This is Book 5 of the Survivors' Club series—after The Proposal (Hugo's story), The Arrangement (Vincent's), The Escape (Ben's), and Only Enchanting (Flavian's). This is Ralph Stockwood, Earl of Berwick's story—and Chloe Muirhead's.
Ralph had once spent three years at Penderris Hall in Cornwall, along with the other six members of the Survivors' Club, recuperating from wounds sustained during the Napoleonic Wars. He was brought home from Portugal with terrible physical wounds that have left ugly scars, but worst of all, because most difficult to heal, he suffers from the guilt of having persuaded his three best friends to go to war with him only to face the horror of watching them die in the cavalry charge that almost killed him. Life must go on, however. He is heir to a dukedom, and his grandfather is ailing. Both his grandparents' are urging him to marry and beget heirs, and Ralph loves them enough to recognize his responsibility to them and his position. Reluctantly he promises to choose a wife during the current social Season in London.
During two separate years Chloe Muirhead had been to London to participate in the social activities of the Season. Both times she had hoped to find a husband. On both occasions, however, terrible scandal sent her running home to the country. Now she is convinced that she can hold out no further hope of marriage and motherhood and happiness. And such was the second scandal that she no longer finds it possible to continue living at home with her father and sister. She has taken refuge at the home of her late mother's elderly godmother—and Ralph's grandmother.
When Chloe meets Ralph there, she is prepared to dislike him as she remembers that he had been unkind to her brother both when they were at school together and after Ralph was brought home, terribly wounded. When she realizes, however, that Ralph needs a wife but has little interest in going to London to choose one, she concocts a desperate scheme to satisfy her own desire for a husband and his urgent need for a wife. It seems a straightforward enough bargain that she suggests to Ralph. She asks only one favor of him: his promise that she need never again go to London. It is the one promise, however, that Ralph soon finds it impossible to keep.
Borne down by burdens from the past and betrayals in the present, Ralph and Chloe's marriage seems doomed almost from the start. Only the one factor they did not consider as part of their bargain can offer them any chance for happiness…and that is love.
NAL ISBN 978-0-451-46967-0