Desert Isle Keeper
Someone to Care
Be still my heart: Someone to Care is a love story starring two damaged and flawed grownups. Two years after learning that her marriage was bigamous, Viola Kingsley, once the Countess of Riverdale, is by no means recovered. All the love showered on her by her devoted family is not enough to lift her spirits.
She did not know what was happening to her. Except that she felt … empty. Utterly and totally empty. A black hole yawned inside her, but she could not see to the bottom of it and was frightened at what she might discover there if she could.
At the age of forty-two, she abruptly takes leave of her family who are gathered to celebrate the christening of new grandson. Viola is inexplicably desolate: she wants “someone to care” just for her, a wish that seems fantastical in its improbability.
Marcel Lamarr, who recently came into the title of Marquess of Dorchester, has been a widower for almost twenty years. A widower and a “notorious womanizer”. Years earlier, when Viola was a young mother, she came under his spell. Although she resisted being seduced by him, she was greatly tempted.
Marcel never quite forgot Viola. He and his brother André, on their way home to Redcliffe Court (reluctantly, on Marcel’s part), make an unexpected stop at an unprepossessing inn and who should be there? The woman who “told him to go away,” and “badly bruised” his pride.
While André natters on, Marcel avidly drinks in every aspect of the one who got away: “Hers was a face that had suffered, Marcel thought, and was strangely more beautiful as a result.” Suddenly André notices that “Miss Kingsley” is sitting in the inn’s dining room and events take on a life of their own. Marcel tells André to take their carriage and leave him there. Alone. With a woman whose hair is “still the color of honey.”
Marcel asks Viola to attend the village fair and simply “jollificate” alongside him. “Assuming, that is, you do not find me unutterably boring.” Boring? Hardly. Viola finds it almost impossible “to describe him accurately.” Balogh is unerring in her ability to bring Viola’s thoughts to life.
For with him it had never been just looks. It was … everything. Presence. Charisma. Power. Ruthlessness. Sexuality—though that was not a word very common to her vocabulary.
Viola, surprising herself, says yes. She is in a mood “to do something unexpected and outrageous to fill in the hours and take her mind off herself.” Marcel and Viola wile away a magical afternoon, listening to warbling church choirs, partaking of fairings, and buying frivolities, including a cascade of brilliant jewels.
All of them large and sparkling—even the pearls—and perfectly shaped. All of them unutterably vulgar and not even convincing fakes. He decked her out in some of the more ostentatious of them and paid three times what the two flustered ladies who ran the booth asked of him.
Day drifts into night and Marcel kisses Viola. It seems to her that “she had never been kissed with any expertise.” Until Marcel.
The thought of parting seems impossible. Marcel asks Viola to run away with him: to “go somewhere, anywhere, everywhere until we are ready to return.” How often do adults venture into the “land of running away?” She says yes. Marcel is sure his family won’t miss him and Viola pens a quick note to her daughters, telling them not to worry, that she won’t be home for a bit. Does it sound too good to be true? Will their halcyon days and weeks stretch on forever? Or are they incorrect in thinking that their absence won’t be noticed? It is at this point that their idyllic isolation turns farcical – but charmingly and believably so. Balogh portrays their loving families accurately, all crotchety and concerned.
What was it about Someone to Care that seemed so familiar? It was Georgette Heyer’s Sprig Muslin that had me drawing parallels, particularly the element of farce, here defined as “ludicrously improbable situations.” Secondly, the notion that in the prescribed world of most aristocrats, running away from the ton is a prerequisite for untrammeled, pastoral, passionate romance. Marcus and Viola’s initial relationship is wildly reckless and enchanting – and their journey after their private bubble bursts is equally absorbing. If ever a pair deserved their happily-ever-after, these two do.