A second chance at love catches a jaded aristocrat and a disgraced gentlewoman off guard. Their adult children alternately worry and then root for the wary pair.
Love blossoms for an unlikely couple who were unlucky in their first marriages and never thought to find romance in their 40s. In this latest in her Westcott series, Balogh (Someone to Wed, 2017, etc.) again breaks with the historical romance tradition of narrating the courtships of only youthful members of a family—Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series is a popular example of that tradition. Instead, we witness the journey of Viola Kingsley, a widowed former countess who's been stripped of her title, to a joyful union with the Marquess of Dorchester, Marcel Lamarr. Heartsick over revelations of her dead husband’s bigamy, Viola is fleeing from her concerned family when she crosses paths with Marcel, a rake who once almost tempted her into infidelity. When he renews his offer for a no-strings dalliance at a remote cottage—he’s escaping his own past and its repercussions—Viola throws caution to the wind. Despite their sexual compatibility and a nagging awareness that their relationship is more than lust, they're both too scarred to voice their feelings. Once their families intrude on their idyll, they must determine whether they want the tie that binds them to break or turn into matrimony. Balogh lingers a little too long on internal debates, and the novel is at least a third longer than it needs to be, even turning into a Christmas story by the end. But if a taut plot is not her strength, the careful explorations of human sentiment and values make her a standout in the genre.
What alchemy of sexual desire, emotional connection, temperamental similarity, and personal courage does it take for two people to actively love each other? Recommended for readers who like their Regency romance with more contemplation than fireworks.