Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Read an #Excerpt from Always Remember by Mary Balogh


About the Book

Always Remember: Ben's Story
Ravenswood #3
by Mary Balogh

368 pages, Hardcover
First published January 16, 2024
Lady Jennifer Arden and Ben Ellis know that a match between them is out of the question. Yet their hearts yearn for the impossible. Discover a new heartwarming story from New York Times bestselling author and beloved “queen of Regency romance” Mary Balogh.

Left unable to walk by a childhood illness, Lady Jennifer, sister of the Duke of Wilby, has grown up to make a happy place for herself in society. Outgoing and cheerful, she has many friends and enjoys the pleasures of high society—even if she cannot dance at balls or stroll in Hyde Park. She is blessed with a large, loving, and protective family. But she secretly dreams of marriage and children, and of walking—and dancing.

When Ben Ellis comes across Lady Jennifer as she struggles to walk with the aid of primitive crutches, he instantly understands her yearning. He is a fixer. It is often said of him that he never saw a practical problem he did not have to solve. He wants to help her discover independence and motion—driving a carriage, swimming, even walking a different way. But he must be careful. He is the bastard son of the late Earl of Stratton. Though he was raised with the earl’s family, he knows he does not really belong in the world of the ton.

Jennifer is shocked—and intrigued—by Ben’s ideas, and both families are alarmed by the growing friendship and perhaps more that they sense developing between the two. A duke’s sister certainly cannot marry the bastard son of an earl. Except sometimes, love can find a way.


“I beg your pardon if you have found my daughter’s behavior offensive,” he said. “I have tried to explain to her that your chair is not a novelty vehicle invented to give rides to a child. But . . . Well, she is three years old and—”
She surprised him by laughing and holding up a staying hand. “Mr. Ellis,” she said. “I have two nephews and a niece in addition to Luc’s babies—my sister’s children. Each of them in turn had to have rides on my chariot when they were infants. Sometimes I had more than one of them at a time on my lap. Once, I can re- member, all three of them climbed aboard until my brother-in-law took pity on me. But I was never offended. Quite the contrary, in fact. It feels good to be a favored aunt when I cannot actually romp with the children. I have been charmed by your daughter’s requests for a ride. She is as light as a feather on my lap, you know, and sits very still. She has the prettiest curls. Please do not forbid her to ask again.”
“It is kind of you to call her demands requests,” he said. “She inherited the curls from her mother, who always hid her own in a ruthlessly tight bun.”
“That must have been a shame,” she said.
“It made practical good sense,” he told her. “She needed to keep it out of her face. The weather was often very hot in the Peninsula, and she was a washerwoman.”
There was a brief, startled silence. Or so it seemed to Ben. She was too well-bred to show it openly.
“She went to war with her first husband,” he told her. “He was a private soldier with the foot regiment in which Devlin was an of- ficer. The wives of the enlisted men had to compete in a lottery to be permitted to go, but those who won a place were expected to make themselves useful. There was always a great need for washer- women.”
“You were her second husband, then?” she said.
“Third,” he said. “The other two died in battle. It was a common thing during the wars. Most of the women stayed with the army once they were there, and many married multiple times. Mar- jorie died when the regiment was fighting and slogging its way over the Pyrenees into France with the rest of the army. The conditions in the mountains were appalling and the weather was brutal. Win- ter was coming on. She was tough but not tough enough after she took a chill.”
Why the devil was he telling her all this? They were not the sorts of things one told a lady. He had not talked much of his years in the Peninsula even with his own family, and he was sure Devlin had not either. Or Nicholas. Was there a sort of defiance in his telling, as though he were thumbing his nose at any preconceived ideas she might have of him? As though he were telling her he was not ashamed of who he was or whom he had married? It had never occurred to him to be ashamed. It had never occurred to him either that he might be carrying a grudge against the world or some part of it. It was not a pleasant thought that perhaps he was. He ought to be making light conversation about the roses and the sunshine. How had this started anyway? With her comment on Joy’s curly hair?
“I am sorry about that,” she said. “Did she leave a family behind in England?”
“None,” he said—and his thoughts touched by natural association upon the letter in his pocket. “She never knew either of her parents or anything about them. She grew up in an orphanage in London. She married a fellow orphan when she was about sixteen.”
“I believe, Mr. Ellis,” she said, “she must have been very fortunate to meet you after being widowed for the second time. You did not put her child in an orphanage.”
He gazed at her in some shock. “She is my child too,” he said. “She is ours. She was the joy of our lives.”
“Joy,” she said, and smiled. “How lovely. You chose the name quite deliberately.”
And that was it for that topic. Unsurprisingly, he was not feeling any more comfortable with her despite the beauty of their surroundings and the normally soothing sound of the water gushing from the fountain and the heady summer scent of the roses. Perhaps the only thing to do was confront his discomfort head-on.
“Do you walk every day?” he asked her.
“I try,” she said. “I made the resolution soon after the passing of my grandparents earlier this year that I would make the effort, that I would boost my energy and spirits by doing something each day to make myself stronger and more healthy. More active. More . . . cheerful.”
She was always cheerful. It was something he had noticed about her when he met her last year—though there had been the exception of the days following the death of her grandparents this year, of course. He had noticed her cheerfulness again after her arrival here with her aunt. She almost always spoke with smiling animation. Her eyes frequently sparkled. She gave the impression of perpetual happiness. But it had occurred to him more than once that surely no one could be that cheerful all the time. She least of all. The dreadful and crippling illness she had suffered early in her life continued to affect her. She was more or less confined to a chair. She was unmarried, probably as a result of that fact. He estimated that she must be in her early to mid-twenties. He believed she spent 
most of her life at a country home with only her aunt for company. She might have legions of friends in the neighborhood, of course. Lady Catherine Emmett was certainly a sociable woman and was always cheerful herself. Yet . . .
Well, he had found himself wondering if Lady Jennifer Arden’s habitual brightness of manner was something of a mask behind which the real person hid. It was none of his business, of course. Besides, did not all people wear masks to varying degrees? Were there any people who opened themselves up fully to the scrutiny of the whole wide world without keeping at least bits of themselves hidden safely away inside?

Excerpted from Always Remember by Mary Balogh Copyright © 2024 by Mary Balogh. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author

Mary Balogh has written more than one hundred historical novels and novellas, more than forty of which have been New York Times bestsellers. They include the Bedwyn saga, the Simply quartet, the Huxtable quintet, the seven-part Survivors’ Club series, and the Westcott series.

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