This third installment in the Survivor's Club Series by Mary Balogh is one I have been patiently awaiting. Benedict always intrigued me and now he has his day. Sir Benedict Harper barely survived with Peninsular Wars, he came through it with nearly crushed legs and was told he would never walk again. With the aid of crutches he defies all reason by bringing shame to those skeptics. Walking does not mean that he is not in consistent pain, but the pain of living is a far better choice than no life at all, I suppose.
Through his older brother's death, Ben becomes the heir to his estate but leaves his younger brother in charge. His brother in a sense usurps Benedict's title and land, leaving him in limbo after his convalescence with the other Survivors. Deciding to travel instead of regain his home, Ben ends up at his favorite sibling's estate for a visit. That visit changes his life when he practically mows down a widow and her dog while riding a horse with some difficulty.
Mrs. Samantha McKay is a widow at the age of twenty-three, when her husband succumbs to his injuries years after the war ends. While Samantha is not your typical grieving widow, he husband's family insist on deep mourning, which includes her spinster sister-in-law, Matilda guarding over her every move, making sure she wears the most awful of black mourning attire, keeps all the windows covered and sends all callers away. Samantha is growing excessively tired of the rigidity of her in-laws, especially with the fact that her sister-in-law reports back to her father on every move Samantha makes.
At first Samantha finds Sir Benedict unpleasant, but after an apology for almost injuring the lady, they become friendly and Samantha has an outlet for her feelings. When Samantha decides she wants to go riding with Ben and his sister, Matilda forbids it, only to be overridden by Samantha. A shocked Matilda hightails it back to her father, who in turn sends his men to fetch Samantha back to his oppressive home and instruct his daughter-in-law on correct comportment of a widow. Instead of being bullied, Samantha escapes from England with Ben as her protector, but with a budding attraction to one another, one wonders of respectability with rule.
Benedict's believing he has no right to love after being so crippled by his misfortune in the military and Samantha's insistence on being free after her one sided marriage to a man she thought she loved but fund quickly she was mistaken, fuels THE ESCAPE by Mary Balogh. Denial of a relationship by both parties only makes this story stronger as both Ben and Samantha come to terms with their lots in life. THE ESCAPE was everything I hoped it would be and more. Benedict needed a love who would never pity him his disability but see it as only adding to his persona and that is exactly what he finds with his Samantha. I highly recommend this book, as well as any in the Survivor's Club Series. They are well written and infused with emotion as well as wonderful stories of understanding and hope.