Only a Kiss - Survivors' Club series, Book 6
By Dorine Linnen
Aug 25, 2015 - 12:40:00 PM

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.

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