Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “If you meet one person at a time, eventually you will have met the whole world.”
lexander Westcott never thought he’d inherit the Earldom after the former Earl passed on but when it comes to light that his Uncle’s marriage to the countess was false, it prevented his cousin from inheriting and propelled Alex into the role. In order to save the estate and the livelihoods of all those living there, Alex knows he must marry for money but he never expected to be proposed to by a virtual stranger.
“You are offering….marriage?”
Wren Heyden is an independently wealthy businesswoman. Raised by her aunt and uncle, Wren has lived a secluded life. Since the passing of her aunt and uncle, Wren realizes she is lonely and decides she would like to marry and experience all the joys that come with it. When she learns of Alex’s plight, she summons him and offers her wealth in exchange for marriage.
“In my own person, I am not marriageable…but I am wealthy.”
Alex is understandably shocked but eventually curious. Wren is neither charming nor affordable and Alex is unsure if he can marry without love or even respect. As he and Wren begin a tentative courtship, he realizes there is a wealth of beauty and spirit beneath the cold shell she presents to the world. But for this marriage to work, Wren needs to find the courage to stand by Alex’s side in public, because he refuses to just be someone she weds.
“I do not mingle with society or even the neighbors.”
“As Countess of Riverdale, you would have no choice.”
Marriages of convenience are a favored trope of mine, especially if it’s the heroine who is proposing. Mary Balogh writes of such a heroine in the third story of her Westcott series, Someone to Love. Each story interacts loosely with one another and deals with the fallout from the actions of Humphrey Westcott, the former Earl of Riverdale and confirmed bigamist though they are all independent enough to be read as standalones. Balogh offers readers just enough background to sail forward confident in comprehension and enjoyment.
Quietly engaging, Balogh writes a pragmatic romance that starts as a business proposition and builds on friendship and respect. A friendship that gradually turns to love as this couple discovers their compatibility. The story about the ugly duckling came to mind as I was reading this. A young woman who is brought low, in her own mind, by her lack of beauty eventually transforms through the kindness and love of those around her.
“You honor me. I can only hope I am worthy of you.”
A strong beginning sets the tone. Wren is an odd duck in Alex’s eyes because she deals with him not as a woman setting her cap for a beau but as his equal and he finds that insulting. She openly discusses his finances or lack thereof and offers him a practical solution though at first, he doesn’t see it that way.
“…how dared she-a stranger-make open reference to it? The vulgarity of it had paralyzed his brain for a few moments.”
The story moves along at a steady pace as Alex takes his time considering Wren’s offer. Alex teeters between his dislike of Wren’s unfeminine attitude and his growing respect for her intellect and boldness. He is the perfect foil for Wren as he acknowledges her pain but is not naive enough to think he can “cure her.” Quiet, intelligent, and reflective, he has his own row to hoe and knows he must do what is best for the estate, no matter his true feelings.
Wren is a true recluse due to a birthmark that covers the left side of her face. While she may go to the factory, she refuses to mix with society. Her aunt and uncle showered her with love though they never forced her into public. They tried to show her that her face didn’t define her as a person but Wren chose to hide, fearing she is hideous. An uncomfortable meet and greet with Alex’s mother and sister highlight the extent of Wren’s fears. There is deep set and it sets their courtship back a few steps but that changes when Wren shows much courage by grabbing hold of an offer of friendship and enters London society on her terms.
Balogh stays true to form and convention for this time period. Some may find it dry reading as her characters remain constrained in their emotions and actions, never moving more beyond polite outrage or delight. It slows the story down a bit as our couple spends a great deal of time deciding what is the right choice.Wren and Alex do share some touching scenes that help showcase their gradual evolution though Wren’s changes are far more emotionally poignant.
“Miss Heydon, you are going to fit into this family just fine.”
A kaleidoscope of characters infiltrates the story, old faces and new ones to help guide this couple and story to the end. I loved the relationship Alex and eventually, Wren came to have with Alex’s mother and sister. Warm and engaging they wanted what was best for both of them, regardless of the outcome. The rest of the Westcotts descend and offer their congratulations as they embrace and welcome Wren wholeheartedly into their fold.
Mary Balogh always guarantees a quiet and elegant romance, perfect reading for a much need retreat. Fans will enjoy seeing the Westcotts again and watching Alex discover his happily ever after. With more Westcotts to be led to the altar, this series is in no danger of ending anytime soon.