Someone to Romance
I have thoroughly enjoyed Mary Balogh’s Westcott series and Someone to Romance is no exception. This is book eight of the series and our Wescott heroine this time is Lady Jessica Archer.
Lady Jessica is now twenty-five years old. Eight years earlier, when it was discovered that her best friend and cousin, Lady Abigail Westcott was the illegitimate daughter of a bigamous marriage, Jessica’s world was turned upside down, and her dreams of coming out with Abigail and enjoying a double wedding to dashing lords they loved were ruined. In the years that followed, Jessica’s love for Abigail and disillusionment with her world has kept her from fully embracing her place in society as a sister of the Duke of Netherby. At the start of the novel, Jessica is returning from an extended visit with Abigail and her husband and children. Abigail has made a love match and Jessica couldn’t be happier for her. But what of herself, Jessica wonders. She decides it is time to marry, even though she has never been tempted, never fallen in love. She doesn’t require love, she decides, just a mutual affection.
Gabriel Thorne left England at the age of nineteen under a cloud of scandal, and is now reluctantly returning at the age of thirty-two to take up the reins as the Earl of Lyndale. The previous earl died almost seven years earlier, and Gabriel is about to be declared officially dead as no one has heard from him since he left thirteen years before. He is not really interested in leaving his very lucrative life in Boston, he simply wishes to save his aunt from the viciousness of the presumed new earl, who is already creating havoc at the estate. Gabriel is not planning on declaring his true identity just yet, though. He wishes to find out more about the man that he is displacing and about how the estate is running. He also knows it is his duty to marry and he decides marrying high up in the aristocracy will ease his transition. His first night in England, he sees Jessica at a posting inn and decides she’s the one. He heads to London assuming he’ll see her at ton events and get a chance to confirm his choice.
Jessica and Gabriel meet again at a ball and Gabriel begins his pursuit in earnest. A few days later, on a ride through Richmond Park, he declares his intention to marry Jessica. Jessica is surprised, a little charmed, and very irritated. This man only sees the Jessica on display to the ton – she challenges him to get to know the real Jessica and then court her.
“No,” she said before he could answer. “I do not want to be wooed, Mr. Thorne. I am not at all certain it would accomplish its desired aim anyway. Indeed, I am almost certain it would not. But if you want a chance with me, then you will…Oh.” She circled the air with her hand again. Where were the right words when one most needed them? “You will romance me.”
”Its end, its whole purpose is not necessarily marriage,” she said. “It is about…oh, about persons. About feelings. About getting to know another person. Not just facts, but…getting to know the person behind the facts. And showing that person that you know and understand and like the whole person, regardless of imperfections. It is…”
“Falling in love?” he suggested when she struggled for further words.
Gabriel is not deterred by Jessica’s speech – he likes what he’s seen and starts his romancing, which is delightfully subtle and definitely gets Jessica’s attention. But there are other suitors vying for Jessica’s attention, most notably the son of the man set to inherit the title of Earl of Lyndale once Gabriel is declared dead.
Someone to Romance is classic Balogh. The characters are very well developed, the scenes are well described, the romance is slowly woven together. I warmed to Gabriel a little more than I did to Jessica and I wonder if this is perhaps due to having known Jessica since she was a rather whiny teenager and having that impression of her to overcome when reading this book. The romance between Gabriel and Jessica is palpable and this story, more than in the previous books of the series, has a more sensual side –
“I want you,” he said. “In bed. Very much in bed. I want you naked. I want to arouse every inch of you. And I want to be inside you and to pleasure you until you cry out with the sheer pain and wonder of it.”
Almost all of the Westcotts make an appearance in the story and there is a terrific final triumph at the end orchestrated by Gabriel, the Earl of Riverdale, and the Duke of Netherby. As we’ve learned in previous books, messing with one Westcott brings down the wrath of all of them.
If you are new to the series, don’t start here – go back to book one and savor the whole saga. If you have enjoyed the Westcott series, you will not want to miss this latest installment. Now the question is, will Harry get his happy ending or will the series end here? I’m hoping for a Harry story!