Someone Perfect is the ninth novel in Ms. Balogh’s Westcott series. Characters from the previous volumes are spoken of and a few make appearances in this tale, especially the hero and heroine of Someone to Care. While you don’t have to have read those other works to enjoy this one, purists may wish to tackle the series in order.
Lady Estelle Lamarr has just finished an extended visit with family members and is enjoying the peace and solitude of an unseasonably hot country day by being exceedingly unladylike and cooling her stockingless, shoeless feet in the river which runs near her estate. That’s when it happens; a massive growling, barking beast who looks like he could swallow her in one bite bounds out of nowhere and frightens her half to death. His owner is little better, a massive man on a massive horse who calls his dog to heel and politely tips his head in greeting but makes no effort to acknowledge Estelle in any other way or check how she is after being responsible for giving her such a terrible fright.
Justin Wiley, Earl of Brandon, is in a foul mood. As a young man, his stepmother had caused his banishment from home and family. Now she has died, leaving him responsible for his half-sister Maria, a young woman he has not seen or communicated with for years. He is reluctantly travelling to the small country estate where she has been spending her mourning period to bring her back to the family seat at Everleigh Park. He will need to see her launched into society – something her mother had neglected to do – and hopefully quickly married off, absolving him of all further responsibilities.
Maria had once loved her brother dearly but the odd events surrounding his banishment have left her believing the worst about him. As a result, she does not want to leave her home, and the fact that her surrogate guardian/companion, who has been with her for many years, is unable to make the journey makes the situation even more wretched. Seeing her distress and hoping to ease it, Justin rides over to visit Maria’s closest friends and invites them to Everleigh for a house party he’s planning. Those friends happen to be none other than Bertrand Lamarr and his sister Estelle, the nymph Justin and his dog had encountered frolicking in the woods. Having heard bad things about Justin from his sister, the Lamarrs are reluctant to go, but begrudgingly accept his invitation for Maria’s sake.
The house party, involving his step-mother’s relatives as well as his own parents’ families, turns out to be a time of shocking revelations for Justin, not least of which is the startling discovery that he has fallen head over heels for Estelle, who seems to hold him in complete contempt. Will he be able to change her mind and win her heart in the brief amount of time they have together?
While this book is marketed as a romance, I would say it is more family-centric fiction with romantic elements. That’s not necessarily a negative – Balogh does a fabulous job of capturing family dynamics and creating a touching tale that captures the importance of having loving relatives in our lives. It does, however, mean that Justin and Estelle get little time alone. The story revolves around the various extended clan members telling Justin and the rather vapid and naive Maria the truth about their history, the details of which change both how they view each other and how they view Justin’s banishment. The centrality of these truths to the narrative, and the fact they have to be imparted by the other guests means our hero and heroine have to spend a lot of time around said guests.
Considering how important they are to the design of the tale I would have expected the secondary characters to be vividly fleshed out and three dimensional, but they are actually quite underdeveloped. I honestly forgot who was who among the aunts and uncles from scene to scene, had no clue as to who was related to whom, couldn’t keep track of the young people (with the exception of the scholarly bookworm Nigel) and find that I can tell you little of even Maria except that she is not particularly intelligent. The good news is that everyone is very warm, charming, loving and happy to be together, which creates a positive tone overall.
Adding to the characterization issues is the fact that the author leans heavily on stereotypes. A young man named Ricky, who is cognitively challenged and described as having the mind of a four or five year old is a good example of this. Other than that he is skilled at finding things, and is allowed only to be a positive, sunny person, there isn’t much to him. Balogh does avoid the pitfall of making him a complete dependent by showing his capability in several areas but I wish she’d made him more realistic by letting him display a full range of emotions beyond worry for friends and endless cheer. I also wish there had been a reason for him to be in the story. As presented, he seems to exist only to show us what a great, caring and egalitarian individual Justin is
My biggest problem with the novel is the reason behind Justin’s banishment. We aren’t given the details until near the end of the book, but I will say that his father’s reasoning surrounding that issue is ludicrous. It showed the elder Lord Brandon as lacking any kind of integrity or common sense and it was deeply frustrating that in spite of that, he is lauded by his family.
The book does have some real strengths. Balogh has an elegant, evocative prose style that perfectly captures the essence of the era she writes about. The plotting is smooth, as is the pacing. The romance may not be plentiful but Estelle and Justin do form a nice connection through their conversations and while they may be a bit bland, they are also likable, decent people. I especially appreciated how astute Estelle is. While she initially believes Maria’s negative characterization of Justin, she tempers that against her own assessment of Maria’s mother’s behavior and recognizes there may be more to the story than what “mama” had said. She is also self-reflective enough to recognize what she does and doesn’t want in a partner and aware enough not to confuse her initial desire for Justin with love.
Justin is essentially a paragon, a kind, honorable individual with a slightly gruff exterior and a heart of gold. His courtship of Estelle is lovely (after a few rough starts) and my only complaint regarding their love story is how brief it is. I wish the tale had concentrated on them a bit more.
I would recommend Someone Perfect to fans of the author, especially those enjoying the Westcott series. While not Balogh’s best work, it’s a good book and definitely worth reading.
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I've been an avid reader since 2nd grade and discovered romance when my cousin lent me Lord of La Pampa by Kay Thorpe in 7th grade. I currently read approximately 150 books a year, comprised of a mix of Young Adult, romance, mystery, women's fiction, and science fiction/fantasy.