(Pick your cover. I prefer the top one! It even includes a building that plays a big part in the story.)
Two years after the death of the Earl of Riverdale, his family has overcome the shame of being stripped of their titles and fortune—except for his onetime countess, Viola. With her children grown and herself no longer part of the social whirl of the ton, she is uncertain where to look for happiness—until quite by accident her path crosses once again with that of the Marquess of Dorchester, Marcel Lamarr.
Marcel Lamarr has been a notorious womaniser since the death of his wife nearly twenty years earlier. Viola caught his eye when she herself was a young mother, but she evaded his seduction at the time. A prize that eluded him before, she is all the more irresistible to him now although he is surprised to discover that she is as eager now for the excitement he offers as he is himself.
When the two defy convention and run away together, they discover that the ties of respectability are not so easily severed, and pleasure can ensnare you when you least expect it.
Someone to Care (Westcott family #4) by Mary Balogh
Readers have had a lot of different reactions to this book, as I would expect seeing as the two lead characters are so unconventional for the historical romance genre. That said, I loved Someone to Care a lot, and will go back to some parts of it again and again. It made me feel things.
The first half of the book is particularly strong. It’s an emotional story about a woman in her forties who has never been able to make a choice for herself in life until now, and when she does it all goes horribly wrong.
Viola is a mother and a grandmother, but nobody sees her beyond that. She was a countess until her marriage was declared void because of her husband’s bigamy, and now she has no standing in society and no idea what is ahead of her.
One thing that makes Mary Balogh one of the best authors in the genre is that she refuses to modernise her Regency world. She writes HISTORICAL romance, and it’s so much better for it. We get the society and the societal restrictions. Balogh doesn’t present us with her feminism by putting her heroines in breeches and sending them stumbling through ballrooms like bulls in china shops; instead she shows us the constraints women lived under and how they got around those strict rules to find happiness.
Because of this, we get to see the hypocrisy surrounding Viola’s situation, and feel the full effect of the oppression she lives under. Marcel has spent seventeen or so years running around England and indulging in any and all vices, and not once has he been forced into a situation he doesn’t want.
And yet Viola – at forty-two – finally takes a chance to do something for herself, and that one decision has massive consequences.
I read historical fiction to read about another world, and Balogh, Madeline Hunter, and a few others (but not nearly enough of them) take me there.
I think this could just about be called a reunion romance, as the characters loved each other in the past, but could do nothing about it. I felt connected to this pair (even when Marcel was disguising his hurt behind cruel words), and invested in them finding a way back to each other by the end.
For readers new to the series, I think you could very much enjoy the first half of the book. However, then the other characters arrive, and you’re going to be overwhelmed. There are several dozen characters to keep track of, and I don’t think that’s going to work for someone who hasn’t come into the Westcott family in book one.
The overpopulation in the second half is my only complaint about Someone to Care, but because of how much it made me feel at the start, I’m forgiving it.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.
One thing that’s driving me mad: we no longer seem to be getting UK/Australian English versions of books here. I’m tired of reading US versions with the US spelling when I buy a book *in Australia*. I’m not sure what publishers are doing, but we’re going to lose our language entirely soon.