Saturday, February 3, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh

I’ve read a few of Mary Balogh’s Regency Romances and find them uniformly enjoyable. Most recently, I’ve been following the Westcott Novel series: Someone to Love and Someone to Hold.

The third book dealing with the extended Westcott family is Someone to Wed.

Alexander Westcott, the new Earl of Rivendale, has inherited a title and a sprawling, poorly maintained estate. Being a caring, responsible individual, he feels duty-bound to act as a true lord and benefactor to the tenants in his care. He is well-off, by dint of a previously modest inheritance and long hours of conscientious effort, but nowhere near wealthy enough to take on the new responsibilities. He feels he has no real choice but to marry for money. It shouldn’t be difficult since he’s titled and extremely handsome, but it isn’t what he’d hoped for out of life and the mercenariness of the endeavor appalls him.

Wren Hayden, his new neighbor, happens to be an heiress. Her adopted uncle, who made a fortune as the owner of a glassworks, had introduced her to the business and taught her to be an extremely capable businesswoman. She became extravagantly wealthy when both her aunt and uncle died. But she has found she can’t simply bury herself in the work. She wants a husband and family. She assumes no man would ever marry her for herself because of a prominent birthmark on her face. Luckily, she has money to buy a husband.

Wren settles on Alex after a short meeting. (She’d already met and dismissed two neighbors/candidates.) She believes he will treat her with respect.

Alex is intrigued but also put off, not by the birthmark but by her cold demeanor. He recognizes it as a defense mechanism, but isn’t sure why the birthmark has affected her so cruelly. (Of course, it isn’t just the birthmark. She had a horrific childhood.) He cannot outright refuse her frank marriage proposal. It would not only be cruel but, also, her money would be useful. Instead, he decides to get to know her as a person and see if they would suit.

Their courtship is difficult, which is not unusual for Romances, but the reasons for the difficulty are rather unique and not simply due to avoidable misunderstandings or poor behavior. It’s more complicated. Alex and Wren are very thoughtful protagonists who belong together. It’s easy to be pulled into the storyline. The frequent references to and appearances by relatives who populated the previous books help to pull the reader into a world that feels familiar.

At times, the dialogue has a bit of an infodump feel. Characters will embark on monologues that recap and explain to the point that it doesn’t come across as real conversation. But other interactions are more natural. Overall, the distraction of the improbably lengthy narrations by one or another of the characters can be overlooked.

The Westcott Novels are wonderful Romances and this newest is as charming as the first two.

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