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The Survivors’ Club: Six men and one woman, injured in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendships forged in steel and loyalty. But for one, her trials are not over....

Since witnessing the death of her husband during the wars, Imogen, Lady Barclay, has secluded herself in the confines of Hardford Hall, their home in Cornwall. The new owner has failed to take up his inheritance, and Imogen desperately hopes he will never come to disturb her fragile peace.

Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford, has no interest in the wilds of Cornwall, but when he impulsively decides to pay a visit to his estate there, he is shocked to discover that it is not the ruined heap he had expected. He is equally shocked to find the beautiful widow of his predecessor’s son living there.

Soon Imogen awakens in Percy a passion he has never thought himself capable of feeling. But can he save her from her misery and reawaken her soul? And what will it mean for him if he succeeds?

400 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published September 1, 2015

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About the author

Mary Balogh

268 books5,578 followers
Mary Jenkins was born in 1944 in Swansea, Wales, UK. After graduating from university, moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to teach high school English, on a two-year teaching contract in 1967. She married her Canadian husband, Robert Balogh, and had three children, Jacqueline, Christopher and Sian. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Mary Balogh started writing in the evenings as a hobby. Her first book, a Regency love story, was published in 1985 as A Masked Deception under her married name. In 1988, she retired from teaching after 20 years to pursue her dream to write full-time. She has written more than seventy novels and almost thirty novellas since then, including the New York Times bestselling 'Slightly' sextet and 'Simply' quartet. She has won numerous awards, including Bestselling Historical of the Year from the Borders Group, and her novel Simply Magic was a finalist in the Quill Awards. She has won seven Waldenbooks Awards and two B. Dalton Awards for her bestselling novels, as well as a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 684 reviews
September 3, 2015
"I want you to love me for my sorry self, which I will try very hard for the rest of my life to make worthy of you—and worthy of me. I can do it. We can always do anything as long as we are alive. We can always change, grow, evolve into a far better version of ourselves. It is surely what life is for. Give me a chance. Let me love you. Let yourself love me. I will give you time if you need it. Just give me hope. If you can."
Am I crying? I'm not crying. It's just rain...in the middle of a California summer. In the middle of a drought. Yes, it's just the rain.

God, this book was so good. There's a reason why Mary Balogh is one of my top HR authors ever. Her characterization is among the best I've ever seen. Her romances are built up so gradually you never even notice it until it feels like the most natural thing in the world that these two souls have fallen in love. There are certain authors who are the masters of their genre, and Mary Balogh ranks among the best for me.

I have scarcely read a hate-to-love trope that's been better written. And yes, I cried like a baby.
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,851 reviews846 followers
February 16, 2018
Lady Barclay, Imogen, is one of the Survivors’ Club, a group who were damaged in some way by the Napoleonic Wars, and formed lasting friendships through their shared recovery. Imogen witnessed her husband’s death, and she came back shattered. Eight years later she passes her time “living” at Hardford Hall, the childhood home of her late husband, but now the new heir, Percival Hayes has come home to claim the title and property. Percy doesn’t make a good first impression and these two are at odds immediately. She thinks he’s an arrogant, spoiled man, even if he’s impossibly handsome, and Percy thinks Imogen is the lady made of marble, an infuriating, stone cold woman.

Percy has always been full of easy charm and effortlessly got along with everyone. There wasn’t a female around who could resist him, but Imogen is entirely unaffected. She gets under his skin something fierce. As he gets to know her he sees the strong woman underneath the marble façade, and begrudging realizes he’s attracted to her. Intensely. Percy knows Imogen lost her husband in the war, doesn’t know the brutal details, but he’s sure it’s something that must have been truly horrific.

Imogen doesn’t feel worthy of living a happy life, only deserving a pale grey existence, and that’s exactly how she’s lived the last eight years. Percy’s arrival disrupts her careful, controlled existence, and while she first thought of him as arrogant and entitled, getting to know him she discovers he’s a man of honor and heart. Percy makes Imogen feel again. Like her heart is coming back to life, something that frightens her immensely. More is at stake than just her heart with Percy’s arrival. New information about her husband’s death comes to light which puts Imogen in danger again.

I felt awful for Imogen when I found out the details surrounding her husband’s death, something that’s haunted her for years. She definitely suffered from survivor’s guilt and I was worried that there would be a constant denial of happiness that I’d find frustrating, but thankfully that was not the case at all. While it sounds like Only a Kiss was a heavy, dark read, there was a lot of passion, joy and happiness within the pages. There was a fair amount of humor, too, from the banter between Imogen and Percy, to Cousin Adelaide and her gruff, man-hating commentaries. Also, there was a menagerie of rejected pets. Mutts and misfits that found their way to Hardford Hall, much to Percy’s irritation, especially when the ugliest of the mutts attaches himself to his side, and burrows into his heart. Aww…

Only a Kiss
is the sixth installment of The Survivors Club series, each book focusing on one member’s romance and recovery from the atrocities of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s not necessary to read any of the previous books in the series, they all work well as standalones, but each of the previous stories are just as emotional and moving as Imogen’s. I’ve read the last two, Only Enchanting and Only a Promise and loved both! I’m eagerly looking forward to the next, Only Beloved, the Duke of Stanbrook, George’s story, which will be the last of the series. I’ll be sad to say goodbye!

A copy was kindly provided by Signet in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Megan Frampton.
Author 48 books978 followers
March 25, 2015
I now have the worst book hangover. I cried multiple times at the end of this (on the subway, because EMBARRASSING), and I just loved it so much. It's incredible to me that Balogh is STILL writing such amazing books, after writing some of my favorites twenty or so years ago.
Profile Image for Geo Marcovici.
1,239 reviews295 followers
September 6, 2020
Hardford Hall este o moșie din Cornwall unde Imogen, Lady Barclay îsi duce existența după ce a fost martora torturării propriului ei soț și a uciderii acestuia în timpul războiului, în Franța.
Aici îl cunoaște pe Percy, actualul conte de Hardford. La doi ani după ce a moștenit titlul, acesta își face în sfârșit apariția pe proprietate.
De aici, totul pare a se complica treptat, de la descoperirea menajeriei mătușii Lavinia la contrabanda cu coniac care se desfășoară de ani buni pe proprietate, despre care știe toată lumea. Dar, se pare că mulți dintre servitori sunt implicați, și asta nu e totul. Se pare că au existat consecințe pentru cei care s-au opus, sau amenințări.
Acesta este fundalul pe care se desfășoară povestea de dragoste dintre Imogen și Percy. La început, cei doi s-au înțeles precum șoarecele cu pisica. Dar pe măsură ce s-au cunoscut mai bine, au observat lucruri care îi apropie.
Fiecare dintre ei afișează în fața celorlalți o mască pentru a se proteja. Atunci când aceste măști cad, descoperim doi tineri care încearcă să înțeleagă viața și scopul lor, să facă față trecutului — cazul lui Imogen; sau să înțeleagă ce trebuie făcut de acum înainte — cazul lui Percy, care realizează că viața lui din Londra nu mai este atât de mulțumitoare ca și până acum.
Printre toate aceste probleme cu care fiecare dintre ei se confruntă, Percy și Imogen se trezesc că cedează tentației și încep o aventură de a cărei finalitate sunt conștienți. Dar ce se întâmplă când emoțiile se joacă cu mintea lor? Se încăpățânează să lupte cu ele sau vor recunoaște că se iubesc?
Iar situația pare a deveni cu atât mai complicată atunci când tânărul conte le comunică servitorilor că pe proprietatea lui este interzisă contrabanda, dar mai ales când Imogen primește o scrisoare de amenințare la adresa ei dacă contele nu renunță la pretențiile sale de a înceta contrabanda.
O lectură simplă care transmite multe emoții variate cititorului. Autoarea reușește și de această dată să ofere o lectură deosebită.
Profile Image for Dagmara Pageturner .
201 reviews32 followers
July 27, 2022
One of the most heartwrenching, moving and poignant of the Survivor's Club books. Seriously beautiful.
Profile Image for Holly.
1,430 reviews981 followers
June 7, 2018
I honestly only kept reading this just to find out what exactly happened with Imogen and her husband, eight years ago. I can't say it was exactly worth it. I just didn't enjoy the relationship between Imogen and Percival, they were rude to each other. And then Imogen laughs and Percy decides he wants to 'have' her in the carnal sense. Um, ok. Where did that come from? The smuggling story didn't add much interest either.
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books334 followers
August 31, 2015
"And who the devil might you be? He asked her."

"Imogene Hayes, Lady Barclay," she told him.

Well, if that was a neat facer.

And so began the auspicious meeting of Percy and Imogene. Instant dislike, witty responses, and a whole slew of assumption. Things were shaping up for something good.

This was the Survivor story that had me in the least anticipation and it had nothing to do with the fact that the Survivor is female, but everything to do with Imogene being this supposedly cold icicle through the earlier books in the series. She held herself aloof. It's not true, but I felt she was making this great production out of her pain and survivor's guilt. I don't feel badly for this presumption because she struck Percy the same way at first. I felt bad for her situation and can't imagine the strength needed to put herself back together, but on the other hand, I was not endeared to her distant personality and quelling of emotions.

So this was a heroine that had the tough job of changing my mind and I confess that I was worried because I'm so much harder on the heroines. It started out in fits and starts with my fears being realized. Imogene was the ice queen and Percy matched her in my books. They thought the worst about each other and said provoking, rude things ala Darcy and Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice fame. I found that I wanted to flick the ears of both of them.

But then as the story progressed, my fears fell aside. Village life, smuggling, recovery from war, family, home, a man coming into his own, and a woman re-engaging with life. I got caught up in the whirl of the larger story and found this fire and ice romance on the Cornish coast pulled me in. I have no idea why I ever doubted. This author is a sure thing.

The story is equally Percy's as much as Imogene's. Percy has it all and he realizes his good fortune even as he feels empty inside. So, three sheets to the wind, on a whim, he decides to go to the main estate he inherited with his title and there maybe he can find himself.

Imogene lives quietly on the estate that would have belonged to her deceased husband if he had lived, but instead went to a distant cousin two years before. The Earl of Hartford has finally come in all his London polish and finery with that haughty look and expectation that the world is at his feet. Or so she thinks, until she looks closely. What she sees frightens her because instead of hating Percy, she is warming to him and that will not do at all.

Percy is mystified why he even cares to thaw the ice around Imogene and make her laugh. He thought her made of marble and emotionless until he learned the reason why she erected such formidable barriers. She was there when her husband was tortured by the war and it broke her. She is barely cobbled back together even now. But for all that, her laugh, her real smile, and her very presence have become necessary. And suddenly he is taking an interest in responsible matters like the estate and the dark shadows of smuggling that hang about the place.

Imogene cannot and will not give Percy more than a few weeks and Percy has no plans to stay on and yet they both feel pain at the thought of parting.

As I said, this story started out rocky for me and I will confess that part of me still didn't warm up to Imogene. I couldn't figure out why she was really punishing herself. All along, I could tell that there was something still unknown about her past and was the reason she felt the need to not allow herself any happiness. In the end, I was horrified, but not surprised. Though that said, she was really engaging in the muddled thinking of a victim even eight years later. She hadn't healed; she had been in stasis.

And this is where the author showed brilliance in her choice of hero's character. Percy had his own issues, but what he had in spades was those qualities needed to break through Imogene's strong hard shell and get her to heal properly this time around. She was like the broken bone that healed wrong and has to be broken and reset to get it to heal properly a second time. He provoked her, he dared to ask direct questions and make pointed comments, and he didn't let discomfort with her circumstances stop him.

The reverse is true as well. Imogene helped make a man out of Percy. He had been playing at life for the last ten years and his natural charm, looks, rank, and wealth made that easy for him. He was slowly disappearing into nothingness because of lack of purpose and responsibility. He knew that he didn't compare well up against her war hero husband who stood up for his convictions, but he chose to make this a personal challenge to change and not as an excuse to continue as he had been going. The challenge of Imogene, his backwater estate, and dealing with the dangerous smuggler situation pushed him off the stands and into the game.

The pace and movement of the story was slow and crawled at times. I won't say I got bored, but I did have the 'move it along' thoughts. The character development and the romance development needed time and I will be the first one to admit that I'm glad it wasn't rushed. I like that the author explores deep issues and gives her characters complex layers. I like that there is a well-drawn setting and surrounding cast. And this is why I more than tolerate the pace.

Not that it is all slow and humdrum. Percy and Imogene get up to some passionate doings and the situation with the smugglers isn't romantic, but is very much tense danger. I like the physicality of the relationship that doesn't get gratuitous, but always forwarding the relationship when its included. The smuggling storyline got me very excited and I enjoyed the suspense as Percy pitted himself against the unknown and sought to break the power of his shadowy unknown adversary. That resolved some what differently than I wanted, but wasn't bad and had a few twists before the end.

As an aside, the secondary characters and the menagerie of animals was hilarious. The two older women with one a misogynist and the other a warm maternal softy, the 'so ugly he's cute' dog that loyally latched onto Percy, the cranky cats, and the rest of the strays were the light note. Then add in Percy's big boisterous family and two friends and Imogene didn't stand a chance of remaining aloof.

Now this was the last of the younger survivors. I enjoyed the brief updates that the others have started families and are settling into their new healing, happy lives. I am so glad to know that the author is providing George's story instead of ending it here. He has been a favorite character from the beginning. I love that he opened his home to help those others heal even while he was grieving the death of his son to war and dealing with his wife's subsequent suicide. I want him to have his chance at happiness, too.

In summery, this sixth installment, which should be read in order, was one I dreaded, but learned to love as I did others in the series. It has strong historic flavor, passionate and complex characters, and an engaging if gently-paced plot. Historical Romance lovers who don't mind some spice in the romance along with characters who face not just flaws, but personal tragedies to get past should give this series a try.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,025 reviews58.9k followers
January 24, 2016
Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh is a 2015 Signet Publication.

Just when I think Mary Bologh can’t possibly continue to improve upon this series, she goes and writes one of the most emotional and unique romances in the series so far.

I have wondered when we were going to delve into Imogen’s tale, and have been most curious about her backstory.

Percy Hayes has become tired and bored of himself and so to break up the monotony, he decides to visit his estate in Cornwall. Here he meets his distant cousin, Imogen.

Imogen has closed herself off from the world, after her husband’s death, and has managed to find a peaceful existence at Cornwall. But, when she meets Percy, she is not all impressed with him and the two embark upon a bit of a tug of war, as he attempts to step in and direct her life, probing in areas that no one, save those in the survivor’s club, have ever dared to pursue.

But, there are dangers surrounding Cornwall, which involves smugglers, and Percy feels it is his obligation to face his own fears and make a stand. This thread winds its way around the building friendship and eventual affair between Percy and Imogene, and drops a dollop of unease into the equation.

The first half of the book has Imogene and Percy slow dancing around each other, testing the waters, challenging their own boundaries, and finally agreeing to enjoy the time Percy has at the estate without strings or promises of undying love. Of course, we all know that is something nearly impossible to pull off. In this case, it’s Imogene’s severe trauma and her refusal to love anyone again that is the biggest hurdle the couple will have to face.

While all the survivors have had difficult experiences, some more emotional that others, but, all very compelling, I have to say, Imogen’s story knocked me back on my heels. Her story is stunning, shocking, courageous, horrifying, and so utterly heartbreaking, I was in tears. My heart just hurt for all that she endured.

As for Percy, a man at loose ends, who had never accomplished anything all that important in his life, he certainly rises to the occasion for Imogen. Oh, sure, he makes some blunders, is blinded by his good fortune, makes some misguided attempts at heroism, but in the end he steps up and becomes all Imogen could ever hope for and more.

Once more, the author makes the effort to show readers that true love goes much deeper than sensual or romantic love, something many romance novels today will overlook, and I appreciate Mary’s subtle reminders of that.

Although, this story got off to a lackadaisical start, it ended up being deeply moving, very romantic, and packs one very powerful punch.

If you have not started on this series, I highly recommend it. Mary Balogh is one of the best regency romance authors out there and is always a ‘go to’ author for me. For those who are reading this series, you already know how wonderful it is, and I know you will love this one as much as I did.

5 stars
Profile Image for Alba Turunen.
659 reviews208 followers
July 14, 2021
3'5 Estrellitas. Me duele bajarle una estrellita a un libro de la señora Balogh, pero comparado con los anteriores de la serie, esperaba un poquito más. Esto no quiere decir que sea malo o peor, sólo que le ha faltado algo más de chicha o emoción.

Tengo a ésta por una serie intermedia de la señora Balogh, donde todo es acertado o correcto y con una ambientación estupenda. La señora Balogh maneja la época como nadie y escribe unos libros preciosos. "El Club de los Supervivientes" nos muestra una serie muy, muy parecida, y quizás, lo mejor para digerirla es leerla de manera pausada, o no tan seguidos, para disfrutarlos más.

"Only a kiss" es el sexto libro de la serie, y en él tenemos la historia de Imogen, lady Barclay, la única mujer del Club de los Supervivientes. A diferencia de los hombres, las cicatrices que dejaron las guerras napoleónicas en Imogen fueron psicológicas.

Imogen siguió a su esposo, Richard (lord Barclay) a Portugal cuando se alistó en el ejército, y allí fueron capturados por soldados franceses, con la consecuencia de que lord Barclay fue torturado hasta la muerte y lady Barclay liberada, una vez que ya no les servía. El trauma y el estrés por lo sufrido, causaron en Imogen una profunda depresión, que provocó que fuese acogida en Penderris Hall, el hogar en Cornualles de George, el duque de Stanbrook.

El protagonista, Percival Hayes, es el ahora conde de Hardford, título que debería haber sido de Richard e Imogen, a la muerte del padre de Richard. Una vez muerto el viejo conde y sin heredero, el título pasó a un lejano primo tercero, Percival.

Percy es un hombre acostumbrado a la buena vida y con una inteligencia desperdiciada. Aunque su familia era lejana de la aristocracia, creció con multitud de comodidades al gozar de una buena posición económica. Acaba de cumplir treinta años y lleva dos siendo conde de Hardford, pero no termina de estar satisfecho con la vida que ha hecho, y se propone ponerse al día con las responsabilidades de su título. La primera de ellas, vistar la finca familiar en Cornualles.

La sorpresa es que Percy esperaba encontrarse una fría, oscura y húmeda casona deshabitada. Nada mas lejos de la realidad, cuando la casa goza de una situación espléndida y está habitada por la hermana solterona del viejo conde y una amiga de ésta, y una mujer joven, lady Barclay, la nuera del viejo conde, y una caterva de perros y gatos, a cual más feo o escuálido y recogido caritativamente por las tres mujeres.

Cierto es que Percy no esperaba encontrar esto, y no le gusta encontrar la finca familiar invadida por desconocidos y animales zarrapastrosos. El primer encuentro entre Percy e Imogen no será fácil, de hecho, no se soportan, ella es fría como un bloque de mármol y él presuntuoso y arrogante.

Pero poco a poco irán calmándose los ánimos entre ellos, sobre todo cuando la muy extensa familia de Percy se presente inesperadamente en la casa, y surjan otros problemas en la finca, referentes al contrabando de bebidas alcohólicas que ha proliferado durante la guerra en las costas de Cornualles.

El planteamiento de la novela está bien, pero admito que me ha parecido algo aburridillo o sosete hasta la mitad del libro, pues no pasaba gran cosa. Y aunque los caracteres de los personajes están bien definidos, no he terminado de verlos como una pareja, o no he llegado a verlos enamorados, más bien es Imogen la que no me ha convencido. Pero como digo, mi percepción de la novela ha podido verse mermada porque los últimos libros leídos de ésta serie me han parecido muy iguales, o similares. Al final, muy al final, veremos el desenlace final y el por qué de la actitud de Imogen y su reticencia a volver a amar.

Aunque tengo muchísimas ganas de leer el séptimo y último libro, el del duque de Stanbrook, admito que voy con algo de recelo por si no me gusta. Ya digo que ésta serie es muy similar, y quizás el problema está en que no hay que leerlos muy seguidos. La señora Balogh sabe hacerlo bien cuando se trata de broches de series y duques, y por eso mismo quiero disfrutar el último libro, así que esperaré un tiempo considerable para leerlo.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,546 followers
November 27, 2015
I've been looking forward to this book for months. Imogen has been a favorite of the Survivors since book one as the only female in the group of emotionally vulnerable but oh-so-lovable men. I've been waiting to see what kind of man it would take to break her out of her emotional self-exile. And I had some serious suspicions about the central event of her emotional damage for a while now and I wanted to see how that played out (for the record, I was right :).

And I want to say up front that while this is the sixth of the series, it'd probably read fine as a stand-alone, even though the entire gang shows up in places. They're not important to the story as anything more than her support. I recommend reading the others first because they're very fine books on the whole, but they aren't necessary for this book to work.

What a delight it was to finally meet Imogen in depth! Balogh is excellent at characters and she outdid herself with this one. And while I can't help patting myself on the back for guessing details of her central trauma, Balogh did a fantastic job of making it real in her character. Although (and take this spoiler seriously as I think the actual revelation works better through the story)

So Imogen was a delight, but I fell just as hard for Percy. He was completely unexpected as a match for Imogen, but Balogh managed to show how he was exactly right and that was marvelous. I loved his healing as much as Imogen's and the two together were emotional catnip. Further, he was an excellent stand-in for learning about Imogen's past (which is why you should take that spoiler above extra-seriously). I loved seeing his determination as he deals with owning his responsibilities and the strength and self-respect he gains in doing so.

I have minor niggles with the plot, but they're very small and bound in details. Like, for instance, (this spoiler isn't as serious as the first, as I think it was telegraphed pretty well early on, but that may just be me) . But the story was well paced and my few niggles only occurred after I'd finished the book so they don't affect my rating at all. Indeed, the emotional climax was so powerful I knew it had clenched the solid five-star rating I'd been heading for all along.

So yeah, this series is shaping up to be one of my very favorite. The lows haven't been terribly low and the highs have been fantastic.

A note about Steamy: Two explicit sex scenes put this at standard for the series/author and in the middle of my steam tolerance. They really worked for me, actually, as they were essential to the growing emotional connection between them. It helps that four years of a happy marriage without any hint of pregnancy made Imogen confident of being barren. I'm not sure I buy a doctor's confirmation from that period, but since Imogen believed it (and I'm genuinely ignorant of medicine at the time) I rolled with it.
Profile Image for Dorine.
600 reviews31 followers
August 26, 2015
Recommended Read! Review courtesy of Romance Junkies and also posted at The Zest Quest, my quest for a zestful life.

SNIPPET: The Survivors' Club members' stories continue with Imogen, the only female member of their original group. Her story is lighthearted to heartrending to beautifully fulfilling – one of my favorite historicals because of its emotional transitions. Recommended Read!


Percival "Percy" William Henry Hayes, an earl, becomes a viscount when he inherits an estate in Cornwall, courtesy of a distant relative with no living heirs. Not that he has paid the estate or those who live there much heed in the last two years. But now that he's thirty and bored, he sets off to visit this property along the coast on a whim.

Imogen Hayes, Lady Barclay, lost her husband tragically in the war. Since then she hasn't been the same girl who married her best friend and childhood sweetheart. Imogen survives and carries on, but she never really lives. Anxious for her visit to Penderis Hall in about a month when she will reunite with her fellow Survivors' Club members and their families, Imogen has no plans for love in her future. Especially not with such an annoying man as the new Viscount Barclay.

Percy's attraction to Imogen distracts and confuses him. He thinks of her as the marble lady without passion, so he can't understand why she heats his blood. Once Percy hears Imogen's laugh, though, he's determined to hear it again and does everything within his power to entertain her with his obtuse ramblings. Of course, he can't help it if he makes her angry, as well, and she riles him just as easily.

If ever there were two more mismatched souls, I can't imagine I've read about them. Percy is silly and irresponsible as well as a stuffed shirt, while Imogen is serious and independent, although able to calmly ignore Percy's rude behavior which unnerves him. They clash and clang from the start, then make each other laugh, and finally that first kiss sends them hurtling into an unexpected affair. Will Imogen tell Percy the truth about her captivity during the war? Can Percy accept it and convince Imogen he truly cares? You'll have your doubts until the very emotional and endearing end of this unusual story.

Imogen is a stoic survivor who hides what she has been through under her surface smile and caring for others. The other survivors may know why she suffers internally so much, but we don't find out until almost the end of the book and it's a shocker.

Percy is so peculiar and so are many of the secondary characters, including a dog that's so ugly it's cute. Every last one of them annoys Percy to no end and his eccentricity stands out even more when he's faced with additional circumstances he's not sure how to handle, including Imogen's truth.

I adored Percy's over-the-top, bored, rich-man-who-has-everything personality. He's a snob and rude, but it's his ham-fisted habit of saying whatever he's thinking, no matter if it's appropriate or not, that endeared him to me. It's because under that rude persona lies a man with a great big heart, just waiting to share it. A man who has always been well-loved and spoiled, not realizing what he's missing until it's taken from him. Once he understands he has much more to offer those around him, Percy does not disappoint.

The unique emotional twist in this story is brilliantly played. That alone could easily make ONLY A KISS one of my favorites, but I also adored this couple's entanglement because of the push and pull that author Mary Balogh masters between her couples in every book. Add in the house full of peculiar outcasts Aunt Livinia has gathered into her household, due to her very soft heart, and who can resist the anticipation of what will happen when they're faced with the very rigid Percy?

ONLY A KISS epitomizes everything I love about a Cornish historical romance. I laughed a lot in the beginning, until Imogen's confession unnerved me with an unexpected sob. I wasn't so sure I liked the author at all at that point, because she had lulled me with this fun story, and then whamo, hit me over the head. I couldn't imagine how she'd pull off a convincing happy-ever-after, but she did it so sweetly and it made the book a complete success for me.

Fans of the SURVIVORS' CLUB series will enjoy the gathering of Survivors' Club members and we get a quick catch-up on their lives in book six. Their personalities shine in support of one another and the acceptance of their extended families. What's most impressive about this series is Mary Balogh's talent for coming up with such unusual circumstances and emotional hurdles for her characters to overcome. I've never read anything quite like this series, which is why Ms. Balogh is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

I highly recommend these novels for their superb characterization and the unique personalities that mesh throughout the series, all while captivating with emotion. With the same quirky sense of humor as ONLY ENCHANTING , but not quite as dark as ONLY A PROMISE , ONLY A KISS can be read as a stand-alone novel, but I suggest all three to enjoy their diversity. As for me, I'm going on a hunt for the first three books to catch up on the series. Then we'll all look forward to book seven, ONLY BELOVED, in May 2016.

Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and The Zest Quest. Print ARC provided by the publisher.
Profile Image for Vintage.
2,389 reviews443 followers
June 2, 2016
Oh boy, this was good. More of a 4.5 stars.

Percy, a charming, well-endowed (not that way) tall, dark and handsome almost cliche hero decides to visit one of his estates in Cornwall as his life is just so darn charmed, it's boring. There he meets the widow of the previous owner and a slew of characters and a mass of dogs and cats.

Imogen, the completely shut down "marble" ice queen, is a widow. She and her husband were incredibly close, and she went to the front with him. She was with him when he was captured by the French who tortured and killed him which is how she ended up as part of the Survivor's Club.

Mary Balogh can often be a little dry, but the dialogue between Imogen and Percy is so snappy and tart it sparkles. Not to mention, Percy as a self-involved - born with several silver spoons in his mouth hero has an inner monologue that is hysterical. He really is a charmer. What makes him so delicious as a hero is he knows how lucky he is; how much he has thrown away just being a dandy of the Ton, and how hard he tries to change and mature.

There is a side plot about smuggling and Cornwall that ties into the death of Imogen's husband, and there is a shocking spoiler moment that made me tear up a little. No spoiler here!

This one has a whimsical side to it that I have not seen in her other books. Loved both characters.

Profile Image for Starr (AKA Starrfish) Rivers.
937 reviews271 followers
December 7, 2018
It’s a rare day that I’d give an MB book 2 stars. Her writing itself should save any flaws with character and plot.

But not this time. I am annoyed!

I’ve been waiting for Imogen’s Story with anticipation. She’s so mysterious, the only female member of the survivors. Her story is heartbreaking.

The reason I dislike this book is that I never felt the H was enough for her. She had a great love. Her husband was a hero. They loved each other and he died for her and his country in a horrific way. So whoever she ends up with now better AT LEAST match this paragon!

Alas, Percy does not. Even after his character developed and he was less of a selfish, good for nothing, less bored ass, he certainly never reached the heroic heights of Imogen’s dead husband. Perhaps if the dead husband wasn’t there I’m her heart, perhaps if Percy had less of a man to live up to... but that is not the case.

Not only that, taken on his own, Percy was never a compelling H for me. And I really need to LOVE the H in my romances!

So no, disappointed. 2 stars.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,428 reviews50 followers
June 10, 2022
Imogen’s story was always going to be tragic. But given a hero with a sense of humor, definite failings, and a big heart of course this was going to be a winner.
Profile Image for Debby *BabyDee*.
1,170 reviews60 followers
May 30, 2018
This novel is the 6th installment in the Survivor’s Club series by MB. It is the story of Imogen, Lady Barclay who is the sole female of the Club and who has secluded herself in a dower home in Cornwall after witnessing the tragic death of her husband during the war. Although she holds no physical scars, the emotional and mental scars have overtaken her life until she met the others in the Club. They help her overcome a hidden pain she keeps inside while trying to remain sane from the dark world of depression that beats upon her doorstep everyday.

Then there is the arrogant Earl of Hardford, Percival who had no intentions in his Cornwall estates until he makes a visit and is overwhelmed by Imogen and her beauty. While in residence, he also changes the lives of everyone including the old aunt and cousin, as well as an ugly dog that follows him everyone on the property. He becomes smitten with her and finds out she is the widow of his predecessor’s son, Dickie. It is Imogen who spurs a passion within him that he never thought he had.

Percy and Imogen are drawn to each other the first time they meet but they have to jump through a lot of roadblocks to make their courtship work. The intimacy happened much too soon in the story making the remaining romance scenes a bit dull. I sometimes was disappointed in the heroine as she became a little self-centered and felt that she needed to remain unhappy although happiness was sometimes staring her straight in the face. But throughout her trials and keeping what had happened to her husband on the inside, you can see why she was who she was and why Balogh wrote her character that way. To her rescue comes Percy who was the lifesaver that Imogen needed. He is smart, witty and the only one who could bring her out of her prison that she had built around her life.

Although this story did not have the depth as the previous story of Ralph and Chloe, this story felt a bit rushed but overall it was a heartfelt story of Imogen and her overcoming the tragedies that bound her to a secluded life as a widow of war. Another good read by this author.

4.0 Stars
Profile Image for Diane Peterson.
1,037 reviews78 followers
September 28, 2015
What a wonderful book! I have enjoyed the entire Survivor's Club series, some more than others. This one was superb. Balogh dug deep into wonderful and delicious emotions with two incredibly sympathetic characters. If character development is your cup of tea run out and grab this book NOW! Percy, our hero, is a decent guy at the core that has let his life meander along with no real direction. In a drunken stupor he decides to shake things up a bit by visiting the estate he inherited two years earlier. His journey from boredom to engagement, from selfish to hero, is so well drawn and believable. We have become acquainted with Imogen from the previous Survivor books, but we never quite find out how she was damaged in the Peninsular War. At the beginning of this story she is literally just surviving. She has withdrawn from life and is just existing each day. Can these two confused individuals find some common ground? I loved how their initial dislike was slowly and carefully turned around. There are great messages in this story about family, love and responsibility. At times I thought I was reading a Grace Burrowes book (that is a compliment). Mary Balogh rang all the right bells with this terrific book.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,674 reviews1,011 followers
November 25, 2015
I've given this an A for narration (duh!) and an A- for content at AudioGals, so I'm bumping up to 5 stars.

I’ve enjoyed every one of the novels I’ve read and/or listened to in Ms Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series, and Only a Kiss, the sixth book, is no exception. The author continues her extraordinarily insightful stories about a group of people – six men and one woman – indelibly scarred by their wartime experiences with the story of Imogen, Lady Barclay who, eight years previously, watched her officer husband die at the hands of his French captors.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.
Profile Image for Ursula.
586 reviews139 followers
August 24, 2017
A solid 3.5 stars.
I liked this MB much more than my previous forays into her books.
The hero, Percy, took a long time to grow up but then he turned into a very decent man- he even cried!!! He did say the most blunt things to our heroine, Imogen, even brutal. I found his sheer rudeness a bit disconcerting, until I realised she had thrown him so much off balance, he could not wheel out his usual arsenal of charming, flattering platitudes. His awkwardness, where he would silently berate himself for saying something, then find himself CONTINUING that line of questioning or commentary, was funny and ultimately endearing.
Imogen was an interesting character with a very traumatic back-story that did actually surprise me. I did not see it coming at all. Pretty awful. She was, as the hero described her, "formidable". I liked her.

I always feel like I sound luke-warm when reviewing MB books. I really think there is not enough passion in them for me. (Must be the drama-queen in me!) There is certainly no foreplay or slow seduction! Once again, sex scenes begin with almost immediate penetration. It is hard to get all goose-bumpy and carried away by the rush when the act is so clinically described. Maybe it is just me, but it is like sex in MB books is an itch to be scratched, a means to an end (satisfaction/relaxation/an end to annoying lust-whatever) rather than one long whole delicious pleasurable experience. Indeed, in the space of two or three hours they had sex 4 times- MB tells us this- and I am dumb with amazement at his virility, staggered by her lack of discomfort after many celibate years, and wondering what to make of the whole thing. I felt cheated. When finally some "love-play" was mentioned, it was almost an afterthought.
Yes, I can use my imagination, but there is not a lot of room for that when the whole thing is over in 5 minutes:)

If I leave that gripe aside, it is actually quite a lovely story. It is the first one I have read (listened to the others) and I seem to have connected emotionally with the MCs more easily in this format. The book is definitely worth a look.
Profile Image for Amy.
519 reviews47 followers
September 6, 2015
If I wanted to mindlessly plow through pages of ancestry and ties of friendship every time a new name was mentioned, I'd open up the Bible. No joke, there are lengthy paragraphs dedicated to: "...met Mr. Derby, who was Mrs. Hartford's half-sister Mary's former intended whilst she resided with her mother's cousins at Hampshire. This estate was, of course, lovingly maintained by the Birches whose third cousin once removed once stormed the Bastille alongside Mr. Derby's nephew and son." Not poorly written, of course, but just so tedious to wade through. This book is 90% description and 10% action.

It did feel unique in the sense that it was quite serious and heavy. I appreciated the break from constant frivolity and I do wish more romances realized that their heroes and heroines can face real depression, real anxiety, and suffer at the same time that they can love. Well-rounded characters in this book, that's for certain.

Anyway, I never had any real enjoyment while reading. You felt removed from the action and while you appreciated the real struggles of the characters, your interest was gutted by the overly philosophical passages and detail. Definitely a novel to skip, although I wouldn't mind picking up one of her other novels just to see if they're all similarly written. The writing is not cheesy or anything but honest, which is a rarity, and I'd be willing to try again with a different set of characters.
Profile Image for OhWell.
726 reviews
March 4, 2016
I needed a break from fantasy and Only a Kiss turned out to be the perfect choice. My favourite of The Survivors' Club series, both in terms of cover and, more importantly, plot. It's one of the best enemies-turned-lovers stories I have ever read!

Being familiar with the other Survivors makes you appreciate the reunion at the end, but it's not a necessary condition to fully enjoy the book.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
March 19, 2022
After finishing Only a Kiss I already knew I had enjoyed it. But why hadn’t it moved me? Maybe I’ve been changing lately and hadn’t realized yet. I’ve been reading less and less historical romances lately. But what made me feel rather aloof when I finished it? To start with, I appreciated Mary Balogh's previous Survivor´s Club stories but not as much as others, such as the Bedwyn Saga. That may be a first clue.

Imogen and Percy were not very likable in the beginning, but as I got to know them they started to grow on me. Imogen was an enigma, we didn’t know what precisely happened when she witnessed her husband’s death while captives of the French on the Peninsula. We will only get to fully undertand that close to the end. Nevertheless, the experience turned her into a shell of a woman, until she met Percival Hayes, Earl of Hardford. Percy was a decent guy, but who had let life drift along with no real direction. His greatest problem seemed to be merely beating boredom. All this changed while he visited Cornwall. We witnessed the thawing of Imogen and Percy’s journey from a meaningless aristocratic to an engaging hero. It should be dazzling, wouldn't you say?

But there was something still missing. The elements of suspense of the story, done quite well, offered a nice respite for the slow moving plot. Although interesting and relevant, as it connects with what happened with Imogen in the Peninsula. So, after a quick brainstorming there was no clear reason that I can point my finger and say “That is why I didn’t love this book!” I can only say that while I enjoyed Only a Kiss, it came up short for me.

Anyhow, I still recommend it for lovers of historical romance.
Profile Image for Lyuda.
538 reviews133 followers
October 12, 2015
3.5 stars rounded.
In comparison to MB earlier work (and, as a huge fan, I can't help it), the story is somewhat average but it's a much improved offering when compared to the rest of the Survivors' series. It's a story of Imogen, Lady Barclay, the only woman in the so-called Survivors' club. Each of the club members has been wounded different way during the Napoleonic Wars. Imogen is a widow who watched her husband tortured at the hands of the French when they were both captured. The experience turned her into a shell of a woman, until she met our hero, Percilval Hayes, Earl of Hardford. Born and raised with every advantage, succeeded in many aspects of life, surrounded by numerous and loving family, Percy's greatest problem in life is beating boredom. The boredom propelled him to visit his Cornwell estate where, at the beginning, his charm and wit met scorn and dislike of Imogen. Of cause it changed throughout the story. Mary Balogh's strength is in character development and this story is no exception. The thawing of Imogen and maturing of Percy were beautifully done. And the hero's declaration of love made me swoon.
There was an element of suspense to the story which was done quite well and offered a nice respite from a slow moving and an uneven plot. If I could surgically dissect the story, I would keep the first 50% and the last 20% and remove the rest which is quite pointless description of all the hero's numerous aunts, uncles, cousins who invaded the estate to celebrate Percy's 30th birthday. They don't bring anything to propel the story and rather annoyed and bored this reader.
Profile Image for Wollstonecrafthomegirl.
472 reviews203 followers
February 5, 2016
For sheer consistency you really cannot fault Mary Balogh. This series has been solid throughout for me (I still have Only A Promise to read and I am off the charts excited for George and Dora's book, cannot believe I have to wait until May! May! For heaven's sake!). This one was no different. I love Imogen because I like a strong, sad heroine who is bought back to life by the hero. I was also very intrigued to find out about what precisely happened to her in the war and I didn't see it coming (seems so obvious now). It helped me to understand her whole attitude and it was very well done by MB. Her issues drag out the resolution of the romance but it didn't annoy me, I thought it was handled correctly. Percy was no less delightful. I loved how utterly hapless he was with Imogen. It's not remotely funny to ask someone if they've been raped but his complete inability to function socially around Imogen when he'd always lived such a charmed and easy life was very endearing and his bluntness around her tickled me. I actually laughed at that line, it was unexpected. I liked the progress from enmity to lust to affection to love. It was well paced and believable. The sex was great. Great cast of secondary characters. This was just a thoroughly enjoyable read and there was nothing about it I didn't eat straight up. Best of the series to date, in my opinion.
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books71 followers
November 16, 2015
Another Survivors’ Club novel, this book didn’t impress me as much as the others in the series. I liked it, but its beginning was slow, with lots of page space dedicated to info dump. The love story in it was integrated with a smuggling thriller, and the tension built very high until the resolution, which was anticlimactic and disappointing. The hero found the bad guys and arrested them. There was no confrontation and no danger except in the last conversation between the hero and heroine, where all their differences were resolved to mutual satisfaction, and happy ending applied to the tale in a true romantic style.
Maybe I expected too much from this book. At least, the others in the series didn’t dangle a thriller in front of the reader before petering it into nothing. The other books in the series had it from start to end as love stories, where a man and a woman searched and found each other despite the odds. All the others were purely emotional journeys, while this one made an attempt to be more, a romantic suspense – and failed. The emotional journey part was good, a bit tear-jerking, but the suspense part sucked.
I’m still looking forward to the next (and last) book in the series, to be released next year.
Profile Image for Jan.
557 reviews8 followers
September 7, 2015
The only bad thing I can ever say about a Mary Balogh book is that eventually, like all the best things in life (chocolate, diet Coke, road trips with friends to Canada)...it ends.


I loved loved loved reading Imogen's story. What a strong woman!! Her romance with Percy is heartbreaking and lovely and tender.

Loved loved loved it. Oh...did I already say that?? It bears repetition.

Well, the only thing now to do is to wait until May 2016 for the last book in the Survivor's Club series---featuring my FAVORITE survivor---the Duke. Ahhhhh, cannot WAIT to read his story. I have loved him since he first appeared in the series (book 1). In fact, thinking about it, he IS the reason there's a Survivor's Club, so it's only right that he finishes out the series. Unless...be still my little heart....could there be branches of this series to be explored??? Oh, please please please!!!!!!!

Thanks, Mary Balogh, for creating such memorable characters----books that stay in your heart forever.
Profile Image for steph .
1,210 reviews72 followers
October 14, 2015
I liked this. I have been waiting and waiting and WAITING to get to Imogen's story (only female of the group? yes please!) and this did not disappoint. It was good. My co-worker was reading it at the same time I was and she complained the pace was too slow. And I agree, this was not a fast pace book, none of Balogh's are like that. Instead this book focused on Imogen and Percy and how their pasts have made them who they are today and how they can help each other for the future, I liked that. A lot.

Also, this book has one of my favorite quotes about love. Under spoilers because it's towards the end of the book.

Profile Image for Cee (The Mistress Case).
253 reviews161 followers
April 6, 2016
How dreadfully boring.

In terms of characterization, it was solid. In terms of characters, oh my, this book was drowning in it. It was endless (and occasionally repetitive) descriptions of family relations, landscapes, and plans of actions in the characters' heads. Perhaps, it's a necessity to make it appeared like time is passing, but I can care less. I skipped over the a great number of paragraphs when they became too excessive. Even the philosophical passages got too preachy for me and it was one of the factors that severed my emotional responses to the characters' struggles.

I repeat: I was bored out of my mind. If only I had hated this book, but I didn't.

"But I would rather you hated me," he added. "There is passion in hatred."

I couldn't agree more.

Profile Image for Aly is so frigging bored.
1,627 reviews274 followers
October 27, 2015
This as great. I can't wait to read George's story

Fave quote:
“I believe,” he said gently, “we all have a perfect right to make ourselves unhappy if that is what we freely choose. But I am not sure we have the right to allow our own unhappiness to cause someone else’s. The trouble with life sometimes is that we are all in it together.”
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