Mary Balogh was one of the star-studded line-up of Regency Romance authors in the Signet catalog some twenty-five years or so ago. This book is an example of why she’s earned her many laurels in the genre. Although she was all in favor of ‘pushing the envelope’ she never deliberately flaunted the rules. No, she majored in brilliant writing, terrific characters, a great plot, and meticulous attention to the minutiae of historical facts that she carefully sprinkled throughout her books.
If you paid attention, you could learn a lot from those scattered bits. Her Welsh background placed her in good stead of having lived in the UK (although not during the era about which she wrote!) so she really ‘got’ the titles business from page one. This alone would have put her at the pinnacle of the batch, as most of the US writers at the time couldn’t seem to understand that ‘peerage’ stuff.
Someone to Love is the first new Signet Regency mass-market release from Ms. Balogh in a good many years, and it’s brilliant in the concept as well as the execution thereof. Although Ms. Balogh was never a believer in gratuitous sex scenes or constant sexual tension, it did at times seem as though some writers over-indulged in order to add more pages to their books.
I am pleased beyond belief to report that this book is a throw-back to the much-beloved traditional Regency Romance of all those years ago: dependent solely on humor, language, customs, fashions, and of course, characters that just grab your heart and won’t let go! There are only two very brief love scenes, totally appropriate, completely in service to the story.
The heroine, known to the world as Anna Snow, grew up in a most unusual orphanage near Bath. The children who lived there were treated with kindness, kept warm and fed, and taught their lessons on a regular basis. Anna has graduated from that portion of her schooling and is now at the age of twenty-five, the resident teacher at the orphanage, treasured by all the occupants. It is her belief that no one person is better than any other person, and she is diligent in impressing her students to believe that, as well.
And then, one day, her life is turned up-side down. A carriage (complete with chaperone) is sent to bring her to London, because of a legal matter. She had sketchy knowledge at best of her parents, only that her mother was deceased, and although her father supported her at the orphanage, he made no attempt to ever see her. But now, the most impossible and unlikely history was made clear. Her father and mother had been legally married to each other, with no impediments, but after her mother’s death, neither her parents (Anna’s grandparents) or Anna’s own father seemed to want her. Thus her life in the orphanage.
Except that, four months before her mother’s death, her father (the Earl of Riverdale) had married for a second time, and sired more children. One son, presumed to be his heir and two more daughters.
On the death of the Earl, all of this tangled history was suddenly out in the open. Anna was not merely Anna Snow, she was in fact Lady Anastasia Westcott, whereas the other children are no longer the children of an earl, they are virtually nameless. Talk about putting the cat amongst the pigeons!
The Westcott family is thoroughly entangled within itself, with step-mamas-sisters and-brothers-aunts and–uncles. Not legally part of this extended family (by marriage only, not by blood) is Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby, who suddenly finds himself defending Lady Anna, who proves to be no slouch at fighting for herself, and does so quite nicely, in fact. In defiance of all the rules of Society, they more-or-less elope, (without leaving London for their nuptials) and then embark on a honeymoon, in which she locates her grandparents, and he learns of her value to the orphanage and its inhabitants.
One of the main themes in this book is dreaming. The more you dream, the more likely you are to have a dream come true. Even if you dream the most unlikely dream, and are the most unlikely person to have that dream come true, for even dukes may dream of finding Someone to Love. Isn’t that the dream of all of us?
This book (first of the new Westcott series) is on my best-of-the-year list. It should find a place on yours, too!
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Signet. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.