From the desk of Sophia Rose:
I discovered Mary Balogh’s tender, relationship-driven historical romances by browsing a book shop about a decade ago. The cover of her book merely depicted a landscape, but I recognized the possibilities of a new to me Regency-era author who did indeed pay attention to the details of the historical background of her stories, the social mores of the day, and could still deliver engaging characters and romances.
Someone to Romance is the eighth in the Westcott series. This is Lady Jessica Archer’s story. Jessica watches her cousin Abby with her newborn, a daughter, a loving husband, and a lovely home. She is ashamed of the envy that stabs her especially when Abby had to go through so much to have this. Jessica is determined to participate in the London Season and choose a husband, so she need not feel left out as others get married and have their own lives. Her loved ones want her to choose for love, but she doesn’t believe love is for her. No man has ever stirred more than mild interest in her. But, at a coaching inn, a bold-eyed man, looking like he is far beneath her, rouses her ire and confounds her at every turn. When other more eligible men come around, it is Mr. Thorne who sparks her interest and she feels a burning curiosity for the mystery surrounding him.
Gabriel Thorne is unhappy that he must return to England after thirteen years away. A terrible, dark event happened, and he was forced to flee his uncle’s home who had taken him in after the death of his parents. He lands in Boston with his mother’s cousin and builds a rewarding new life. Now, duty forces him to return. It occurs to him when he is ousted from the private parlor at a coaching inn for an arrogant duke’s sister that she is just the type of woman he will have to marry now that he is taking the family title and lands back. Only, he doesn’t want ‘a’ wife, he wants Lady Jessica Archer. She boldly dares him to romance her and so he will.
Jessica was a character I had mixed feelings about from the first book in the series and even into the early pages of Someone to Romance. She had several spoiled, rich girl moments and had some naïve notions. Her motivations at the beginning of the book reflected those notions and I was not sure I was going to like her or even care if she found her way to romance. But, getting her perspective and seeing her stumble, become confused, and then start along a new path was worth it. She was more than that spoilt woman and her good points came out as well as a shrewdness that stood her well. Besides, it wasn’t Jessica who naively under-estimates an enemy there near the end.
The hero Gabriel played a large part in my enjoyment, too. It was humorous from the get-go between this pair. She bristled up and had no idea what to make of his directness or the fact that he did not fall all over himself trying to flirt with her and he had a novel approach to romance. On his part, Gabriel had no idea how to ‘romance’ Jessica, but he gets it right much to her consternation. He has personal issues and business that he must give top priority, but it was great watching him with Jessica and slowly draw the respect of her family. As an orphan who lost almost all those who he loved including his mother’s cousin who adopted him as a son, he sees the true wealth of the Westcott family in how connected, loyal and loving they are with each other including their strong interest in Jessica’s future and her happiness.
With each book, Mary Balogh tackles a different historical issue and makes it part of the story’s conflict. This book drives home just how dependent the serving classes were on competent estate lords who cared about their welfare. The aristocracy held all the power and the wealth and could do with it as they pleased to a large extent so the people on the estates were helpless if the master ran the estates into the ground, or were forced to endure worse like rape and murder which the lower classes had few ways of getting justice. Gabriel is a true hero because he returns from America to reverse just such ill-fortunes on his family estate.
I only had one niggle about this story. I love the Westcott family so much—so, so much. And, I love that they are a strong feature in each succeeding book. That said, there are times when this bustling, large family can be overwhelming and even distracting to keep straight for the reader.
In summary, Someone to Romance is was another engaging, heartwarming, and slightly spicy Regency romance from Mary Balogh, an author who writes such stories so well. I have no idea which Westcott relation will be next int eh series, but I will happily read it. I can heartily recommend this series to those who enjoy historical romance with a slow-burn romance and strong familial element.
4 out of 5 Regency Stars
Someone to Romance (The Westcott Series Book 8), by Mary Balogh
Berkley (August 25, 2020)
Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (336) pages
Cover image courtesy of Berkley © 2020; Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com