Other Mary Balogh reviews can be found in the Archives.

The Arrangement
by Mary Balogh
(Dell, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-0345-53587-0
Mary Balogh is who she is when she is at her best. I truly enjoyed this second entry in her Survivor’s Club series, even though I did not read the first one. The Arrangement combines sweetness with kindness with subtlety and with courage. Yet, it is fun, entertaining and highly addictive. I read it in just a few sittings and then only because I had to work and sleep. It is only because of a twinge of tedium that kept it from a 5 heart review.

Vincent Hugh, the Viscount Darleigh, is blind. He was injured in the Napoleonic Wars when the cannon he was firing misfired and blew up in his face. Luckily he was not scarred, just left deaf (luckily a temporary symptom) and blind. He has fully recovered but finds himself at the mercy of a sympathetic and utterly helpful mother and two sisters who have been cosseting him and now are ready for him to marry.

Sadly, few women want a blind husband and when this one whispers that she understands and is ready to sacrifice herself, he and his best friend, Martin, who is also his valet, leaves his ancestral home for the village where they grew up. Vincent, you see was not the “heir,” rather, he was a distant cousin who inherited the title when both the previous Viscount and his son, died tragically. He is determined to be independent and he is determined to pick his own wife.

In the little village Vincent encounters the local gentry, the Marches and their ever so eligible daughter. He also encounters a poor relation Sophia Fry. Sophia is a gentlewoman forced to rely on the charity of her aunt and uncle. They see her not at all. Sophia is small and boyish in appearance, which is not helped by utterly too large hand me downs and hair that she cut herself. Hence, Sophia is known as the mouse…as in quiet as a mouse…as in timid as a mouse. When circumstances put her into the path of our hero, he decides that she is just what he needs, someone who understands that life is not roses but that they can help each other out. Hence the arrangement…a year of marriage with total independence at the end if no children comes of their relationship.

The story unfolds slowly and at times, nothing happens. This caused that bit of a twinge. But generally the story moves on the slowly unfolding metamorphous of both characters. Sophia has a stunning satirical wit and is full of innovative ideas to help Vincent be independent. Vincent meanwhile “sees” Sophia for the gentle, courageous woman she is and is determined to help her see that there is more than physical beauty to be proud of. Their journey is thoroughly enjoyable. There are a few twists and turns and this just adds to the delight.

For the fans of the series, several other club members appear and we have the next story alluded to. The Arrangement is so enjoyable, I will find The Proposal to catch up and eagerly await the next in the series. While this didn’t quite meet my keeper status, it does come with high recommendations!

--Shirley Lyons

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