Someone to Trust
Someone to Trust is the fifth book of Mary Balogh’s Westcott series. It presents us with a delightful hero and heroine who have both dealt with difficult emotional and personal issues over the last few years and are finally at a place where they feel ready for love and marriage. While the novels work as standalones, knowing the secondary characters via the previous narratives adds a great deal of depth to the story. Since the hero of this novel is the brother to the heroine of Someone to Wed and they come from a difficult family situation, I would recommend reading at least that one first.
Lady Elizabeth Overfield’s first marriage was destroyed by her husband’s alcoholism, and his death brought sorrow, but also freedom. Freedom from angry fists and broken bones and freedom to live life on her own terms. She has enjoyed that freedom immensely but while she is celebrating Christmas with her large, extended family at her brother Alex’s house she realizes something – she’s lonely. Her family love her and treat her with great affection, but seeing all the recently married couples enjoying their spouses and children fills her with a longing for something more. She has received several marriage proposals over the last few seasons and realizes its time she gave some serious thought to accepting one.
Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, is also seriously contemplating marriage while celebrating at the Westcott Christmas festivities. He sees the happy home his sister Wren and brother-in-law Alex have built, and thinks he would very much like to create something similar for himself. He also sees the mature, measured way Alex serves as head of his family and wants to emulate that as well. He is officially the senior ranking male member of the Handrich clan, but his mother has always ruled them with an iron fist. She has also ruled with cruelty, coldness, vanity and complete selfishness. Her ‘leadership’ has not been good for the family, but Colin is unsure how to wrest control from her. He determinedly sets these thoughts aside in order to simply enjoy the festivities and finds the best way to do that is to spend time with Elizabeth. He admires her calm, thoughtful good cheer and appreciates how she has gone out of her way to make sure he feels welcomed and included in every activity. He delights in their friendship but accepts that flirtatious camaraderie is as far as it can go, since at nine years his senior she is completely ineligible. He is therefore appalled when, after upending the sleigh they are riding on and landing on top of her in the snow, he takes advantage of the moment and kisses her.
Elizabeth knows Colin is indulging in a harmless flirtation, but she is very much aware that her heart is being far more stirred than it should be by the handsome, charming young man. She accepts his apologies for the kiss with assurances that no harm was done and after sharing a waltz with him during the Boxing Day party agrees they dance well together. So well in fact that they determine to share the first waltz at every ball they both find themselves at in the coming Season. They hold true to their promise, both attending an inordinate number of balls, strictly for the pleasure of that joint dance. Oh, and to look for marriage prospects. Elizabeth is certain that their perfect partnership on the ballroom floor can not extend into married life, but Colin is increasingly convinced that the only person he wants to walk down the aisle with is her.
There is quite a lot going on in this story, and it is easy to be a little bit overwhelmed by all the different family members and acquaintances. That is undoubtedly because this is the fifth book in the series and the author can’t resist catching us up with what has been happening in the lives of the extended Westcott clan. As someone who has read every book, I enjoyed the grand reunion feel to the tale. The two principal characters are well drawn – despite the possible distractions – and the boisterous feeling of being overwhelmed by family suits our hero and heroine admirably. Colin is envious of Elizabeth’s warm relationships with her relatives and appreciates that as Wren’s brother, he has been welcomed into their group. The author does a splendid job of making him a fully-realized adult who happens to be on the younger end of the spectrum. At twenty-six he does not have a lot of life experience, but he does have a great deal of maturity thanks to the fact that he was essentially forced to raise himself. His mother’s overwhelming beauty and devotion to maintaining it have made him wary of judging women strictly by their looks, another personality trait I found very admirable. Colin has the wisdom to be balanced, however; he would never marry a woman because she is beautiful, but he won’t marry a plain woman simply to spite his mother, either. He is determined that whomever he weds is someone he will love and admire. He admires Elizabeth’s “contentment, serenity, maturity, good sense and kindness” from the start and it is apparent to the reader, if not to our leads, that what they are calling friendship is essentially love at first sight.
Everything that Colin admires about Elizabeth is what made me love her as a heroine. She has a crucial scene towards the end of the novel which shows precisely why she is the ideal choice for him, but even before that it is obvious that these two are simply perfect for each other. Her cheerful, sunny stability is an excellent foil for Colin’s honorable, family-oriented nature. The romance is fairly low-key and their passion on the sedate side, but that is perfectly in character for both Elizabeth and Colin, who are looking for a partner with whom to build a home and family. Neither is looking for a sensuous, ardent experience but someone they can trust and rely on, someone with whom they can create a warm, loving future.
I’ve heard complaints before about the author’s heavy handed use of forgiveness and compassion in situations involving truly villainous characters. That certainly happens here, where the heroine is extremely understanding about her former husband’s tendency to physically abuse her while drunk. It is underscored that his behavior was wrong and no man should hit a woman, but for those who find this aspect of the author’s writing sanctimonious, be warned that it is in full force here.
There is, perhaps, some excessive drama to the tale, but that suits the plot in that it highlights the serene common sense of the heroine and maturity of the hero. I would have preferred Elizabeth to see that Colin was her perfect match sooner, since I found their courtship a bit drawn out, but that was a minor irritant.
Someone to Trust is an enjoyable story that is a nice addition to the Westcott family saga. I think fans of the series will be pleased and will join me in eagerly awaiting the remaining novels.