By Mary Balogh
The first of the Westcott series, our heroine, Anna Snow, who grew up in an orphanage learns she is the legitimate heir to a fortune. Conversely, the family who were highly placed in society and thought themselves the legitimate heirs are brought low. Avery, the Duke of Netherby is appointed her guardian and takes it upon himself to help Anna navigate her new life. I liked Avery, the hero, although he was a bit over the top, but Anna, the heroine, got on my nerves. I felt like I was being manipulated to sympathize, like, and admire her. Eye-rolling moments: Comparing her looks to a Madonna, so not gorgeous or fashionable. Her hair being “unbecoming” because it was so thick and heavy. I found her overly humble and disingenuously ignorant of what her fortune meant for her. (wondering aloud in her letter to her friend Joel whether she could afford to mail her thick letter. And hoping she could afford to travel in more comfort now. And constantly planning to return to the orphanage but buy a nice cottage nearby to live in.) These letters, which are used to reveal the character of Anna, were overly familiar and seemed like she was trying too hard to be entertaining and amusing:
“Anyway, to come at last to the real purpose of this letter (will this woman never get to the point, you must be muttering between your teeth).” Aw, isn’t she being charmingly self-deprecating, cute, and funny?
Her lack of understanding and respect for the feelings of her sisters not wanting to have anything to do with her at first and repetitively yearning for their love was hard to take for me. “They have gone?” Anna felt suddenly cold despite the sunshine. “But I had hoped to meet them here. I had hoped to get to know them. I had hoped they would get to know me. I had hoped . . . they would . . . wish it.” She felt very foolish in the brief silence that followed. Finally, she actually enlists her friend Joel to spy on them to make sure they were doing alright in Bath where they had to move.
“Can you discover where Mrs. Kingsley lives and somehow keep an eye upon my sisters? I really do not know quite what I am asking, but you see, they are no longer Lady Camille and Lady Abigail Westcott. They are merely the Misses Westcott, natural daughters of the late Earl of Riverdale. I am not sure how Bath society will take to them. Will it shun them? …I do not know them and I probably never will, but I love them. How ridiculous is that?” Pretty ridiculous. They were living with their rich grandmother. What was she planning to do about it if society did shun them? Or maybe she was just being morbidly curious? Like at a car wreck? Unfair, I know. After all, she is a “Madonna.”
I found myself skipping through a lot of the book because it was repetitive and predictable. However, I do have to give Balogh credit for not having Anna run away from Avery back to the orphanage because of some stupid unnecessary misunderstanding. And she does write smoothly and engagingly. Also, there was enough anticipation of what would happen and how things would play out to keep me interested enough to finish the book. I might even read another one in the series at some point. There were glimmerings of her early wonderful books, like Lord Carew’s Bride and The Infamous Heroine, but in the end, it paled in comparison to those Signet Regencies where Balogh first got her start.
April 10, 2018