Someone to Care
By Mary Balogh
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Reviewed by Janga
Viola Kingsley has handled the revelation of her late husband’s bigamy, the change in her children’s status from the son and daughters of an earl to bastards with no claims on their father’s name or fortune, and her own transformation from proper countess to scandal fodder with strength and grace. She is fond of the Westcotts who remain loyal to her and still insist that she is a member of their family. But when the family (more than two dozen of them) gathers in Bath for the christening of Viola’s grandson, the child of her daughter Camille and Joel Cunningham, the anger and bewilderment that she has suppressed surface. Instead of the two weeks of family festivities that Viola was expected to participate in, she leaves after two days. Ordering her concerned family to leave her alone and insisting on leaving her carriage and maid for her younger daughter, Abigail, she sets out in a hired carriage for Hinsford Manor in Hampshire, the home that her “husband’s” legitimate daughter and heiress, Anna Snow (now Duchess of Netherby), insists she retain. To her dismay, a broken carriage axel forces her to stop at an inn in some nameless country village.
Marcel Lamarr, Marquess of Dorchester, long-time widower and well-known rake, and his brother André, leave a house party in Somerset when one of the marquess’s flirtations develops awkward consequences. They head for Redcliffe Court in Northhamptonshire, an estate Dorchester inherited with his title two years ago, for the marquess to pay his semi-annual visit to his son and daughter, twins about to turn eighteen. The twins are near strangers to their father who turned them over to his sister-in-law and her husband to rear after his wife’s death when the twins were one. Dorchester is none too eager to arrive since his home is inhabited not only by his children but also by an assortment of unprepossessing relatives and connections. Nevertheless, he is not pleased when a loose horseshoe forces a stop in a country village with nothing to recommend it but a local festival.
Dorchester is surprised to see Viola alone in an humble country inn. It has been almost fifteen years since her aloof beauty tempted him to break his own rules and attempt to seduce a married lady. She sent him away then, but perhaps an older Viola, no longer the dutiful Countess of Riverdale, will be more open to his advances. It turns out that the attraction between them has lost none of its potency, and a newly rebellious Viola accepts the marquess’s invitation first for one night together and then for a limited-engagement liaison at a secluded Devonshire cottage. But as one week moves into another, they realize, albeit reluctantly, that more than lust is involved in their relationship. Their situation becomes more complicated when their families show up at the cottage. Will the forty-something lovers cling to their idea that their affair is a moment’s indulgence, or will they accept the familial consensus that marriage is in their future?
The fourth entry in Balogh’s Westcott series pairs two older protagonists. Viola is forty-two with three adult children and grandchildren; Marc is turning forty with two children on the threshold of adulthood. Both characters are seasoned adults with their share of scars and disillusionment. They are flawed but sympathetic, and readers will root for this second chance at love story to end in an HEA.
Balogh inserts poignancy and humor into this character-driven tale, a combination that will appeal to most historical romance readers, although some may find that internal monologues make for a slower paced read than they prefer. Although Balogh was including sizzle when sizzle was not the norm in Regency-set historicals, the sensuality level of her books is mild by today’s standards. Some readers may see this as a fault; others will be so captivated by the appeal of her lead characters and their sprawling families that they will scarcely notice the lower heat.
I admit that I am a long-time, whole-hearted Balogh fan. She continues to amaze me with her capacity to create stories that engage me fully when I am reading them and move to a keeper shelf to be reread when I turn the final page. I count any writer who has consistently done this for more than three decades one of the genre’s treasures. Someone to Care is filled with the kind of family connections that made the Bedwyns favorites among Balogh fans. Fans of the Westcott series will be happy to see Viola find happiness and delighted with the bonus reconciliation between Marc and his children. The cast of characters is large, but I had no problem keeping them straight. And I enjoyed the geographical range of the novel. Balogh includes enough of Viola’s back story for a reader new to the series to follow the story without difficulty.
If you like historical romance with complex, deeply human characters whose story plays out against a backdrop of family ties and responsibilities, I suggest you make sure Someone to Care is on your TBR list. With a May 1 release date, it is a great way to begin a stellar month in romance fiction. Balogh fans like me who are always eager for her next book will want to note that the fifth Westcott novel, Someone to Trust (an older woman-younger man tale), which will feature Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, the widowed sister of Alexander, the new Earl of Riverdale, will be released November 28.