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311 pages, Hardcover
First published April 13, 2012
The seven members of the club, six men and one woman, are survivors of the Napoleonic Wars, five of them former military officers. All seven were variously wounded during the wars and ended up spending several years at Penderris Hall, the Cornish estate of the Duke of Stanbrook, healing and recuperating. The duke was not an active participant in the wars, but his only son was. He died in the Peninsula. The one woman is the widow of a reconnaissance officer, who was captured as a spy in the Peninsula and tortured by the French. She was present during part of the torture and the death of her husband. The seven are all nominally healed, but they return to Penderris for a few weeks each year to spend time with one another, to draw strength from one another and help with any problem that might have arisen.What worried me here is that this setup seems like it will give Balogh a lot of opportunities to write about characters with disabilities. She's often done so before and while she could usually have done it a great deal worse, she could have done better too. A recurring theme, especially among male characters who became physically disabled in an accident or war, is independent stoicism as a virtue -- these characters show that they're not crushed in spirit by viewing their disability as a challenge to overcome, e.g. someone with a painfully twisted leg forcing himself to walk as though nothing were wrong, instead of allowing himself to lean on a cane or roll in a wheelchair. Female characters with disabilities tend to be very sweet and compassionate to others. Nobody complains or expects that others should make accommodations for them (or if they do it's a sign of bad character). Also, I can't think of any of her disabled characters who know anybody else with a similar disability -- they're all kind of isolated.
I do not believe there is right or wrong," he said. "there is only doing what one must do under given circumstances and living with the consequences and weaving every experiences, good and bad, into the fabric of one's life so that ultimately one can see the pattern of it all and accept the lessons life has taught
People do understand the language of the heart, you know, even if the head does not always comprehend it.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~So the two disparate partners play an ancient game of wooing and seduction, courting each other and retreating again. Almost like a chess game, although in the end, both are the winners.
Had she meant it? He had thought so at the time, but really, could women—ladies—be so blasé about sexual encounters? Men could. But women? Had he been too ready to take her at her words?
What if she was with child and would not write to him.
And why could he not stop thinking of her day or night… always she was there at the back of his mind—and sometimes not so far back.
He would be an idiot to marry her.
But she would save him from idiocy. She would not marry him even if he asked. She had made it very clear that she didn’t want him to ask.
But had she meant it?
He wished he understood women better. It was a well-known fact that they didn’t mean half of what they said.
But which half did they mean?
He would be an idiot.