Monday, November 7, 2016

ARC Review: Someone to Love by Mary Balogh

Series:     Westcott #1
Pub. Date:Nov 8, 2016
Publisher:Berkley Signet
Length:400 pages
Source:NetGalley

This first installment of the Westcott series by Mary Balogh was quite the feel-good romance. It made my the flight I was on (9 hours on the uber-crammed Southwest) more tolerable and even helped me drown out the screaming baby two rows over. That takes some talent folks.

Lady Anastasia Westcott (a/k/a Anna Snow) was raised in an orphanage since the age of four without knowing anything about herself or her family. Despite Anna's inglorious beginnings, she cares for those around her, and maintains a bearing of dignity and grace. Always dreaming of family and "what ifs", Anna never imagined that she would be an obscenely rich lady of the ton, with a family who hates her. Anna was a very likable heroine. I admired that she was able to maintain her composure when her life was being turned upside down. Whether she was being treated poorly by the family she desired for so long, or being carried along on the tide of her society come out, she never lost her cool or treated them to harsh words. I loved that she didn't allow them to totally change Anna Snow into Lady Anastasia. She stood up for herself where she thought it appropriate, but did not hold the harsh words against her grieving half-siblings.

Avery Archer, Duke of Netherby was a unique hero for me. He is a small, dainty, golden-haired, blue-eyed man who could be mistaken for a dandy if he didn't have a mysterious air of danger about him. Having been picked on for his size and beauty as a child and adolescent, Avery was forced to mold himself into the aloof duke whom the bullies would let be. Now he finds everything and everyone quite tedious, and barely stirs himself to make an effort in society. But when Anna Snow arrives on the scene, his ennui is suddenly tempered and he finds himself with an uncommon interest in this plain girl. I loved watching Avery interact with Anna. He cared not one whit what the ton thought of him, and he wasn't about to let managing family members sculpt Anna into a caricature of herself. He seemed to know exactly what Anna wanted and needed, and always extended a hand to her at the perfect time.

The relationship between these two was a slow burn, and wasn't particularly steamy. But I really liked them as a couple and their interactions did make me smile. There was a bit of chemistry between Avery and Anna, but it wasn't over the top. Avery didn't quite understand his attraction to this girl who looked more like a dowdy governess than a lady... and Anna was just overwhelmed by it all. I would have liked an epilogue showing where things stand a few years down the road... but as this is the first book in the series, I am hoping that we will see a lot more of Avery and Anna.

There were quite a few secondary characters in this first installment. I suppose we needed the introduction so we know these characters for future romantic entanglements. I believe my favorites of the series (besides Avery and Anna) will be the Earl of Riverdale and his sister, Lady Elizabeth. I hope they each get their own story because they are both very deserving of love and happiness. There were also some unlikable characters who will need to be redeemed, namely Jessica and Camille, who said some very nasty things to Anna and blamed her for her father's indiscretions. But otherwise I liked the Westcott and Archer families who rallied behind a surprise family member and had her best interest at heart, even if they drowned out her voice at times.

I'm excited for this new series! I would recommend Someone to Love to any fan of Mary Balogh, or to fans of traditional historical romance. I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Berkley.