Tag Archive | Westcott Series

Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh

someone to hold

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Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…

With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.

An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…

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Publisher and Release Date: Jove Books, February 2017

Time and Setting: Regency Bath, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Review by Wendy

I am a huge Mary Balogh fan and there’s one thing that never changes – as soon as she publishes a new book, I must have it – and I’m never disappointed; her imagination is endless and her storylines still original after decades of writing. In part, at least, some of her popularity and continuing success is in the subtlety and empathy always present in her story telling; in the unique way she has of presenting her out-of-the-ordinary characters as if she herself has walked in their shoes and experienced what they are feeling. Ms. Balogh has used this method to great effect in Someone to Hold, the second book in her Westcott series. And I could name at least two more of her books where I have felt this aspect of her writing very strongly.

In book one (Someone to Love) we met, Lady Camille Westcott, one of the disinherited daughters’ of the deceased Earl of Riverdale. At the will reading Camille and her family are left reeling by the shocking revelation that she and her two siblings are illegitimate because their parents’ marriage was – unbeknownst to anyone – a bigamous one. Camille reacts badly to these revelations and comes over as a thoroughly unlikeable character. But Ms. Balogh shows us that there’s a lot more to Camille than meets the eye.  I ended up liking her a lot and she earned my respect and sympathy, too.

After these life changing revelations Camille hides herself away at her grandmother’s house in Bath, refusing to go out unless heavily veiled. Then one day she wakes up, gives herself a good talking to and decides to take her life in hand – she has done nothing wrong, done nothing to feel ashamed of; she will live her life, such as it is, and hold her head high. She is drawn to the orphanage where her half-sister, Anastasia Westcott, or Anna Snow as she was known, had lived for most of her life and was later employed as a teacher. The orphanage is in need of a teacher once more, the one who had replaced Anna being unsuitable; impulsively Camille offers her services and is taken on on a trial basis. She cannot explain her need to do it, she has no experience with children or of teaching, but something impels her to walk in Anna’s shoes, even going so far as to remove from the luxury of her grandmother’s home and to take up residence in the tiny room Anna had occupied at the orphanage.

Camille meets the earthy, down-to-earth, Joel Cunningham, a man who is as far removed from the perfectly correct aristocrats of her former life as he could be. Joel is also a former inmate of the orphanage and now returns twice weekly to give art lessons to the children in his free time. To make matters worse, he always had a soft spot for Anna – although she never wanted anything from him other than friendship. Joel and Camille begin their acquaintance by irritating each other intensely, but still, they are inexplicably attracted to each other. He reluctantly admires her approach to teaching even though she appears clueless and retains her stiff-upper-lip, starchy persona and rarely smiles. Nevertheless, she has a natural ability and engages the children to such a degree that they look forward to and enjoy her lessons. This is something else I have always noticed about Ms. Balogh’s writing; in her younger life she was a school teacher and it is apparent in the way she understands and talks about children – particularly in this story.

Joel, like Anna Snow before him, has always been supported by an anonymous benefactor; more recently that benefactor has paid for Joel to attend professional art lessons to further develop his natural artistic talent. As a result he has earned himself a reputation in Bath as a superior portrait painter, and Camille’s grandmother has jumped on the bandwagon of the well-heeled inhabitants of Bath and commissioned portraits of her granddaughters. Camille is not best pleased by this plan as it means yet more time in his company whilst he makes preliminary sketches of her. Joel has an unorthodox approach when compared to other portraitists; he likes to get to know and spend time with his subjects, observing them as they chat and capturing an inner something he alone sees – he then pours this knowledge into his art with such great effect that it sets him above his peers. As a result of his observations, he begins to see the real Camille beneath the prim and proper walls she has erected against the pain she has suffered and learned to hide; for years craving her selfish father’s affection but failing to gain even a crumb of his attention. As a result of their interaction, the attraction between them deepens and soon becomes more intense. But there are many hurdles to jump before they can achieve their HEA. Camille can’t just change overnight, raised as she was as a very proper young lady. Joel, on the other hand was brought up in an orphanage – so even though at this point in their lives they are both relatively poor, both illegitimate and, therefore, on the face of it – equal – the chasm between them seems wide indeed.

I loved both these characters – they’re so vulnerable and real. Joel is adorable – if annoying occasionally in his indecisiveness – and Camille has to learn to love and trust him in spite of it while at the same time, attempting to change the habits of a lifetime.  She also needs to believe in the unconditional love of her family and to accept that just because her father failed her doesn’t mean that her extended family has followed suit. The love story between Camille and Joel is a voyage of discovery for both of them as their previously held ideals and prejudices crumble and they learn to accept and admit their love for each other and finally find Someone to Hold against all odds. I enjoyed meeting the family again, too, especially Avery whom I adored in Someone to Love. He is still his omniscient, wise self, still going to great lengths to project his seeming ennui to all around him, whilst barely managing to disguise the deeply caring side of his nature. I am very much looking forward to book three in which we see Alexander – the reluctant earl who inherited his title by default – find his Someone to Wed. This is a lovely series so far and one I highly recommend.

 

Someone to Love (Westcott #1) by Mary Balogh

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Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune that will forever alter the lives of everyone in his family – including the daughter no one knew he had . . .

Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. Now she discovers that the late Earl of Riverdale was her father and that she has inherited his fortune. She is also overjoyed to learn she has siblings. However, they want nothing to do with her or her attempts to share her new wealth. But the new earl’s guardian is interested in Anna . . .

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby, keeps others at a distance. Yet something prompts him to aid Anna in her transition from orphan to lady. As London society and her newfound relatives threaten to overwhelm Anna, Avery steps in to rescue her and finds himself vulnerable to feelings and desires he has hidden so well and for so long.

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Published by Signet, November 2016

Time and setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by Wendy

The new Westcott series from Mary Balogh is looking to be yet another winner for this great lady of Historical Romance. The first in this saga, Someone to Love has an original synopsis with some fascinating characters and with another seven books to follow, I am rubbing my hands together in anticipation.

Anna Snow has lived out twenty-one of her twenty-five years in an orphanage, first as an inmate and latterly as a teacher. Never privy to her origins beyond some few vague, unexplained flashbacks, she has naturally always wondered about her earlier life and her parents; and like most young women in her situation, dreamed that perhaps she is the long lost daughter of distinguished parents. This last seed was planted by virtue of her having known that she has an unknown benefactor. However, that old adage, be careful what you wish for has come home to haunt her as the unexpected arrival of a letter summoning her to London drops her into the middle of a nightmare.

The widow of the recently deceased Earl of Riverdale has long been aware that her husband was secretly supporting an illegitimate child. Now that he is dead she seeks to mitigate any future claims on the new earl; to this end she instructs her solicitor to find the child and make a one off payment. But what follows is beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. Anna, unaware of what awaits her, has been instructed to arrive at the home of Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby. On arrival, she is met with derision and suspicion, first by Avery who mistakes her for a servant and then by the late earl’s widow and family, who, believing her to be the earl’s by-blow, are shocked by her attendance at the reading of his last will and testament. What transpires is shocking; the earl had covertly married Anna’s mother and kept her existence and that of their child a secret. He had then married the current Countess only months before the death of Anna’s mother, meaning that Anna is the earl’s only legitimate child, Lady Anastasia Westcott. His three children – including the new earl – are illegitimate, the issue of a bigamous marriage. I loved the way Mary Balogh draws the reader into the familial gathering so that we actually feel the dawning realisation – step by step – of the family’s shocked reactions; denial, shock and despair – as they slowly digest the ramifications and what it will now mean for the earl’s disinherited, illegitimate family. Anna – herself just as shocked – nevertheless remains dignified and calm throughout as she is derided by everyone and then verbally attacked by one of her half-sisters. Her only thought through it all is that at last she has the family she has always craved and how she just wishes to help her stepmother and half-siblings.

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby – who is related to this family through the second marriage of his father, and as nominated guardian of the young earl – has been unobtrusively and quietly observing proceedings. A closed and seemingly impenetrable aristocrat with an unmistakable air of entitlement, he is drawn by the quiet dignity of the newly promoted Lady Anastasia – an attraction he is unable to quantify. An exquisitely beautiful man of only average height and slight build but with a carefully cultivated aura of ennui which he uses to keep people at a distance, he nevertheless does not need to raise his voice nor use anything other than a well aimed look to part crowds or gain complete subservience. On the face of it, the attraction between the understated, plainly dressed Anna and the immaculately elegant figure of Avery is beyond comprehension; nevertheless he feels compelled to take her under his wing and guide her through the pitfalls of a society which is completely alien to her. The development of the relationship between these two complete opposites is expertly and realistically achieved and it’s difficult not to root for them even though their eventual HEA seems unlikely.

Mary Balogh does not need to depend on ridiculous plotlines; her writing and storylines are always quietly addictive and plausible. Avery – no tall dark and handsome Adonis – is nevertheless absolutely delectable and loveable, albeit dangerous and not to be trifled with. His story in itself is compelling; what we learn about his past and how it has shaped the man he is is fascinating and finally he finds someone to love and trust in the delightfully ordinary and quietly determined Anna, herself desperately in need of a family and someone to love.

Someone to Love is a beautiful, gently moving but highly compelling love story with hidden depths. As far as I am concerned nothing that Mary Balogh writes is less than a fantastic read. I loved it and look forward with much anticipation to the next in the series.