A widow who survived an abusive marriage is afraid to choose love, especially with a younger man grappling with his own childhood sorrows.
In the fifth installment of Balogh’s Westcott series, the widowed Lady Elizabeth Overfield and Colin Handrich, Baron Hodges, who's her brother's brother-in-law, intend to be just friends. After all, she's nine years older than him, and they each have sensible plans for marriage—she is considering the proposal of an older gentleman while he is being paired with a young debutante. Yet neither of those relationships contains the mix of easy conversation and erotic attraction that Elizabeth and Colin experience with each other. Nevertheless, they are determined to make practical matrimonial decisions. An ugly public episode in which her fiance baselessly accuses them of impropriety, however, persuades them that levelheaded betrothals no more guarantee marital bliss than love condemns one to loss. While Elizabeth's family is taken aback by her decision to marry Colin, they offer their support. The obstacle is Colin's mother, introduced in Someone to Wed (2017), a scheming narcissist who refuses to age gracefully. Balogh presents her as an unnatural contrast to our heroine’s dignified matronhood. This structure is an unfortunate throwback to old-school romances that resorted to a misogynistic virgin/seductress dichotomy. Indeed, the romance here is overshadowed by the time devoted to vilifying Colin's mother, who has a lover and many youthful beaux. This dilutes the story's romantic intensity, as does the slow pace and the overlong family Christmas celebration that starts the book.
For readers who enjoy watching lovers conquer trauma and fans of the series who would like to revisit characters from the Westcott family.