I both love and are annoyed by her books. There were some things that bothered me in this one, like the fact that I think they opened up to each other way to soon, but other than that I really enjoyed this book. Most of Balogh's books revolve around "The Big Misunderstanding", which can be very frustrating for the reader, but this book was thankfully devoid of that (though we all love that in Balogh's book too sometimes). Overall I was satisfied with Gwen's happy ending, and I look forward to the other books in this new "Survivors Series".
van65 More than 1 year ago
Good characters and plot line. A very enjoyable read. I love when the stars of a novel aren't perfect and know it.
judiOH More than 1 year ago
this is the first in the survivor series. each person is wounded by war in a different way, and comes to the duke's home to recover. while hugo happens upon a wounded gwen on the side of a hill. she has sprained her ankle. after a courtship, they marry. mary writes heart warming stories that leave you smiling.
VincaBooks More than 1 year ago
Gwendolyn, Lady Muir, has been through a lot. Her husband is dead, her old friend's husband has just died, and she has discovered halfway through her visit that her friend is the reigning queen of whining. Yet it is a simple walk that proves to be her worst decision. A sprained ankle and a handsome stranger later, she finds herself a guest at Penderris Hall in the midst of what seems to be a reunion that she is clearly eintruding upon. Hugo, Lord Trentham, is one of seven members of The Survivor's Club: a group of six men and one woman who have seen and experienced the worst a war can offer, and have only found comfort in each other. Each year, the seven members meet to relax and catch up on each others' lives and recoveries. Hugo is hoping to have a few weeks of quiet at Penderris before he starts searching for a wife, but after Gwen intrudes on his solitude and he is forced to her rescue, he begins to see things differently. His only problem now is convincing Gwen they want the same thing before she leaves forever. I have been a fan of Mary Balogh's work ever since I discovered the Simply and the Slightly series in 2011, and the Survivor's Club is no different. Brilliant characters and twisting storylines keep the reader's attention until the very last page, and in some cases long after. The Proposal is the first book in the Survivor's Club Series, four of which I'll be reviewing this month. The seventh and final book comes out in May 2016, so I will probably review the last three sometime next year. I really enjoyed Hugo and Gwen's story. Mary Balogh's characters are always quite complex, and the reader often learns their pasts as they reveal them to others throughout the story. This book had me hooked from the first chapter, and there was never a dull moment. As with most romances there are steamy scenes, but they are not overpowering to the storyline nor the characters, and indeed they are handled quite well. I would recommend this book (and the series) to anyone who enjoys a good storyline and well-built characters in their romances. I would HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who enjoys Balogh's other works. Vinca Books Rating: 4.5 Stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started off in a different style and was a pretty good read. A little bit of Pride and Prejudice style characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read this twice. The first time was a couple of years ago when it first came out. I have the Survivor series up to the last one written and am awaiting its arrival somewhat impatiently.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Her books are gentle and very caring. Her heroes are all interesting. There is a lot of history that is painless to read.
all-about-that-fictionCB More than 1 year ago
I was a bit disappointed in this book. Balogh was for lack of a better word... Wordy! She took pages and pages to give a recap of events that happened just five pages earlier. I am starting book 2 ( The Arrangement) because I am hoping this isn't the style for the series. Still a big fan, but this one was a dud. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Bedwyns were a wonderful read and I am just as pleased with the crossover to this sensitive new series and how it deals with the traumas of war. Touches my heart for all survivors yesterday, today and tomorrow. LORRAINE
kronan1 More than 1 year ago
Boring....................................................... Dull and plodding book about a couple with no chemistry and an overload pf guilt.   Got halfway through and am putting it on the DNF pile.  Painfully slow .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me wanting more. So good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely excellent. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago