Someone to Cherish
Someone to Cherish felt like a classic Balogh novel to me – characters sweetly falling into love in the English countryside, touched by just enough scandal to keep things interesting. As with any book in a long-running series, the larger Westcott family backdrop is exceedingly genial, as most of the supporting characters have already reached their happy-ever-afters. Nonetheless, Someone to Cherish makes for a good read, and something fans of the Westcott series are sure to enjoy.
While this book could be read as a standalone, I think it would be best enjoyed as a continuation of the series, as the Wescott family and their history are referred to multiple times in the story. In fact, the book opens with a gathering of Westcotts (sans Harry, our hero) discussing Harry’s single state. While their husbands look on indulgently, the women of the family dream up some matchmaking schemes, planning to drag Harry to a season in London or, failing that, bring some eligible misses to him in Hampshire.
Luckily, Harry stumbles into a romance himself before his family can foist one upon him. The former soldier doesn’t have much interest in town or the ton, and is happy with his quiet life at Hinsford Manor. After discovering he was a product of his father’s bigamous marriage and therefore illegitimate (as detailed in the first book, Someone to Love), Harry needed time to ‘find himself’, if you’ll forgive the modern cliché. Over the ten years spent fighting Napoleon, recuperating from wounds, and basking in the bucolic splendor of the English countryside, Harry has managed to grow content with his lot in life. By the time the book opens he no longer feels resentment toward his cousin for inheriting the earldom that was to be his, and truly the only real lack in his life is a companion – or rather, someone to cherish.
Enter Lydia Tavernor, widow of the late Reverend Tavernor, a charismatic man who was beloved by all and who died saving a local child from drowning. Lydia reveals herself to both Harry and the reader relatively slowly, as she reconstructs her own self image. Over a year since her husband died, Lydia is living alone in a cottage near Harry’s estate. She spends her time quietly enjoying her independence, baking, and attending local gatherings as the genteel widow (read: wallflower) everyone expects her to be.
Imagine the surprise of the townsfolk, then, if they were to discover that quiet Lydia Tavernor is sitting in her corner at these parties and wishing for a lover. But it’s true – Lydia has been missing physical affection for a long time, and she’s lighted upon Harry as a potential partner. When he walks her home from a dinner party one evening, Lydia impulsively asks if he’s ever lonely. Reading at once the subtext of her question, Harry takes some time to consider it. Over the following weeks the two begin to circle each other, growing into friends, then lovers, then returning to simple friendship as they determine that any more of a relationship would prove scandalous to their simple town.
Ironically, it is only after they have ended their relationship that Harry and Lydia spark a scandal. A local gossip makes it her business to spread the word that Reverend Tavernor’s widow is acting immorally – and this on the same day that Harry’s family arrives with eligible debutantes in tow, hoping he will choose a bride from among them. Poor Harry and Lydia don’t know what to do with themselves, overtaken by family expectations and scandal all at once.
Luckily, it doesn’t take the pair overly long to realize that they love and trust each other, and would want to marry even independently of the scandal. Of course, happy endings seem inevitable with the Westcott family around – which is perhaps my one real complaint about the book. Much as I love the family and the series, having the supporting characters and their many children on site for the latter half of the story was unnerving. My extended family can’t get together for a weekend, let alone any longer, without a few squabbles to keep things interesting. Harmony comes easily – maybe a little too easily – to the Westcotts.
However, if you are perhaps looking for a book to take with you on a family vacation (where there will already be enough squabbles), Someone to Cherish might be the answer. Harry and Lydia are well drawn, and their backstories are interesting. They have good chemistry and it is a pleasure to watch them encouraging the best in each other. As Lydia moves beyond the image of ‘saintly widow’, readers begin to see who she truly is, and how she suits Harry as a partner. It really is a sweet romance, and a fitting addition to the Westcott series.