Someone To Hold, by Mary Balogh

>> Wednesday, November 21, 2018

TITLE: Someone To Hold
AUTHOR: Mary Balogh

PAGES: 379

SETTING: Early 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 2nd in the Westcotts series

Humphrey Westcott, 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...
Book 1 in this series started with a bang. During the reading of the Earl of Riverdale's will, a mysterious young woman walked in, having been invited by the lawyers. The Countess immediately knew she must be the young woman her husband had been supporting in an orphanage since she was a child. How inappropriate for an illegitimate daughter to force herself upon her father's legitimate family! But it turned out Anna wasn't an illegitimate daughter. The Earl had actually married her mother. That was shocking enough. But the next revelation was even more shattering: Anna's mother had died after the Earl married again. The second marriage was bigamous, and thus, invalid. In one stroke, all the Earl's children but Anna were declared illegitimate. Anna inherited piles of money, as the Earl's only legitimate child, and the title passed onto a distant cousin.

Camille Westcott is one of Anna's disgraced half-sisters. She's had a very tough time in the months since the reading of the will. Her highborn fiancé immediately dumped her, her beloved brother Harry decided to run off to join the Army in the Peninsular War, and her mother retired to the country to live a quiet life with her own parents. Camille and her younger sister are living in Bath with their grandmother, and while their grandmother's friends are still friendly, none of the young people they would have befriended in previous years will give them the time of day. The young women don't want to be associated with them, the young men have no interest in courting them.

To be fair, Camille's had a tougher time than she need have. Anna offered to share her fortune, but was rejected out of hand. So were her friendly overtures. It was mostly Camille's doing. Harry was off like a shot (hah!) as soon as he found out the news, and Abby was young and led by Camille. But Camille is in a place where she's... well, not quite 'wallowing', but sort of, and also kind of punishing herself. She feels she and Abby should adjust to their new circumstances, and all the efforts by the people who love them to keep them in the world they grew up in are just postponing the inevitable, even if they mean well. I found that attitude that so puzzles and frustrates her grandmother and sister really psychologically believable; it told me so much more about how traumatised she was feeling about the changes in her life than if we'd simply been told so.

It just so happens that the orphanage where Anna grew up is also in Bath, and it seems to hold some sort of fascination for Camille. First she applies to be a teacher there (illegitimate young women should probably learn how to earn a living), just as Anna had been. Then, when the rest of the Westcotts announce they're about to descend on Bath, supposedly to celebrate a birthday, but really to bring the girls back into the fold, Camille decides she can't stand that and requests to move into living quarters in the orphanage (you guessed it, the same room where Anna used to live).

While at the orphanage, she comes to know Joel Cunningham. Joel grew up there with Anna, and they were best friends. Actually, he thought he was in love with her, but she loved him like a brother, and he's starting to realise she was right. Particularly because he's started to care for Camille in a way he never cared for Anna...

I liked this one quite a bit, mainly because of Camilla. She's exactly the sort of heroine I'm most interested in these days: a somewhat difficult woman, who's difficult for understandable reasons. She was quite unlikeable in book 1, and she's still the same person in this book, only you get to see things from her eyes, and that perspective makes a difference.

I've talked above about how I found some of her more 'illogical' reactions psychologically believable, and that was the case for everything about her. I recognised her as a person, and I loved seeing her begin to heal from the hurt that was done to her. And there were sections that really touched me, like how Camille begins to identify with a particular child at the orphanage with certain quite unattractive qualities (the sections with that child close to the end had me sniffling a bit).

The romance was nice enough, albeit relatively low-chemistry, but I was more interested in all the other stuff going on, from Joel's unexpected discovery of his birth family to Camille's thawing relationship with Anna. That was all particularly satisfying. Nice.



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