What a sweet, lovely book! I freely admit that I am a sucker for stories with a blind hero so I was probably going to like this one no matter what. Bu...moreWhat a sweet, lovely book! I freely admit that I am a sucker for stories with a blind hero so I was probably going to like this one no matter what. But when you put the blind hero into the writing hands of Mary Balogh the result is a heartwarming story of characters discovering their inner strength together. If you like adventure, intrigue or danger this is not the book for you. If, however, you love sympathetic characters and you appreciate slow, steady character development you will enjoy The Arrangement (Survivor’s Club #2).
The story opens as Vincent Hunt, who has recently and unexpectedly become Viscount Darleigh, runs away from home and his family’s attempt to find him a bride. His mother, grandmother and sisters tend to overwhelm him since he is the youngest and he is blind due to a war injury. Vincent knows that he has to grow up and become his own man, but he wants to do it on his own terms. His wandering eventually leads him to his childhood home where he is welcomed back into the community. It is there that he meets Sophie Fry, “the Mouse,” a poor relation living with a prominent area family. Vincent’s friendship with Sophie causes her to be cast out with nowhere to go. They decide to marry even though they are both less than enthusiastic about the idea. They make an agreement (the arrangement) that they will each live independently after a year. The rest of the book takes us through their wedding and months of adjustment on their way to their Happily Ever After.
Romance writers today are taught that the essence of story lies in conflict. Sometimes it seems like the message is “the more conflict, the better.” As a result it is not unusual to find books with what I call “contrived conflict’ – it feels like the author tried too hard to include lots of conflict, even when it did not fit naturally into the story. Interestingly, The Arrangement had almost no serious conflict. There was no villain, no evil plot, and no insurmountable issues. The story moved forward at an even pace and the characters dealt with each issue as they encountered it. There was never any doubt, of course, that Vincent and Sophie would work things out, but there weren’t even any real bumps in the road. Each of them helped the other to find their confidence and to build their life together.
I loved reading The Arrangement. It was a heartwarming journey of self-discovery for two characters with difficult challenges. In spite of his blindness, Vincent was not an angsty, tortured hero. He was just a young man trying to take charge of his life. Vincent was a genuine beta hero, loving and considerate. Sophie was a little bit of a tragic heroine, but she possessed a courageous spirit. She just needed the opportunity to blossom into a strong woman. Both of them were living marginal lives, but struggled to be whole people. The book was a little unusual in that Vincent and Sophie were younger than in a lot of Regency romances; he was only twenty-three. We were privy to their sexual lives, but it was pretty bland, not particularly steamy. One thing I especially enjoyed was getting reacquainted with most of the other members of the Survivor’s Club. It is a great series and I can’t wait for the next one.(less)