on February 7, 2017
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Also in this series: Someone To Love, Someone To Honor
Humphrey Wescott, 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...
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
I’ve said this before: Mary Balogh is one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors. I’m really loving her new Westcott series, which began with Someone to Love, featuring former orphan Anna Snow, who is in reality Lady Anastasia Westcott, only legitimate child of the Earl of Riverdale, and the heir to his fortune.
Someone to Hold is the second book in the series. It tells the story of Anna’s half-sister, Camille, the eldest of the Earl’s acknowledged children, who discovered only after his death that they were illegitimate, due to his secret first marriage. Understandably, Camille responded to the news with anger and then despair and self-pity — particularly because her fiance ended their betrothal rather than marry a bastard.
As Someone to Hold begins, though, Camille is beginning to move past her despair enough to try to build a new life on her own terms. She applies to teach at the orphanage school where Anna was raised. This brings her into contact with the up-and-coming artist Joel Cunningham, Anna’s best friend and one-time suitor, who is not quite over his love for Anna. Raised in the orphanage, Joel now donates his time to teach art there twice a week.
Camille and Joel are initially somewhat antagonistic toward each other, but Camille is aware of, and puzzled by, an attraction she refuses to acknowledge, even to herself. For his part, Joel is reluctantly impressed by Camille’s determination, her innovative ideas for teaching the children, and the fact that despite her somewhat formidable demeanor, the children really like her.
As their friendship/relationship develops, both Joel and Camille act at times in ways that seem… not necessarily out of character (though I do think one of Camille’s actions is definitely that), but certainly beyond the bounds of propriety. Unusually so, in fact. Balogh’s characters do sometimes step outside the bounds of what Regency society considered proper, but when they do, their motivation is usually clear, and fits with both their character and their situation. I didn’t always feel that was always true in this book; there were a few times when I thought, “Camille simply wouldn’t do that.” It’s the only thing that kept me from giving the book 5 stars.
Other than those few moments or decisions, though, I loved both the main characters and the book. Both Camille and Joel are complex characters, with all the depth and layers and sometimes contradictory feelings and thoughts that real people have. Both are dealing with questions of identity and with difficult or nonexistent relationships with their parents. Both are lonely, and each had previously held hopes for a relationship and were turned down — Camille rather cruelly by her former fiance, Joel more gently when Anastasia married the Duke of Netherby. I loved seeing them find friendship, understanding, and finally love in each other. And I loved Camille’s determination to make a new life for herself, even when she’s not sure how or what.
There’s a strong theme of family running through the book, or rather, the whole series so far: the families we’re born into, and the families we make. Given how strongly I feel about family, that, too, is one of the things I love about this series. And there are some wonderful scenes and moments that flow from and strengthen that theme, scenes which made me smile or sometimes even get a little teary-eyed.
If you enjoyed the first book in the series, you won’t be disappointed in Someone to Hold. But if you haven’t yet read Someone to Love yet, I do recommend reading it first. Someone to Hold could stand on its own, but it will be richer if you’ve read the first book.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Blackout (2016-17)