This Regency romance touches upon the topics of homosexuality, strong-willed women, friendship between men and women, and unexpected passion between a man and a woman who had always viewed each other just as good friends. It takes place about 3 years after Waterloo when 4 former army officers who were very good friends meet in London after several years apart. Two are settled in marriage and family life and 2 are still bachelors. Enjoying an early morning ride in Hyde Park, they run into Sophia Armitage, now a widow who had followed the drum with her late officer husband and had welcomed the "Four Horsemen" into her home and been like a sister to each of them. Behind the facade of a frumpy, cheerful settled married woman and now a widow, she hides a secret that would shock all of London's ton if revealed.
I love this book. I have read it several times. Balogh writes great female characters.
In this book Sophie has been on her own for quite some time as a war widow, now her security is threatened by blackmail that is draining her meager fixed income. In the midst of her turmoil, she meets three old friends of her late-husband. Friends who like her for herself not as the widow of a war hero. One of the three men, Nathaniel stirs her emotions and reminds her that despite her busy social life, she has been lonely for so long. She decides to be bold and for once in her life she goes after what she wants. What she wants is a secret affair with Nathaniel, just for the season. What she wants is a collection of memories that will warm all the lonely nights that she foresees in her future. She is a strong, independent woman. She refuses living assistant from her family and her late-husband's family, instead she manages on her late-husband's pension. She refuses to become Nathaniel's mistress, instead their relationship is one of equals, of friends. (I appreciated that their relationship was very adult as opposed to sappy or juvenile) The blackmail mystery is a nice layer to the story and I love the way it is resolved. There is a comic relief layer in the stormy relationship between Nathaniel's ward and his friend. Of course, the setting is the London Season, aka marriage mart, with all the trimmings, balls and contestants.
I love Mary Balogh. Her women are believable--complex, with character and depth. This one is short, and will make you want to keep at it--straight through the night. Sophia didn't go looking for a husband but agreed to help find one for Sir Nathaniel's niece, Then . . . well, I won't give it away.