Thursday, August 23

Review: The Proposal by Mary Balogh

Nath and I are back! With a review!  It's been over a month since the last buddy review was posted, but never fear, we've got some more coming down the line.  :P

Today, we're discussing The Proposal by Mary Balogh.  We're both Balogh fans and we know many of you are as well.  Let us know how our thoughts compared to yours on The Proposal.

The Proposal by Mary Balogh
published by Random House Publisher in May 2012
Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy, especially since a freak accident took her husband much too soon. 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 never intends to kiss Lady Muir, and frankly, he judges her to be a spoiled, frivolous—if beautiful—aristocrat. He is a gentleman in name only: a soldier 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. He doesn’t wish to court Lady Muir, nor have any role in the society games her kind thrives upon. Yet Hugo has never craved a woman more; Gwen’s guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face have ruined him for any other woman. He wants her, but will she have him?

The hard, dour ex-military officer who so gently carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. Despite her cautious nature, Gwen cannot ignore the attraction. As their two vastly different worlds come together, both will be challenged in unforeseen ways. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, she cannot resist Hugo’s devotion, his desire, his love, and the promise of forever.
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Survivor's Club, Book #1

The Story: Hoping to offer comfort, Gwendoline is visiting a friend in Cornwall who recently lost her husband. However, the visit has been horrible so far and wanting to escape for a little while, Gwendoline goes for a walk on the beach. Unfortunately for her, she sprained her ankle from her bad leg quite badly. Luckily, Hugo Emes, Lord Trentham and the newest member of the ton thanks to his heroic leadership during the war, is present and brings her back to the Duke of Stanbrook's country estate. Forced to stay at the estate to recover, Gwendoline makes the acquaintance of a group of survivors of the Napoleonic Wars who have named themselves The Survivor's Club.

A member of the club, Hugo is staying at the Duke's estate for their annual meet. He doesn't really know what to think of Gwendoline as she's a lady of the ton and he doesn't think highly of the aristocracy - despite his new title as his family roots stem from trade. One thing he is sure of though is that he's attracted to her and so is she.

After they both succumb to temptation, Hugo proposes to Gwendoline out of duty. However, Gwendoline wants to be courted. She decides to take Hugo's half-sister under her wing and launch her into Society, giving Hugo the opportunity and time to woo her. Coming from two different worlds, will they be able to compromise and be happy?

Nath: So Ames, what did you think of The Proposal? I went into this book with no expectations - luckily ^_^; It’s not that The Proposal was a bad book, but it just didn’t grab me. Everyone loves a book that focuses on the characters - and Hugh and Gwen were likable characters; however, that means you need to have a really good conflict for development and growth... and I don’t think it was the case here. Actually, I feel that The Proposal’s main purpose was really to introduce the Survivor’s Club and pave the way for future books ^_^;

Ames: I went into this one with no expectations either. And I agree, it’s not a bad book, but I felt like it was lacking passion. There was chemistry between the characters, but that didn’t result in any passion. It was a slow book that unfolded in a slow, meandering way. Nothing wrong with that, but that kind of story just doesn’t grab me.

I agree that it was also setting up the other characters. But that again is not a bad thing. They were interesting characters.

Nath: True, they are interesting characters and I’m looking forward to some of the stories, but I think my problem is that it was just a bit too obvious ^_^;

As for the lack of passion, I have to agree with you. It’s interesting how characters can have chemistry, but lack passion. I think one of the reasons for it is because both Hugh and Gwen knew they were all wrong for each other - their way of lives and also their status, and yet, they still had sex together... but the sex was meant to be meaningless. It felt like they didn’t even like each other... but were just feeling “lusty.”

Ames: Also, I hate to say this, but I think their age had something to do with it. Age and personality. These were two level-headed characters who realized despite everything they were attracted to each other and so had sex. Hugh was a recent member of the ton - his exploits as a soldier garnered him a title. So he has his attitudes towards aristocrats and even after he gets to know Gwen, he still stubbornly holds on to those ideas. And that bothered me. I wish these two had communicated more. Gwen somehow magically expected Hugh to know what she wanted and these two really needed to get to know each other.

And thinking about it some more, Gwen got on my nerves. She was too passive for my tastes.

Nath: I think you’re onto something, Ames, about Hugh and Gwen being level-headed. It’s refreshing to have more mature characters, but in this case, Hugh and Gwen let logic dictates the course of their relationship instead of their feelings, their heart. Always doubting, always thinking they knew what the other was thinking - that’s why passion was missing.

Something that surprised me as well is how Ms Balogh introduced some issues and conflicts, but did not develop nor resolve them. For example, Gwen’s husband death and the role Grayson had in it, the way Grayson tried to smear Hugh’s reputation and Hugh’s stepmother. Any of these conflicts, if developed, would have made the book more interesting and could have showcased different sides of Hugh and Gwen’s personalities... but Ms Balogh didn’t. In which case, I wonder why introduce these issues/conflicts at all?

Ames: I know what you mean! And I also feel like Hugh wasn’t the most understanding character about Gwen and her relationship with her husband. I think these two had their biases and they were firmly entrenched and I did not like that about them. Hugh felt judgemental. I just wish that Hugh and Gwen told each other what they were thinking.

Nath: I hear you about the biases! It really bothered me as well, especially since the book wasn’t about overcoming those biases. I felt that with all the prejudices and biases they both felt towards each other and their classes, Hugh and Gwen shouldn’t have gotten together. And when they overcame that biases, instead of feeling “yay, what an accomplishment!” it was more “meh, just get on with it” ^_^;

LOL Ames, I think this is probably our shortest buddy review ever! But really, I’m having difficulty finding things to discuss about this book ^_^; And I definitively think it says something about The Proposal. I originally gave it a C, but now, a C- seems more appropriate.

Ames: I originally gave this a B- but I think I need to lower it to a C. It was just ok. I hate that I didn’t enjoy it more because I really love Balogh’s writing - but sometimes you just strike out.

Nath: Sometimes, it happens... and it proves that authors are humans too :)


Anonymous said...

For the most part I felt like this book had no particular plot and it was just sequel bait.

I too appreciate that these two were level headed people - and I got nothing against common sense ( a little goes a long way and I like when both characters have it) but these two were just so passionless.

It was rather sad because I haven't really liked any of Ms. Baloghs recent books :( I agree with he C- minus too, btw.

nath said...

Alex - I know what you mean, Alex. I did feel a bit that way as well.

What recent books of hers have you read? Did you read A Matter of Class? If not, you should give it a try :)

Hilcia said...

Nath, Ames, great review.

I agree with you ladies that unfortunately this is not Ms. Balogh's best. Too much introspection.

Frankly, one of the biggest problems I found in the story were those moments when that emotional punch was needed, but was not there.

Example: when a revelation was coming from one of the characters, the POV shifted to the other person. The result? We didn't get the emotions first hand, but second hand from the other person's POV... it happened throughout the whole story, and it disconnected me from the characters' feelings. That was so strange.

I didn't mind that the plot was about the difference in class, or that being mature characters they took those things into consideration -- this is a historical romance and Balogh always takes that into consideration. I though in the end it turned out to be a matter of the heart, but the story was just not well rendered by Balogh. She didn't convey the characters' emotions well enough.

I still look forward to the next book because I hope it's better than this one. :)

nath said...

Hilcia - I think you nailed it when you say it needed an emotional punch, Hils. It needed something for readers to care.

I think perhaps she'll have been success with the next, now that the premise is established. Also, all things considered, Hugo is the one that got off lightly in the war in comparison to the other survivors.