Only a Promise isn’t a book that I would describe as a romance that sweeps you away in a tide of emotion, the characters are somewhat “normal” people with no extremes of personality. Yes, they have problems but they are somewhat problems many in our times suffer with. PTSD and depression are quite common-place in today’s world and this makes the characters somewhat relatable even though their life of leisure and parties is not.
Although not a great romance in my opinion, this book to me has greater relevance as a guide to cultivate a healthy relationship, almost a fable in the way it gives us life lessons wrapped up in a story.
I found that the plot and characters took a back seat, replaced by the relationship between the hero and heroine that took centre stage in this book.
The premise of this book is a marriage of convenience, where the hero and heroine are basically strangers and each steps into the bargain because it would meet their requirements without the horror and hassle of the marriage-mart and facing the Ton.
Ralph has some nuance to his character that makes this agreement a little more tricky. Ralph suffers some severe sword wounds, but more of an issue is his PTSD, and guilt induced depression because his friends followed him to war and he was the only one to survive. Additionally, Ralph needs solitude and the thought of having someone else in his life is hard. He feels empty inside and doesn’t believe he has love or affection to offer anyone.
Chloe is somewhat of a quiet woman, who has suffered under the eyes of the Ton because her hair identified her as an illegitimate daughter of a notorious rake with the same colouring.
So she had been a live-in guest of Ralph’s grandparents. Interestingly, in the story Chloe starts as somewhat cowardly, fleeing the gossip of Ton, but as the book goes on Chloe becomes something of a stoic heroine with a backbone of steel. I love how brave that woman is as the book continues.
What makes this book great for me, is how this couple handles their relationship. They have made a solid foundation to build from. They came into this relationship both willing to show each other respect, consideration, and a level of equality (as the book progresses). They supported each other to get through their trials and were very good at listening to each other, even if some of those first interactions were awkward.
I feel that this is something of a life lesson, demonstrating that if we build our relationships on solid foundations there is hope for the future. Luckily for most of us in modern times we can add love to this foundation and so I really feel this book is Mary reminding us what we as human beings need.
What I felt was really interesting was in this relationship, sex acted like cement. Those moments of intimacy and closeness helped make the bond between them stronger because what they were building on was solid. Yet had the relationship being built on weak foundations then sex acts more like plaster, hiding the cracks.
I think it was fitting that this couple didn’t have some big explosion of realisation in discovering they were in love, it simply appeared because they built carefully for a future together.
OK, enough of the construction analogies.
Really good, thought provoking book, but not a mind-blowing romance.