The Westcott Series, Book 9
From the publisher:
Is love worth the loss of one’s freedom and independence? This is what Mrs. Tavernor must decide in the new novel in the Westcott series from New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.
When Harry Westcott lost the title Earl of Riverdale after the discovery of his father’s bigamy, he shipped off to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, where he was near-fatally wounded. After a harrowing recovery, the once cheery, light-hearted boy has become a reclusive, somber man. Though Harry insists he enjoys the solitude, he does wonder sometimes if he is lonely.
Lydia Tavernor, recently widowed, dreams of taking a lover. Her marriage to Reverend Isaiah Tavernor was one of service and obedience, and she has secretly enjoyed her freedom since his death. She doesn’t want to shackle herself to another man in marriage, but sometimes, she wonders if she is lonely.
Both are unwilling to face the truth until they find themselves alone together one night, and Lydia surprises even herself with a simple question: “Are you ever lonely?” Harry’s answer leads them down a path neither could ever have imagined…
I think there are too many books in this series. I’ve not really had this issue before, and I’ve read some pretty long series; for example, Virgin River has 19 books and I’ve read them all. I’ve read about half of the Westcott series, but I really felt like I was slogging through this book. The entire first chapter is just introducing the family and all those characters from previous books. Then it seems like every time one of them is mentioned, there is a brief explanation of their circumstances or relationship, making this a very slow read for me.
I liked the characters, at least the main characters, and their story was a good one. Lydia is a young widow of the church vicar. Her husband was a charismatic and fervent leader, which led him to make some interesting life choices. He was also very good looking, and Lydia fell head over heels for him. But the marriage wasn’t a happy one, not that anyone ever suspected. He called her his “helpmeet” and made her feel as if her only purpose was to serve him and God. She wasn’t allowed to think or feel or have friends outside the church.
Lydia is much beloved in this small village. The vicar died while saving a child from drowning, elevating him to practically saint status – along with his widow. But it’s been more than a year, and it is time for Lydia to start living her life. She refused to move home with her father and brothers, and instead purchased a small cottage at the end of town where she lives alone, without even a servant. So when Harry is seen entering her home, then again at night, the scandal is real.
Harry is turning thirty, and his enormous family wants him to come to London. He doesn’t want to go, he doesn’t want a birthday party, and he really doesn’t want his family picking out a wife for him. He does attend the local parties he is invited to, and he finally meets Lydia, whose cottage is basically at the end of the driveway that leads to his estate. He ends up walking her home where she blurts out a few remarks about loneliness, and intimates that she would be open to taking Harry as a lover.
This is a small village, but Harry is intrigued. Lydia is not the woman he thought she was, a shy, retiring, invisible helpmeet. And he likes her. Things progress but there is that scandal, which in these times means marriage. But Lydia refuses him.
Lydia loves her freedom and independence. For the first time in her life, she is making all her own decisions and has some women friends. She is not willing to give that up to “obey” another husband.
We all know how this ends, and there is enough interesting backstory to keep the story moving, although all those pesky relatives slow things down too much for my taste. I think it is time I retired from reading this series. Probably.
8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch
SOMEONE TO CHERISH by Mary Balogh. Berkley (June 29, 2021). ISBN: 978-1984802415. 416 pages.