Humphrey Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…
With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.
An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…
Someone to Hold (Westcott #2) by Mary Balogh
Since discovering – VERY belatedly! – how talented a writer Mary Balogh is with the first book in this Westcott family series, I have been waiting anxiously for the second instalment.
I was VERY surprised when I discovered the heroine of the next book was Camille, the half-sister of the heroine of book one. In the first book she discovers that she isn’t, in fact, the legitimate daughter of an earl, and when her illegitimacy is discovered she reacts very badly (understandably), loses her fiancé, and refuses to have anything to do with her newly-discovered sister.
She is not a particularly likeable person and the author makes certain we know it.
However, there is much more to her than that, and I was excited to see how Balogh had her grow and change into a worthy heroine over the course of the book. As one of her relatives observes, while also noticing how she is changing:
‘I do not believe anyone really likes Camille.’
Someone to Hold takes place not in London, but entirely in the spa town of Bath. Camille is trying to understand who she is now she is not Lady Camille, and she takes a job at the orphanage where her half-sister grew up. There, she meets her sister’s best friend, Joel, the art teacher, and he takes an instant dislike to her.
This is no ordinary orphanage; it’s the sort of establishment where aristocrats dump their illegitimate kids and then pay for them to stay hidden.
Of course, things change over the course of the book, and I really appreciated the difficulties the two characters went through to reach a point where they fell in love.
This is a very different type of Regency romance to many. Instead of a heroine rising up to get everything she could ever have wanted, she has to learn to be a commoner, and find out who she is when she isn’t titled and extraordinarily rich.
The aristocrats are on the fringes of the story still, as they publicly recognise Camille, her sister, and their mother. So there’s still a touch of the rich and sparkly people. This series is, after all, all about family.
One thing I really loved was the orphanage setting – this came as a surprise.
The children are written realistically, and there is one little girl whose evolution as a character is as complex as Camille’s. She also starts off as an unlikeable character, and I loved seeing how that changed. Some scenes are a little heartbreaking.
Joel, our hero, also grew up in the orphanage (he discovers his origins over the course of the book), and it was great seeing him interact with the children.
Mary Balogh writes books with “more” in them. It is amazing how some authors can fit a complex story into the same word count where others simply give us people romping from ballroom to ballroom.
What fascinates me the most about this series is how imperfect the characters are. The hero of the last book was small, full of affectations, not at all the way romance heroes ever are – and also a very powerful duke. This heroine? Even her family has their doubts about her at the start, but she is memorable and tries very hard to become someone different. I never thought I’d be so engrossed in such unconventional characters.
I am impatiently waiting for the next book.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.