During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series.
After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he.
They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love. . . .
Someone to Trust (Westcott family #5) by Mary Balogh
Someone to Trust takes its time to develop, but by the halfway point I thought it was doing something I haven’t come across often before, and I was hooked. Mary Balogh’s Westcott family books have the most unusual and diverse types of romances I’ve come across in a series, and yet it never feels forced.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is a book that can be as easily enjoyed if readers are new to the series, and a glance at a few reviews confirms it. There are too many characters, with too many complex histories and relationships, for this one to be anything other than confusing to newbie – particularly in the Christmas scenes at the start.
However, beyond that, this is a bittersweet sort of story, with a relationship that starts off a little improbable, and develops into something very strong. We have a heroine who has been a background character for four books before this, steady, friendly, a little plain… and a widow who escaped an abusive husband. In her mid-thirties, she is watching life pass her by, and she is willing to settle on a loveless second marriage in order to achieve some of her dreams.
Our hero is the younger brother of the heroine of book three, and is significantly enough younger than the heroine that not a single character ever considered they could or would marry. However, he comes from a family of vain, narcissistic people, and has grown to appreciate a person’s character over anything else.
Something else I really appreciated was that the spinster aunt of the family, one who has been a bit of a caricature so far, was revealed to have hidden pain and lost hopes and dreams of her own. Even in reality – even today – women like her are still mocked for being husbandless and childless, and it’s so easy to forget that these women often had all the same plans for their futures other women did – only, they never achieved them.
And because I thought the characterisation of all involved was so realistic and even moving, this one comment stood out to me as deeply insensitive:
She had no children and no sense of humour—strange that those two things seemed to go together in his mind.
I’m still not sure why it was even in the book, considering how wonderfully the themes were handled the rest of the time.
Each book in this series seems to be a little more unconventional than the one that came before it, and – for me – each one is a surprise in that it is even more emotional, beneath that Regency veneer. I also think that is why the books in this series divide readers, many of whom probably aren’t looking for these themes in their historical romance romps.
This isn’t as easy a book to love as the other instalments in the series, and yet at some point as I was reading I realised I’d gone from liking it to loving it. Even with the occasional overabundance of characters, in amongst them was a deeply emotional story that I will remember when I’ve forgotten a lot of others.