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From the legendary New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Only a Promise comes the final book in the rapturous Survivor’s Club series—as the future of one man lies within the heart of a lost but never-forgotten love...

For the first time since the death of his wife, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying and finally embracing happiness for himself. With that thought comes the treasured image of a woman he met briefly a year ago and never saw again. 

Dora Debbins relinquished all hope to marry when a family scandal left her in charge of her younger sister. Earning a modest living as a music teacher, she’s left with only an unfulfilled dream. Then one afternoon, an unexpected visitor makes it come true.

For both George and Dora that brief first encounter was as fleeting as it was unforgettable. Now is the time for a second chance. And while even true love comes with a risk, who are two dreamers to argue with destiny?

381 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 3, 2016

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About the author

Mary Balogh

244 books5,583 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 718 reviews
Profile Image for Lady Wesley.
927 reviews320 followers
March 19, 2023
Dora Debbins was enjoying a hot cup of tea after a trying day of teaching music to the children of Inglebrook in Gloucestershire. She mostly enjoyed her life, but she still missed her younger sister Agnes, who had lived with Dora for a year after she was widowed. She had raised Agnes, twelve years her junior, from childhood after their mother fled from her unhappy marriage. But Agnes had recently married Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby, and moved away; both she and her husband had encouraged Dora to live with them, but Dora preferred feeling useful.
She was very, very thankful for her modest, pretty cottage and her independent employment and lonely existence. No, not lonely – solitary.

Sometimes, however, her mind wandered back to a party at nearby Middlebury Park, where Dora had played the harp and pianoforte after dinner. The Duke of Stanbrook had been especially kind to Dora, and she had felt like a celebrity. He had paid a call at Dora's modest cottage last year, when attending the festivities surrounding Agnes' and Flavian's wedding. Flavian's illustrious friends, who called themselves the Survivors' Club, had again gathered at Middlebury Park, and again, Dora felt more alive than ever in her entire life. But, as a thirty-nine-year-old spinster, Dora allowed herself to entertain no romantic notions.

Meanwhile, at Stanbrook House in London, George Crabbe waved farewell to his house guests and settled into his comfortable library chair, reflecting how nice it was to know that he could do anything, or nothing, with his time. During the past two years, he had traveled hither and yon attending the weddings of all six of his closest friends, all members of the Survivors' Club. Now, the weddings were over, and George was lost in reflection. He had become the Duke of Stanbrook at the age of seventeen, married at eighteen, and become a father at nineteen, but both his wife and his son had died twelve years ago. He was wealthy, popular, and handsome at the age of forty-eight. And yet, “He was lonely, damn it. To the marrow of his bones and the depths of his soul. He almost always had been.”

George did not want to engage a mistress or marry a girl half his age. He did not need an heir, as his nephew was ideally suited to succeed to the title.

What had occurred to his mind last night was that marriage might bring him companionship, possible a real friendship. Perhaps even someone in the nature of a soul mate. And yes, someone to lie beside him in bed at night to soothe his loneliness and provide the regular pleasure of sex.

Imagine Dora's shock when George appears unexpectedly in her parlor, announces that he has just arrived from London, and asks, “I wondered, Miss Debbins, if you might do me the great honor of marrying me.” Dora is understandably taken aback, and George rather bungles his explanation at first. In the end though, he overcomes his Darcy-like beginning.

Or is there a chance that you too would like a friend and companion all your own, that you too would like to belong exclusively to one other person and have him belong to you? Is there a chance that you would be willing to leave your life here and come to Cornwall and Penderris with me? Not just as my friend, but as my life's partner?

Thus begins the seventh and final book in Mary Balogh's Survivors' Club series. The survivors – five men and one woman – each suffered traumatic injuries in the wars agains Napoleon, and the Duke of Stanbrook, whose son had died in battle, opened his estate in Cornwall as a convalescent home. Out of more than two dozen officers who lived there, six had stayed for some three years, and the bond between them was stronger perhaps than family. Each of the six previous books focused on one survivor's struggles, their sometimes incomplete recovery, and their path to happiness in marriage. Although these are romances, Mary Balogh does not sugar-coat the realities of war and its aftermath. For this, she is to be commended, although sometimes it makes for uncomfortable reading.

Only Beloved is quite different from the others however. George was not a soldier injured in war. His only child was killed in battle, and shortly thereafter, his wife took her own life. Opening his home to those in need of longer-term care was one way of assuaging his grief. He has appeared in all six books, as a kind of loving father-figure to the others, but we know very little about him really. And contrary to the standard romance plot, this books begins with the proposal and the wedding, and only afterwards tells the story of George and Dora truly falling in love.

This is a quiet book. Some readers may find the first half or so a bit slow, but I did not, probably because George and Dora are so well-written and their relationship so beautifully and gradually revealed. As an, ahem, older reader, I reveled in the notion that this mature couple could find romance and even passion as they experience the ordinary events of everyday life. But, if you're looking for adventure, this book is not for you. There is no Great Villain or Big Secret shadowing their lives.

There are, however, a villain and some secrets – things which complicate but do not overshadow George and Dora's lives. It becomes apparent to Dora that George, the deeply compassionate man who took on everyone else's burdens, has never had anyone to share his. George has suffered tremendously, but he is reticent to share his experience with anyone until his fear of losing Dora convincers him to open up. There is a bit of a mystery here, which was rather well done; I did not anticipate the answer.

Dora has conflicted feelings about her parents. Her life was almost ruined when her father publicly accused her mother of infidelity. After her mother fled with her supposed lover, her parents divorced, and Dora gave up her hopes for a Season in London to stay home and raise Agnes. The two women have never forgiven their mother and also have some degree of resentment toward their rather distant father for his imprudent public accusation. When Dora learns that her mother, happily remarried for some twenty years, lives in London, that Agnes' husband has been to see her, and that Agnes refuses do likewise, she is torn. She benefits from George's huge talent for compassion and understanding, as he supports her through her decision whether to reestablish a relationship with her mother.

George and Dora are expertly drawn. Dora is intelligent, modest, and sensible. Becoming a duchess does not make her giddy (as I believe it would me). Rank is not her purpose in marrying George, and she blossoms under his love and attention. George is downright adorable. His thoughtfulness – buying a harp for Dora, bringing her old piano to Penderris, encouraging her to play and sing for him – made me fall a little bit in love with him myself. They are the focus of the plot, but there are several vivid secondary characters. I was especially touched by the story of Dora's mother and her husband and repelled by the gossipy Mrs. Parkinson.

I adored the story of George and Dora. It was great fun to visit with all of the survivors, their spouses, and their growing families. The author spends a good deal of space on the backstory of the Survivors' Club, which I found distracting. While technically this could be read as a standalone, I think that something would be lost from not knowing more about the survivors..

Mary Balogh has been writing for more than thirty years, with seventy novels and almost thirty novellas to her credit. I believe that the Survivors' Club series is her crowning achievement; all seven books are excellent stories of damaged people struggling to achieve some degree of recovery and happiness despite their injuries. I urge you to read them all.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,679 reviews1,015 followers
September 18, 2016
I've given this a B+ at AAR, so that's 4.5 stars

Only Beloved is the seventh and final book in Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series about a group of people – six men and one woman – who sustained injuries and trauma, both physical and mental, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve enjoyed all the books and think it’s been one of the strongest and most consistent series around in the historical sub-genre in the last few years. Ms Balogh has created a cast of memorable and engaging characters in the Survivors and their partners, and has not sugar-coated their various ordeals or glossed over the difficulties they have experienced during their recoveries.

The group met when one of their number, George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanbrook, decided to turn his Cornwall home of Penderris into a hospital for wounded combatants who needed more intense and extended care than could be found elsewhere. After several years, most of the patients had returned to their homes and families, but there were six who remained, needing a longer convalescence, and it’s these six whose stories were told in the previous books. George has been a permanent presence in all of them, and his story – or what we know of it so far – is also a tragic one. His son was killed in the war and his wife committed suicide by throwing herself off the cliffs not far from the house, yet he has not shared the whole of the story with the six people he loves most in the world, putting their healing above his own and because he feels those secrets are not his to divulge.

As George waves off Imogen and Percy (from Only a Kiss) after their wedding , he can’t help feeling that perhaps it’s time he made a similar change in his own life. At forty-eight, he has been a widower for twelve years, and admits to himself that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. He would like to find a mature, like-minded woman to be his friend, his companion and – hopefully - his lover. George doesn’t want love or passion, emotions he associates with the fervor of youth, and with his own, disastrous youthful infatuation for the woman he was more or less pushed into marrying when he was just seventeen – but friendship, affection and physical intimacy… certainly those things are not too much to hope for?

When George considers the prospect of marriage, he is somewhat surprised to discover that the thought brings with it the image of one particular woman, and that somehow the idea of marrying is tied up with his thoughts of her. Dora Debbins is the older sister of Agnes, who is now married to Flavian Arnott, one of the Survivors (Only Enchanting), and who now lives alone in the small village of Inglebrook in Gloucestersuire, close to Middlebury Park (home of Vincent and Sophia from The Arrangement) where she makes her living as a music teacher.

Dora is stunned when the Duke of Stanbrook, whom she met briefly a year ago, turns up unannounced on her doorstep and asks her to marry him. She has not seen him during that year, although she can’t deny that she was just a little smitten with him before, and is as attracted to him now as she was then. George’s proposal is honest and sweet – ”I like the idea of looking at you every day of the rest of my life” – and Dora, who had never thought to marry, and who, like George, can’t deny that she is lonely – accepts.

Only Beloved is a gently moving and poignant story about two more mature people falling in love and discovering that age is no bar to romance or passion. I suspect that some readers may feel it’s too slow, but I certainly didn’t, because the characters are so well drawn and their relationship is so very well developed. It’s not the sort of book where the romance evolves through large gestures or sweeping events; here, it’s the little, everyday things that reveal so much of the depth of feeling that lies between Dora and George, like the pleasure he takes in listening to her play the harp or the piano, or the obvious pleasure they find in each other’s company.

That’s not to say that everything is plain sailing, however. There is an important secondary plotline that was begun in Only Enchanting when it was revealed that Dora and Agnes had been affected by the terrible scandal that ensued when their mother ran off with another man and their father divorced her. This happened as Dora was about to make her début, so she never had her season or the chance to make a good marriage, and instead stayed at home to raise five-year-old Agnes. George senses that Dora is conflicted about her mother and that she needs to find some sort of closure, encouraging her and supporting her through her decisions in a way which shows very clearly what a wonderful support he must have been to the Survivors, too, a man with a huge capacity to love those who need it and to offer comfort and understanding.

Yet he is, as Dora comes to realise, weighed down by troubles of his own that he is reluctant to share. He wants the past to stay in the past and is intent on enjoying his life the way it is now, but not even a duke has the power to prevent the past from intruding on the present in a highly painful way. There is a moment towards the end of the story which smacks of melodrama and is so different in tone to the rest of the book that it jars somewhat; but with that said, it is probably meant to come across that way, given that the person involved is so obviously unhinged. It is also the event that finally shocks George into sharing his deepest secrets and the pain and grief he has kept hidden for so long, and which finally means that he and Dora can face the rest of their lives together unencumbered by sorrowful recollections and can remember the past with fondness rather than with upset.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, which has a rather lovely autumnal feel about it. This is no whirlwind romance or heated passion – although George and Dora are certainly physically attracted to each other and enjoy making love together – but a beautifully written romance in which two lonely people come together for the sake of companionship and find much more. There’s a sweet epilogue in which we get to meet all the Survivors and their families – although keeping track of who’s who among all the children is difficult! – which nicely and neatly rounds out the series, and which allows readers a little more time to say goodbye to the members of the Survivor’s Club that we’ve come to know over the past few years.

Only Beloved may not be my favourite book of the series, but it’s close to the top of the list – and anyway, each has been so strong that even a non-favourite rates more highly than the majority of the other books I’ve read recently. I’m sorry to say farewell to the Survivor’s Club, but have enjoyed every entry and am sure I’ll be revisiting some, if not all, of them in the future.
Profile Image for Geo Marcovici.
1,240 reviews296 followers
April 14, 2021
“Numai iubirea”, ultimul volum al seriei “Clubul Supraviețuitorilor”, este povestea lui George, duce de Stanbrook. O poveste pe care am așteptat-o cu nerăbdare chiar de la început, intrigată fiind de ceea ce a realizat.
Se dovedește că viața i-a pus în cale câteva piedici care l-au afectat nespus, dar nu s-a lăsat doborât. Curajos, a înfruntat totul cu seninătate și cu un zâmbet cald pentru fiecare persoană care a intrat în viața lui.
Dora, a avut și ea partea ei de asperități ale vieții, care i-au construit caracterul și i-au dat puterea de a merge mai departe.
Mary Balogh a oferit cititorilor săi o poveste de iubire matură, plină de emoție, prietenie și sinceritate, un balsam pentru suflet.
O lectură deosebită! Captivantă, profundă, care își face loc în sufletul cititorului.
Dora și George sunt cuplul care a primit o șansă reală la fericire, au găsit unul în celălalt stâlpul de sprijin, prietenul și tovarășul cu care să-și împartă existența, dar și sufletul pereche, care îl iubește indiferent de greșelile făcute în trecut sau de acțiunile sale.
Am citit cartea cu sufletul la gură, captivată de simplitatea cu care autoarea ne transmite emoțiile acestei povești de dragoste. O poveste cu suișuri și coborâșuri, cu momente tensionate, dar și cu încredere absolută și iubire.
Profile Image for Lyuda.
538 reviews133 followers
May 14, 2016
Once again Mary Balogh weaves her magic and creates a wonderful story full of goodness and little sadness, story that is both uplifting and just a tad melancholic.

The book, final in the series, is George's and Dora’s story. He is the man who brought all the members of the Survivors' Club together. He was like a father figure to them, older than the rest, and mourning the death of his wife and son. She is a minor character in one of the Survivors’ Club stories.

The plot is deceptively simple: two lonely middle-age people got married to provide comfort and companionship to each other and to help hold the loneliness at bay. There is a little action at the end but mostly it’s a quiet and beautifully told story of two protagonists slowly falling in love and discovering that

There was a romance of middle age too…quieter and less demonstrative, but nevertheless …well, romantic.

Both George and Dora experienced life-shattering events that altered their lives, forced them to suppress their longings and aspirations but also made them better people.
We find Dora’s backstory fairly early on and its resolution is both realistic and wonderfully portrayed. George’s story is more complex and shrouded in secret. Having read many of the author’s books, I guessed his secret almost right away as it reminded me of the other MB story.

Both characters are EXTREMELY likable and, in case of George, almost fall into a saintly category. It’s thanks to the author’s masterful stroke that he didn’t quite go that way but remained with a human race. How can you not love a man who say things like this :

You do not cling to what you love. You give it wings instead and let it fly.

I love-love their mature age (48/39) and that they behave according to their age. There was no silly over drama, no constant lustful thoughts, no stupid miscommunication/misunderstandings. The protagonists’ relationship is that of mutual respect and affection that gradually turns into love.

There was almost an absence of the thing that frankly made me crazy in other stories of the series: rehashing of the same events from the protagonists’ points of view again and again.
Also, the author had shown an admirable restraint in what I always thought is not her forte-description of sex scenes. Usually, they come across as too clinical and cringe-worthy. This book is definitely not a clean read but most sex scenes do fade into darkness.

I have to say that, although I’m a huge fan of the author, the Survivor Series has never been a favorite series of mine. This book is definitely one of the best in the series. And the epilogue just added more to the feeling of comfort and content for me.
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books334 followers
April 30, 2016
Can you both dread and anticipate the same book? Yes, you can when you're getting the last book in a favorite series. Naturally my dread is for the fact that I must say good-bye to a series and cast of characters that I have loved, but the anticipation came from who was the last of the Survivor's Club to get his story. Not just a few times, I wondered about the strong, wise, gentle, and patient man who was the backbone of this group, older and with his share of heartbreak and grief. And, who was to be his heroine? The story that unfolded was a gentle marriage of convenience that became so much more for which has become something of a stock in trade for this author.

As I've just said, this is the final book in The Survivor's Club series. While some of the books in the series can be taken out of order or as standalones, this one leans more toward needing to be read behind the others just because it not only gives the latest pair's romance, but wraps up the series and brings it full circle with a huge cast of characters that would confuse a new reader to the series.

The story opens with George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook, waving good-bye to the last of his guests after the London wedding of his friends and realizing that all the Survivors are now married, found love, and have families- that is all except him. But George has been considering what to do about his loneliness and daringly sets his plan into action.

Dora Debbins is firmly on the shelf. She is content with her cottage and teaching music to people in the village. If she looks wistfully at her sister's happy marriage and wonders what would her life be like if their mother hadn't run off with a man and the scandal resulting in divorce hadn't ruined her chance to have a season, well that just makes her normal. But her wistful dreams are interrupted by the man who as starred in her daydreams for over a year with the most outlandish and out of the blue proposal. Dora wed a duke in a big society wedding?

George and Dora prepare for their nuptials both a bit shy and both secretly happy and worried that something bad will come to mar things. George holds a secret that even his closest friends doesn't know and he is convinced that the past must remain firmly left there and that he and his new bride will live in the present and for their future. Dora isn't so sure and knows that whatever George is holding back might be spilling into their future because even though George takes care and gives comfort to everyone else, there has been no one to take the dark shadows away from his own life. But love might find a way if a vengeful man from George's past doesn't get to them first.

The story is rather gentle as things go for a marriage of convenience, but it made sense because this pair of lovers are older and have weathered tough times in their past. They are mature and act like it. This is not to say that there is no conflict or that it is easy. Dora brings her unresolved issues over her parents' past actions and George's secret past is rising up to cause them both lots of trouble. They have the awkward proposal scene, wedding night jitters, and adjustments to being a married pair.

The bulk of the story is George and Dora's romance which isn't devoid of its passionate moments and time of personal healing, but there were several scenes with all the Survivors that made for a satisfying farewell book. I can easily recommend the book to those who like slightly spicy, heartwarming character-driven historical romance that isn't afraid to touch on some tough issues that people can face at the time.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alba Turunen.
659 reviews208 followers
August 28, 2021
5 Estrellitas. ¡Aysss cómo me ha gustado éste libro! Las últimas series que ha escrito la señora Balogh son maravillosas, sobre todo esos broches de oro que pone en el último libro.

Cuando empecé la serie no sabía qué opinar sobre el último libro de los Supervivientes, pero admito que iba con las expectativas altas y se han cumplido con creces. En general toda la serie del Club de los Supervivientes ha estado bien, algunos libros mejores, otros reguleros, pero entre éste y el segundo, han estado los mejores.

¿Qué nos trae ésta vez la señora Balogh para que me haya gustado tanto éste libro? Primero, unos personajes algo distintos, que necesitaban una segunda oportunidad.

El protagonista es George, el duque de Stanbrook, el artífice de los Supervivientes, ése hombre bueno y honorable que hizo posible la recuperación de varios soldados en su hacienda de Penderris Hall, en Cornualles.

Dora Debbins será su protagonista, la hermana mayor de Agnes, protagonista de Flavian, el vizconde Ponsonby. Dora y Agnes vivieron en su infancia el escándalo que provocó su madre, Dora tuvo que sacrificar su juventud y presentación en sociedad para convertirse en madre de su hermana menor. Pasados los años, y cuando tomó su padre una segunda esposa, Dora y Agnes sobraban, la última se casó y Dora se fue de casa y se estableció en Inglebrook, donde trabaja como profesora de música.

Tras casarse todos los amigos del Club de Supervivientes, solo queda George, quien se siente muy solo, tras haber culminado su propósito de que sus amigos volvieran a la vida. Realmente, George siempre ha estado solo, se casó muy joven con la mujer que le impusieron sus padres, a la que nunca amó, ni ella a él. Tuvieron un hijo y heredero que en cuanto creció le suplicó a su padre una comisión para unirse al ejército y luchar contra Napoleón. La consecuencia fue que su hijo murió, su esposa no pudo soportarlo y se suicidó en los acantilados de Penderris Hall.

Han pasado doce años desde entonces, y aquí viene lo interesante, George tiene cuarenta y ocho años y no es muy común encontrar en novela romántica protagonistas mayores de cuarenta años. A su "avanzada" edad, George se siente sólo y quiere una nueva esposa, una mujer que pueda ser su amiga y compañera, durante los años que le queden. No busca amor o pasión exactamente, ni a su edad un heredero, pues tiene un sobrino muy capaz. Y la única persona que George ve cuando piensa en quién puede ser ésa compañera, es Dora Debbins, la maestra de música de Vincent y Sophia, a quien conoció el año anterior.

Dora Debbins está satisfecha con su vida, tiene treinta y nueve años y ha dejado atrás su juventud, pero intenta no echar la vista atrás, es feliz con lo que tiene. Lo que no espera, es que un día aparezca el duque de Stanbrook en su casa y le proponga matrimonio. Dora admiró al duque desde que lo conoció, y en cierto modo le gustaba. La propuesta que acaba de hacerla es toda una sorpresa, le honra, y por un momento le permite soñar con lo que podría haber tenido, por eso acepta sin dudarlo.

A ambos les es fácil dejar su anterior vida, y preparar las nuevas nupcias. En ése tiempo, los protaginistas se irán conociendo hasta que la pasión surja poco a poco en ellos. Sólo la sombra del pasado de George, su anterior matrimonio, será lo que se interponga entre los protagonistas.

Realmente es un libro sin muchos sobresaltos, pero la señora Balogh ha obrado su magia creando una historia bonita e interesante que me ha mantenido en vilo durante toda la lectura. He adorado a los protagonistas y se segunda oportunidad, la que ambos merecían. Quizás no sea un libro del agrado de todas las lectoras, pues ya digo que no hay muchos giros y los protagonistas son muy muy buenos y casi diría que perfectos, pero el respeto y el cariño con el que se tratan y quieren me ha llegado a lo más hondo.

Me alegro de que Titania acabara comprando los derechos de ésta serie y haya empezado a publicarla, merece mucho la pena, sobre todo por los libros de George, Vincent, Ben y Flavian. Pero también recomiendo leerla algo pausada, pues llega un punto a partir del cuarto libro en que las historias se vuelven muy similares, de hecho el libro de Imogen ya lo tengo olvidado.

Sin más, recomiendo encarecidamente la serie si eres fan de la escritora. Por mi parte chapó y espero no tardar mucho en leer más cosillas suyas.
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
March 20, 2022
I enjoy reading about a mature couple and how they are able to overcome life's challenges and together find happiness. Good read for some hours of relaxation. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Sissy Lu {Book Savvy Reviews}.
519 reviews50 followers
August 23, 2016
A wholly unremarkable read. While this novel certainly paints a wonderful image of the regency era, coupled with the mannerisms, etiquette, and societal issues, it was simply not enough to draw me fully into this story, however, believable it may or may not have been.

Dora Debbins is a 39-year-old spinster, who had lost all hope of marriage after a scandal occurred during her debut season. After the dust settled she wound up being the caretaker of her younger sister and had dedicated her life to her sister. Since then Dora has become a music instructor and her sister has recently married.

The Duke of Stanbrook, George, was a young groom when he was married, only seventeen and at the age of forty-eight, he finds himself a widow for a good amount of years and even lonely. For a time, he opened his mansion up to become a hospital for wounded soldier's during the war and now he finds himself utterly lonely and considering the idea of marriage.

That is the premise of the novel and while it is quite a lovely one that promises wholesome romance it fell short in many ways. The characters are fairly flat and while you gain some insight into their thoughts [more than some, the book is mostly internal monologue,] it was overdone. I was unable to connect to the characters because when they were in play they were flat, they expressed more emotion inside their minds than what they did from character to character. They were very one dimensional and it was overall difficult for me to get into them.

I admittedly skimmed roughly 100 pages of this book, why? Well, there is only so much internal thinking I can deal with, rehashing events that occurred in the previous chapter and what not.

After reading some of the reviews and comparing my notes to them I found myself wondering "Did we read the same book?"

No, I did not read the previous books and you don't necessarily need to. I don't know if I'll ever read the others as this particular book didn't compel me to explore the others or the authors work. The twists and turns in the plot were easy to pick out before they occurred, so there was never really an element of surprise. So, between flat characters, flat plot, this was a dud for me.

Was the world built in it stunning? Yes. Was it a believable period book? Yes.

There were just one too many drawbacks for me to give this book anything higher than a 2.

Profile Image for StMargarets.
2,818 reviews473 followers
February 13, 2017
Nice older hero (48) and older heroine (39) romance. They marry at the beginning of the story, so it's also an interesting look at the adjustments to a first year of marriage.

The conflict/mystery is delving into the past of the hero, the duke who took in all of the war casualties and provided the listening ear to everyone in the Survivor's club. There have been rumors that his first wife didn't die of suicide after their only son died, but that he pushed her off the cliff.

The first wife's brother is the villain in this - he disrupts their wedding and then tries to kill the pregnant heroine by pushing her off of a cliff the night of their first ball. It's only as the villain is trying to kill the heroine that she finds out the whole story of the hero's disastrous forced marriage. (The first wife was pregnant by her ongoing lover half-brother and never had sex with the hero). The hero was too noble to tell anyone, which annoyed me because in this MB universe, the heroine's mother was divorced for a much lesser sin.

Yes, the hero's a nice guy - but enough is enough. It's great that fate (in the form of Mary Balogh) sent him a second marriage and two more kids, but he might have had a bit more agency.

This hasn't been my favorite series of MB's. While she raised some serious issues and told some angsty stories about war, tragedy and healing, the characters never felt real to me. There was the blind guy - and the PTSD guy - and the handicapped guy - well, you know what I mean. Lots of sloganeering and lots of telling - especially how much they loved each other - rather than showing. Many scenes felt - I don't know -glib is the only way I can describe it. Not a lot of nuance here - once a character passed their hurdle in their Survivor's Club book, then they're never unhappy again. And by the end - there's no infertility or flashbacks or worries of any kind. Just 30 characters having the best day ever at the beach.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Vintage.
2,393 reviews443 followers
December 13, 2020
A beautiful end to a wonderful series. Mary Balogh has her share of duds, but when she is on she is on. The Survivor’s Club is an example of her on her A game. I haven’t read them all, and they all aren’t four stars, but for a series it is beautifully done.

The Survivor’s Club centers around six men and one woman and their physical and emotional PTSD wounds from the Napoleonic Wars. If anyone thinks that we are the first generation to experience PTSD this series puts it to end.

This last story centers around the George, a Duke, and his second chance mature romance MOC.

George is the center of the groups as he is the one that gathered various survivors and rehabilitated them. The SC are the ones he became closest to the ones in this series in part as a replacement to his own lost family.

Something about the friendship, the camaraderie, and the love between the main characters was really touching to me. The group serves as a backdrop to the romances which vary in intensity and enjoyment.

This story also has a mature friends to lovers MOC which works as well as a suspense driven noir murder mystery that I have mixed feelings about.

It also has one of the best Epilogues ever as it gives the characters I appreciated and loved their happy endings with humor and hope.

My two favorites in the series are Only Enchanting (hero stutters and he and he and the h are plagued by an exceedingly narcissistic evil OW), and The Arrangement (hero is the youngest of the group and blind).
Profile Image for ♥Rachel♥.
1,854 reviews846 followers
May 18, 2016
4.5 Stars

Mary Balogh’s historical romance series has been lovely. The past characters have come through the Napoleonic Wars with physical, mental, and emotional scars, but survived and triumphed with the help of the fellow Survivors’ Club members. These members met and recuperated at Penderris Hall, and its owner George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanbrook, helped each of them.

Forty-eight year old George didn’t fight in the war, but his son was killed and soon after his wife threw herself off a cliff because she was so overcome with grief that she didn’t want to live. Twelve years later, George is at a point in his life where he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. The idea of marriage and companionship is something he can’t stop thinking about, but only with one woman in his mind: Dora Debbins. George met Dora while at one of the Survivors’ Clubs yearly gatherings and was taken with her understated beauty, “serene dignity”, and amazing musical talent. And so George goes to propose a marriage of contentment, companionship, and physical relations, but without the offer of romantic or passionate love. George felt like he was past the age to offer that kind of fanciful romance, but of course, I was hoping he’d be proved wrong! Why should age exclude someone from that kind of love?

Thirty-nine year-old Dora is considered a spinster and has given up any hope of marriage at this point. However, she doesn’t regret putting her life on hold to care for her younger sister when their mother left while Dora was just seventeen and Agnes was five. Plus, Dora has a fulfilling life as a music teacher, something Dora loves to do and makes a decent living at. Even if she is lonely at times, Dora still leads a mostly content and happy life. But when George arrives and proposes, her stomach turns to butterflies, because she can hardly believe she’d have a chance to experience the joys of marriage, physical and emotional closeness, and with a Duke, no less! With George’s offer on the table Dora can now admit that she was impressed and infatuated with him when she met him all those months ago. And it feels like her life has turned into a fairytale.

Dora quickly realizes that while George is an excellent and compassionate listener, deriving happiness from helping others work through their past pain, he is very tight-lipped about his own demons. Dora wonders if he’ll ever open up to her and allow her completely in or will she have to accept that her husband will always keep a portion of himself closed to her?

This romance was very touching, and it was gratifying to see Dora get her happily-ever-after after putting her life on hold, and giving up on the idea of marriage. George and Dora gave so much of themselves to help others, so I wanted nothing but happiness and love for them. This story was very much about how the past shapes us, and George was very instrumental in helping Dora reconcile with the past and move away from some of the hurt. George just needed a little more time accepting reciprocal help. I appreciated the patience and understanding Dora showed, not pushing too hard, but showing her willingness to accept whatever George told her without judgment.

Ms. Balogh skillfully creates multi-layered characters with an insightful look into what makes them tick. I loved the gradual increase of respect, affection and love between George and Dora. I loved that it was a mature romance with older characters (yes, there is life after forty, thank you so much!). And as icing on the cake, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending and epilogue/update on the past characters in the series. It was so very heartwarming to see how far everyone has come and their continued happiness in the future. With that said, Only Beloved can easily be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone. The entire series is wonderful, and I think it would be a winner for any historical romance fan.

A copy was kindly provided by Signet in exchange for an honest review.

This review is also posted at The Readers Den.
Profile Image for Dinjolina.
525 reviews498 followers
May 9, 2016
I can describe this book in one word – bland. I was exceptionally sad about this, because I wanted to read about George’s happy ending since forever.

<>Full review to come when I manage to find my will to live again.
Profile Image for Ira.
1,062 reviews91 followers
August 12, 2017
4.5 stars.
Certainly better than The Proposal.
The way these English upper class keep their secret is astonishing and scary, eventhough they suffered as a result.

The hero here is The Duke who provide his money, place and time to help out young men who went to war and returned home wounded, his son one of the war's victim who died at seventeen.

Our heroine is 39yo spinster who have to gave up her dream to taken care her sister after their mother left them for another man, yes a big scandal which made no one from the right family wanted her as a wife.

But our Duke is old enough -he is 48yo- to do whatever he want without bother too much with other people opinions and these two are perfect for each other and so we got another lovely romance treat from Ms. Balogh:)

This is a sweet romance but not exactly a light read, and I like it very much!
Profile Image for Julie .
4,028 reviews58.9k followers
June 14, 2016
Only Beloved by Mary Balogh is a 2016 Signet publication.

It is always sad when a series comes to an end, but it helps tremendously if it gets a solid, satisfying conclusion, sending it riding off into the sunset with style.

I rarely get the chance to read a series, in order, from start to finish, but I managed to do that with the ‘Survivor’s Club’. Each story has been centered around a survivor of the Neapolitan war, each one needing a little more emotional healing than is usually provided. But, the one person we never got to know, was George, the Duke of Stanbrook, the man who so graciously opened up his home for the survivors.

George has nurtured, listened, consoled, and bolstered everyone who sought refuge with him, but now that all the survivors have found love, are starting families and moving forward with their lives, he finds that he feels empty, lonely, and in need of companionship. At the thought of re-marrying, the first person that comes to mind is the woman he met briefly a year ago… Dora Debbins.

George doesn’t let grass grow under his feet. He immediately seeks Dora out and wastes no time in making an offer of marriage, which she doesn’t hesitate to accept. Both of them feel quite content with the knowledge they will be very good friends, companions, and lovers, sans the sweeping romantic gestures and proclamations of true love. Theirs is a mature relationship based on mutual respect and a genuine fondness for each other.

But, their wedding day is fraught with unforeseen drama when George’s former brother-in-law barges in making all manner of ugly accusations against George, intimating his first wife’s death was more than it appears. Could there be any truth to these slanderous accusations?

For Dora, the prospect of getting married without her mother present, has her contemplating the prospect of reaching out to the woman who abandoned her and her two siblings, running away with her alleged lover, never once attempting to make contact with them again. Is it too late to forge a relationship? Is there more to the circumstances than meets the eye? Can Dora forgive her mother after all this time?

To me, Mary Balogh is the queen of Regency romance. She sets the story around this era of time, but provides mature, adult characters with real depth and meaty dilemmas for them to face and work out, while writing the most sensuous and romantic love stories I have ever read.

While the story does not lead up to a wedding, which is usually the way a romantic story concludes, this one begins with a wedding, but don’t let that fool you. This couple is laboring under the illusion that all that romantic love and starry eyed romance is only for the young, but soon find that is not the case.

Watching Dora, slowly draw George out, getting him to open up about his sad first marriage and the loss of his only son, is very emotional, but it’s time for George to receive a little healing himself.

But the most rewarding part of the story was how I felt as though I was right there with George and Dora as they got to know each other, faced challenges, adjusted to married life, and delighted in one another’s company, falling hopelessly and helplessly in love with each passing day, right before my very eyes. Big sigh!

But, be warned, this almost whimsical part of the tale will lure you into a false sense of security, because while George and Dora may be blissfully happy, others are still harboring dark, bitter thoughts and could be plotting a horrifying plan of retribution, giving this story a true edge of suspense I had not anticipated.

Just like in the other segments of this series, the backstories are quite emotional and, once again, I found myself swallowing back a lump in my throat on a couple of occasions. George’s story is sordid and horrifying, but, while love is patient, so must we be, with good things coming to those who wait, and the wait for Dora and George was worth it, as they receive every good thing they deserve and more!

Overall, this love story was the perfect ending to a near perfect series. I loved touching base with the other survivors and seeing George finally have his very own happily ever after, especially after he selflessly gave so much to others.
1,261 reviews25 followers
May 2, 2016
I consider myself a run of the mill reader. I have a tendency to like popular books and to not vary widely from the common opinion. Perhaps this book caught me at a particularly bad time but I am definitely going to diverge from the four star average. I felt the saccharine sweetness the author gave to what should have been a story that dealt with heartache, pain and trauma passed far beyond the limits of what was acceptable, even for a romance.

In the Princess Bride the hero tells the heroine "Life is pain. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something." The men and women of The Survivor's Club had certainly learned that lesson. Damaged by war, all of them have carried scars both external and internal, for years. In spite of that, or perhaps because their lives were made richer by their suffering, they have gone on to build wonderful romances - and lives - in the previous books in this series. This latest novel is the story of George Crabbe, the Duke of Stanbrook, the man who served as father figure, mentor, and host to the other members of the Survivor's Club.

When he waves goodbye to the last of his guests after hosting his cousin's wedding, George finds himself coming to a startling conclusion. He is lonely. He is lonely and he wants a wife. Not a pretty young thing but a companion close to his own age who will be more than just someone to take to parties; a person who will laugh with him, talk with him, make love with him. On the heels of this revelation comes a face - Dora Debbins, sister to one of the Survivor's Club brides. George had spent several enjoyable hours in her company and determines to ride off and propose. That moment. And that is just what he does.

I have to admit I was a bit surprised by that. Dora and the Duke had spent relatively little time together and had certainly not come to know each other in any meaningful way during that time. And yet with zero courtship Dora accepts his proposal and goes from small town music teacher to Duchess. Naturally, there are no problems. Who wouldn't get along perfectly with a man they barely knew? Dora and George have no bad habits for the other to adjust to, no awkward silences, and are the fortunate possessors of completely compatible opinions.

A glitch from outside mars their wedding day but it is a minor thing and both Dora and George set it firmly behind them. A running story line brought up in the series in an early book, Only Enchanting, dealt with the fact that Dora's mother had essentially deserted her children. Naturally, that issue also gets dealt with with relatively little fuss. Love cures even George's big bad secret, which was so easily guessed that the final reveal was essentially redundant and boring.

The hallmark of a romance is the happily ever after. The sense that the hero and heroine will ride off into the sunset with the reader knowing they will always love each other and be together. Most romances, however, let us know that our characters will, like real life humans, have to work at that a bit. That was not the case here. Dora and George did not have to adjust to each other at all but were a literally perfect fit. There was never miscommunication, misunderstanding, or differing opinions. No obstacle faced did not have an easy solution. There was no stress to the change in their lifestyle, even though the change for Dora was a massive one. They faced less strain in their marriage after having known each other a month than people who have lived together a decade.

I couldn't help but compare this novel to Balogh's Slightly Dangerous. In that story we also have two older protagonists, one of whom, like George, is also a Duke who finds all his friends and family married. However in that case Christine and Wulf don't fit easily into each other's lives in spite of spending considerably more time together. They have to work a bit to make the relationship fit and in the end I cheered at the HEA because I knew they could face whatever problems they had. I did not feel that way with Dora and her duke.

There is a difference between sweet romance and saccharine coated nonsense. This book to me is the latter.
Profile Image for Wollstonecrafthomegirl.
472 reviews203 followers
May 8, 2016
For me, the Survivors' Club series has been completely solid. I don't think I've reviewed them all on here because some pre-dated Goodreads but I've liked them all very much.

That's how I come to Only Beloved. It's the dessert at the end of a lovely meal. I knew I'd like it because, at this point, I trust Balogh to do right by these characters (and unlike some authors *cough* Julie Anne Long *cough*) she hasn't spent the whole series setting up some big romance/mystery/drama that has to get its payoff, making fans nervous and playing havoc with a concept Jeremy Corbyn's PR team know well: expectation management [not many people mixing their romance reviews with a dose of topical UK politics, maybe there's a reason for that].

If anything, Only Beloved has the lowest stakes of the series. A pure marriage of convenience story. And, a pure romance, there's some drama towards the end, but by and large this is a story of small moments between a man and a woman and an examination of the development of their love over time. It's going to lack ambition for some romance readers. If you want a contemporary in long dresses or vigilante ghosts running around east London killing people or pirates, look elsewhere. Balogh doesn't do that kind of book. And, thank God for that because sometimes (ok, for me, most of the time) you want to read something lovely and moving and restrained, which is precisely what Only Beloved gives us.

Dora: we know her a little from previous books and like most Balogh heroines she's strong and independent and nice. Resigned cheerfully to her fate and the reader is delighted to see her get spirited away by the handsome Duke. I liked the reconciliation with her mother and her efforts to make George take comfort as well as give it. She does something daft and (in my view) out of character at the end of the book. It's required to move the plot along but it's really stupid and one of the minor reasons the book doesn't quite reach 5 stars for me.

George: we know him well, except we don't, he's just the really nice Duke with the great house who listens well. He's a wonderful man, but he has to deal with his tragic past. Balogh does a remarkable job of fleshing him out and making him a whole person rather than too good to be true.

As I've said, the romance is one of small moments. It is very romantic to watch these two grow to love one another. My complaint with it is there isn't enough sex. I needed one more scene. This book has a subtle rating on AAR and I really felt like George and Dora deserved a 'warm', particularly as they're older, I wanted them to get as much (on page) sex as Imogen and Percy and the others.

The story flows, as does the language. Balogh is very introspective in this book. Characters spend much of their time examining their feelings and their motives and the feelings and motives of each other. That works for me, I suspect it won't for others.

I started this book this morning and finished it this afternoon. It is a magnificent conclusion to a great series. Not quite five stars, but excellent nonetheless.
Profile Image for Molly.
339 reviews
May 4, 2016
This was an outstanding finish to one of the most romantic, lovely, touching HR series I've read. Mary Balogh's greatest strength is showcasing every facet of her characters, while unfolding a tender and heartwarming plot (often slowly) and interjecting real emotions to heightened situations. George and Dora's story had all the hallmarks of MB's storytelling and more. I loved every second if it and I highly recommend this whole series!
Profile Image for Hardly.
62 reviews
July 10, 2017
I was shockingly disappointed in this book. Mary Balogh has been one of my favorite authors for over 20 years-- "The Red Rose" was the first of her books I ever read, and I have been a devoted fan ever since.

The rest of this Survivor Club series has been quite compelling and nuanced. I *loved* the premise of these damaged people finding solace in each other. The concept of friendship and loyalty and support is often either rendered poorly in romance novels, or ignored entirely, so it was a fantastic premise. The execution in the first 6 stories was wonderful too, as is only to be found in one of Mary Balogh's books.

So imagine my dismay to find this story so... dull.

1. The plot is unrealistic and silly. He decides he wants to get married: fine. But his immediate, unthinking choice of Dora felt contrived and foolish: he'd met her what, twice? A year ago? And she'd been nice, and her musical talent had impressed him? And that had elevated her above all others in his mind? Okay. And then, he falls in love with her, but it feels sudden, and we're not shown WHY. What, precisely, appeals to him so that he would love her? It's all so distant and vague.

Dora's acceptance of his proposal is more realistic, but far stupider, IMO: it makes perfect sense that a genteelly-impoverished spinster would easily agree to marry a duke-- hell, I'd do it right now, myself. But there is NO MENTION at the time of the proposal that she has feelings for him other than perhaps a mild attraction one might feel for a nice and hot man she met a year ago. But later in the story, she says repeatedly she'd fallen in love with him when they'd met the previous year, etc. So which is it? This leads to the issue of...

2. Characterization. IDK if this was MB's intent, but her writing of Dora was so... remote. It felt like MB didn't like Dora, or just couldn't connect with her in some way. The narration is third-person, of course, but leans more toward the objective than the subjective side and I felt distant and detached from both protagonists. They would SAY they were feeling something, but there was not enough inner monologue by them, or blocking (description what characters are doing with their bodies), to feel immersed in the scene. And when a scene is dramatic, or passionate, or features action/adventure, that lack can make or break it.

3. The drama surrounding George's wife and son: that would have been good gothic drama if we'd been able to witness some of it first-hand-- So many opportunities were available to MB that could have enriched the story, made it more compelling, drawn the reader into it more. What she ended up doing just felt like much ado about very little.

Like, I get it. I am a writer too, and by the time I finish a long story, or series of stories, I just want it to be DONE. And that's how this book felt: like MB was just OVER IT and wanted to move on. The delicacy with which she usually renders her characters, the nuanced development of love between them, just was not present in this book.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,551 followers
May 23, 2016
Well that was disappointing, though I loved everything to do with the actual relationship. Or, at least, the unadulterated bits of it. But let me back up.

We've known a bit about George from the beginning as he's the catalyst for the Survivors' Club. We even started the series near his big castle on the cliffs of Cornwall and we've heard snatches of his tragic history throughout. And if you think about it, this setup practically screams "Gothic!". Isolated castle on the stormy coast. Buried family secrets. All you need is a madman/woman and you're complete. Well, Balogh goes gothic in this story and I hated everything about that. It's an obvious move given the background, but I honestly didn't see it coming, which made it even worse.

Which is a real shame because for the first chapters I was just eating this story with a spoon and a grin. Dora and George are simply adorable and Balogh does a particularly fine job with the more mature nature of their situation (he's 48 and she's 39). We already knew the kind of person George was through the other survivors. And we knew Dora through her sister Agnes' story well enough. And all that promise came through in spades.

And then I got slapped in the face by gothic spilling all over the place. It started small, but once I put together the flavor Balogh was heading for the rest of the coming plot developments became so obvious they might have been wearing neon tutus and danced on my head. And sure enough, each of those developments were delivered right on schedule. I was so disappointed I could have cried. But the biggest disappointment is that Balogh had to cripple George's natural caring and bedrock honesty to make it work (duh, he has secrets to keep). I found this deeply troubling. I stayed with it because when George wasn't being driven by the gothic needs of the story he was just as stellar as we knew he'd be. And Dora even more so.

So yeah, this was a discontented three star read for me with a five star romance. And while I kind of enjoy the gothic aesthetic and even architecture, I kind of hate the effect it has on romance stories. And that made this story a real drag...

A note about the epilogue: Skip it. It's silly.

A note about Steamy: There's explicit sex scenes, but they're very lightly handled. There aren't that many and few of them are fully detailed before fading to black. So this was the low end of my tolerance.
Profile Image for 1-Click Addict Support Group.
3,749 reviews442 followers
June 24, 2016
I've been a fan of Ms Balogh's writing style from the first time I picked up one of her books, by chance. It is well-paced, subtle in its angst, and nothing that happens ever feels unnecessary or underwhelming. Only Beloved was no exception. What it was, however, is a slightly different take on the normal historical.

We join the Survivors' Club again, spending time with the characters a reader has grown to love. Glimpses of the members, their loves, and children. This is why I follow a series so religiously. I can't get enough of the cozy feel of reuniting with previous beloved characters. This time, however, we get to follow the founder of the Survivors' Club, the Duke himself.

George is getting on in his years, and as the survivors he nurtured and put so much of his time and self into heal and move on, he finds himself as overcome with loneliness as happiness. Here we have a bit of a break from the normal historical plot. He isn't after some pretty young thing, or society wife. It doesn't even go to the opposite extreme and pair him with some status-wise, inappropriate woman. No, he chooses an independent woman, of his own age, and of a reasonable social level, and decides that they are compatible as life mates.

There was no undue drama involved in the relationship with George and Dora. No childish angst. The outside world provides plenty of that. No, there are two like-minded people with a common desire for conversation, companionship, and each other. It was mature, realistic, and utterly charming in its simplicity.

The outside world and those conspiring, not against their marriage, but against their general right to be happy keep this from being a dull read. Truthfully, I could have read about just George and Dora growing to know and love each other and probably never found it actually dull. Still, the intrigue and suspense slipped in gave it just a touch of something more, although never drowning out the purpose of the story, the romance.

By the end of the journey, the happily ever after was so much more than that of one couple. It was the culmination of a long journey for many couples; couples that had to earn their happily ever after, who deserved it and claimed it against all odds. It was bittersweet, because even though it was all a reader could have hoped for, it was sad to see it come to an end. ~ George, 5 stars
Profile Image for Jen Davis.
Author 7 books700 followers
May 2, 2016
I have been a fan of this series since the very first, but I have to say that this final installment is easily my favorite. This is the Duke of Stanbrook’s story. He is the man who brought all the members of the Survivor’s Club together. He was like a father figure to many, older than the rest, and mourning the death of his wife and son. And at 48, George is definitely not the age of most romance heroes, but he was a fantastic one nonetheless.

This book begins right on the heels of the last one. Imogen has just married and now George has decided that he would like the same happiness that all of the other survivors have found in marriage. He wastes no time in seeking out Dora, sister to Flavian’s wife, Agnes. She is the talent music teacher who raised Agnes when their mother abandoned them. George essentially shows up on her front door unannounced and proposes. Dora has always had a soft spot for the duke, and though she never expected his interest, she doesn’t hesitate to say yes.

There are so many things I liked about this book. The first is the utter lack of artifice between these two characters. They are simple and earnest in how they treat each other. They are old enough that they see the world as it is, and they recognize the gifts that they are to each other. What starts as mutual esteem grows with their time together, and it’s really quite lovely to see these two get the happiness that has so long been denied them both.

George has always been the person there to help others –to make them happy. But no one has ever shared his burden. Honestly, no one even knew the true nature of it. It’s over the course of the book that big mystery unfolds, both to Dora and the readers alike.

I adored both of these characters. I loved watching them fall in love. I loved how they were mature enough to really appreciate each other. By their own admission, it’s not a grand passionate affair. But it’s better. It feels real.

The mystery is good. I definitely didn’t figure it out ahead of time. Another thing I really liked: it felt like this book brought the series full circle. All of our survivors come back. We get to see inside their HEAs. And we experience again what they all mean to each other. I’m sad to see the series end, but it goes out on a high note.

This book satisfies in every way.

Rating: A-/B+

*ARC provided by publisher
Profile Image for Shabby Girl ~ aka Lady Victoria.
538 reviews78 followers
July 24, 2016
OMG! It is Dora ... I knew it! Yahoo. Only bad thing, have to wait till May next year.


4.5 stars

A wonderful ending to a fantastic series. After a career with such a catalogue of books, it's just so amazing that this author still writes the best historicals today. Mary Balogh is my fave historical author (apart from the incomparable Georgette Heyer) and discussing things with my sister the other day she said that same. This series really is the best written at this time in my opinion. Such a shame to come to an end because it's been so good, but below is the outline for her new series, and I cannot wait. It sounds fantastic.


Mary Balogh talks about her next book series:

I am working on a new eight-part series, the Westcott family series. It is based on the premise of an earl dying without a will. His son automatically inherits the title and properties and fortune, but his widow and two daughters are well provided for, too—until, that is, a 25-year-old will surfaces, leaving everything except the title to the wife and daughter no one knew anything about. And that first wife died four months after his second marriage, rendering that union bigamous and the three children of the marriage illegitimate. His only legitimate daughter grew up in an orphanage unaware of her true identity. The first book, Someone to Love, is her story—Anna Snow, who is in reality Lady Anastasia Westcott. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are also involved in the turmoil—one cousin inherits the title. The series will tell the stories of the various Westcotts and how they reshape their concept of their family as they deal with its new realities.
Profile Image for Leona.
1,724 reviews18 followers
April 26, 2020
I am a huge fan of Mary Balogh. I devour her books regularly and I find it hard to donate anything by her. She is an author whose stories I can read over and over again.

It must be because I read this one out of sequence, but I had issues. First, it moved too slowly for my taste. Secondly, everything about it felt one dimensional from the near perfect protagonists to the author remaining in "tell mode" from start to finish.

It wasn't horrible, but definitely not one of MB's better books. If you do decide to read it, I would recommend starting at the beginning of the series. Interestingly, I don't feel compelled to get into the series.

I rounded to 3 stars, but this was more like 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Yara.
98 reviews11 followers
March 3, 2020
The final book of the Survivors Club was a worthy conclusion to the series.

I didn’t care too much for the culmination of the side story with George’s dead wife but everything else was lovely. Both George and Dora were likable and engaging characters. It was lovely to see both find each other and find love with one another.
Profile Image for Caz.
2,679 reviews1,015 followers
July 15, 2016
I've given this an A+ for narration and a B+ for content at AudioGals - I think the A+ for the narration bumps this to 5 stars in audio.

This seventh and final instalment in Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club series has rather an autumnal feel about it, telling as it does the story of two mature people who come together in order to gain a friend and companion but find so much more. George Crabbe, Duke of Stanbrook, has been a strong background presence in all the other books, as a support and sounding-board for the other characters. He could, in fact, be termed the club’s founder given that it was his generosity in opening his home to wounded soldiers that created the conditions which enabled the six ‘survivors’ – five men and one woman – to forge the strong bonds of friendship to which readers and listeners have been witness over the past six novels.

In the years since they left the hospital, all six of the survivors have married and found happiness, and it’s following the last of the weddings – of the club’s single female member, Imogen – that George starts to think that perhaps there is something missing from his life. He’s forty-eight years old and has been a widower for the past twelve years. His history, or as much as we know of it so far, is also a tragic one; his only son was killed in battle and his wife was so distraught that she took her own life. This is also as much as his fellow survivors know, for George has never shared the entirety of his story with them, partly out of a wish not to burden them, but mostly because he feels that there are secrets contained within it that are not his to tell.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals
Profile Image for Vicki.
1,207 reviews145 followers
June 2, 2016
I loved getting to read George, The Duke of Stanbrook's story. George about 10 years earlier had been inspired to open his home as a hospital for 6 broken people that needed intense rehabilitation and love. George provided both. They formed the Survivor's club and their stories were lovely to read.

George was always there for the Survivors, loving them, being happy for their successes and yet never finding love of his own.

This book was beautiful. I love the way that Mary Balogh brings the scenery to life, so that you have a firm picture of what the characters are living, seeing and feeling.

I was so excited to find the book and start reading it. I let it jump all of my TBR pile and opened it immediately. I was not sorry for that. It was a wonderful story. I am rather sad that there are no more to come.

Yet, Mary made sure we knew their outcome and made me feel ok with that.
I was so happy that George remembered the kindness and beauty in Dora Debbins. I was happy to see her getting the opportunity for a life that she missed out on due to a scandal. When the scandal had occurred when she was just seventeen. All the missed opportunities may finally come to fruition for Dora..

I adored this book. I was so thankful to see the favorites from other books appearing here and there letting me know of their lives. It was a wonderful conclusion to the series. I can honestly say, well done, Mary!

For a more indepth review, visit The Page Turner
Profile Image for Inna.
1,385 reviews194 followers
April 10, 2021
4 stars. This book easily qualifies as one of my favorites in the series... it is absolutely sweet & the epilogue at the end with all of the survivors made reading the whole series very worthwhile.

So I’m totally a reader who typically prefers alpha heroes.... but in this case, the hero is absolute perfection to me. I love love love George for the way he behaves towards the heroine throughout the entire book. He never treats her as the old spinster she surely is, and appreciates everything about Dora. Their relationship is not as passionate as any of the others in this series, but it is very very tender.

My biggest complaint is that I don’t really like his backstory, but at the same time, it makes sense for who he was at the time. An excellent story overall.

Safe; no others. h was a virgin, and hero mentioned being celibate for a while before approaching her for marriage. He is widowed and had a very poor relationship with his first wife... I’m not going to say more because knowing what happened is a major spoiler that I believe is best to avoid.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dorine.
600 reviews31 followers
May 9, 2016
The seventh book in the SURVIVORS' CLUB series features an older couple, each with a painful past, hoping to find peace and companionship. A charming finale of a beloved series.

For more reviews, plus travel, garden and food topics with photos, visit The Zest Quest, my pursuit of a zestful life.

When the last one of his six Survivors' Club friends marries, the Duke of Stanbrook realizes he's lonely. At forty-eight years old, twelve years after suffering the tragic loss of his son and wife, George never considered a second marriage. It suddenly occurs to him that he needs a life companion and he can think of nothing else. There is only one woman he will consider. The talented music teacher he met last year, thirty-nine-year-old spinster Dora Debbins, seems to be the perfect choice for a partner. George wastes no time once he decides and sets off to ask her.

After she gets over the shock of George's unexpected visit and proposal, Dora accepts. Dora's painful past kept her from marriage, so she never anticipated an offer, especially from a duke. It doesn't take long for the panic to set in when Dora realizes what it means to be the Duchess of Stanbrook. Will George and Dora get over their painful past to love each other and be happy?

SURVIVORS' CLUB series fans will appreciate and understand this novel much better than someone who hasn't read the previous six books. Although I've only read the last three stories prior to this one, I was able to comprehend most of the series catchup portion of the novel. I'm sure it will be even more exciting for someone who has read all the books.

Even though it's great catching up with the Survivors' Club members, I enjoyed this couple's day-to-day life the most. George reminds me of my husband and this couple resembles my own contented life with my best friend. As an older couple, they're past the infatuation stage of love and lust, while still able to flirt and tease each other into laughter and passion. They don't expect love, so it's more gratifying when they find it.

My least favorite type of romance book is one that begins with a wedding rather than building to it, so I wasn't sure I'd like this one. I should not have doubted Mary Balogh's talent because I enjoyed this couple's journey immensely. The quick marriage without the get-to-know-you phase of a long engagement works for George and Dora. I think if they thought about it too long, they may have delayed and never discovered how perfect they are for one another. By jumping into marriage without expectations, other than the need to have a life companion, they're uninhibited enough to enjoy each other's company and fall in love.

I empathized with George's backstory. He's the kindest man who thinks of everyone before himself. When Dora finds out what George has been hiding from everyone, including his Survivors' Club confidants, it's heartrending. Dora has endured a tragedy that has shaped her life as well, but George finds a way to help her overcome it. Will he ever let Dora into his history long enough to help him heal?

I'm especially fond of the Cornwall location, having grown up listening to my great-grandmother's stories of her childhood home. It's a great setting that speaks to George's isolation, as well as giving the Survivors' Club members a vast landscape to sort through their issues and gather yearly to reconnect.

George and Dora are the sweetest couple working through a lifetime of pain before they met. I loved their laughter and gentle souls. ONLY BELOVED is a slow, lingering romance, concentrating on this couple's daily lives, which makes this book a soothing journey that blooms into a beautiful love story. There are a few plot devices that rile things up before they settle into their happy-ever-after, but they're not what drew me into this novel. George and Dora are lovely together, and they make this book shine brightly with their love and passion for life.

ONLY BELOVED is a beautiful love story that also serves well as the end of the SURVIVORS' CLUB series. The club members reunite and fans will enjoy the surprises in the Epilogue. ONLY BELOVED is a classic love story that's comforting to the reader as a mature couple discovers the happiness they deserve.

Read my reviews of ONLY A KISS, ONLY A PROMISE and ONLY ENCHANTING by Mary Balogh at The Zest Quest by following the links.

Review by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and The Zest Quest. Digital ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Aly is so frigging bored.
1,627 reviews274 followers
March 24, 2016
I’ve read the “Survivors Club” series since book 1 was published and we met them all. This was the perfect story for Geroge. I’m so happy Mary Balogh gave him a book, and not any book, but one befitting him.
We meet the heroine, Dora, in Flavian and Agnes’ book. She’s the older, spinster sister that has an amazing musical talent. From then on, from the 1st time Dora and Geroge meet, I hoped they’ll end up together. Dora is quiet character, she doesn’t explode of the page with energy, but with her compassion, musical talent and no-nonsense ways she captures your interest and your heart.
Geroge is the unofficial father of the Survivors. He’s the one that always listens, doesn’t interrupt and doesn’t bombard you with unwanted advice. He knows how to make everyone comfortable and has a way of making you want to unburden yourself to him. From the 1st book he gave me the sense that he was hiding some deep pain, even though he was content and even happy with the life he led now.
Dora and George are perfect for each other. He doesn’t let her hide from her feelings, and she helps him heal. I loved seeing the other characters and how their lives evolved. All in all this was a fitting ending to the series.

I received an ARC through Penguin's First To Read program.
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