Thursday, June 6, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh

I received this book for free from Netgalley. That did not influence my review.

The Westcotts are back in Someone to Honor! I’ve been compulsively following Mary Balogh’s Someone to... series, watching all the members of the convoluted Westcott family (legitimate and illegitimate) fall in love and marry in Regency England.

Abigail Westcott is the younger daughter of the deceased Earl of Riverdale. When he died six years earlier, the world learned his secret: the earl was still married to his first wife when the wedding to Abigail’s mother took place. He had a daughter, Anna. His will left everything to her except the title and entailed property.

At a stroke, Abigail, her siblings, and her mother were rendered penniless. Her mother’s marriage was invalid. Abigail and her siblings were illegitimate. The scandalized ton shut them out. But that was Anna’s story (see Someone to Love.) Now it’s Abigail’s turn.

Abigail was born to take her place in society and never gave much thought to alternatives. The catastrophe following her father’s death not only showed the depth of her family’s love and unconditional support for each other, it also frees Abigail to discover who she is. She doesn’t have to define herself by society’s expectations any longer.

Lieutenant Colonel Gil Bennington is also illegitimate. He’s the son of a blacksmith’s daughter and a man he doesn’t know and doesn’t wish to know (a viscount, of course.) He grew up in extreme poverty but made his own way in the military. Unfortunately, he married the wrong woman. They had a daughter. His wife abandoned them while he was away at war. Then she died. The grandparents took the child and refuse to return her. Gil has engaged a lawyer but is terrified he won’t win.

Gil was in France with Abigail’s brother, Harry. (Harry would have been the new earl, but when disinherited, he went into the army.) He was wounded and has been trapped in France, withering away rather than recovering, for two years. Gil escorts him home, where Harry’s family descends, ecstatic to have him back.

Abigail comes to visit and decides to stay rather than accompany her family to London and another season, which she has been dreading.

Phew. So that’s the set-up.

Abigail and Gil meet cute. They immediately take a dislike to one another. But, when the family departs, they both stay on to help Harry and to lick their own wounds. Before long, their initial impressions change. When Abigail and Harry learn of Gil’s dilemma, Harry suggests they marry. It would help Gil’s case immensely to have a wife (and the backing of their cousin, the powerful Duke of Neverby). But Gil has been burned before and doesn’t want to wed again. And Abigail worries Gil’s lowly background will prove a stumbling block to gaining her family’s acceptance. Plus, is this really a reason to marry?

With her usual aplomb, Mary Balogh draws the reader along as the protagonists work through their conflicting emotions and face the trials before them. Once again, the carefully crafted storyline (with some familiar-feeling plotting and a comfortably predictable outcome) is enlivened by wonderful characters who pull at the heartstrings. Balogh’s characters are what keep drawing me back. I eagerly await what’s in store for the next of the Westcotts.