I love the concept behind this latest series from Mary Balogh: the Earl of Riverdale died without, so far as his family knew, leaving a will. But then a will turned up, along with evidence of a previous marriage – rendering the three children of his acknowledged marriage illegitimate – and also a daughter of that first marriage: heir to all properties not automatically inherited by the new heir to the Earldom. In the first book, we followed the rags-to-riches story of that unexpected heir; now we follow the riches-to-not-quite-rags tale of the eldest daughter of the second, bigamous marriage between the Earl and his supposed, now discounted, Countess.
Camille Westcott is distraught at the loss of her title, her home, and – she assumes – her respectable society friends. Although her wider family have not, as might have been expected, cast her off once her illegitimacy is revealed, she cuts herself off from them and retreats to her grandmother’s house in Bath, while her mother retreats even further to stay with Camille’s uncle in rural Dorset. Only younger sister Abigail seems unaffected by their catastrophic change in circumstances. Camille is not one to stay down for long, however; rather than risk the humiliation of further alienation from Society, and too proud to accept an allowance from her now elevated half-sister, she sets out to make her own way in life.
Curious to learn about the place where her half-sister grew up, and having no other ideas about how someone in her situation might find employment, Camille enquires about becoming a teacher at the orphanage of which her grandmother is, coincidentally, a patron. By yet another coincidence, the most recent teacher is in the process of leaving under something of a cloud and so Camille is welcomed into her prospective new home and given a trial period in which to prove herself capable or not of the role’s requirements.
In the orphanage’s schoolroom Camille not only meets her new pupils, many of them thought to be the unacknowledged children of Society figures, but also the best friend of her half-sister: art teacher and up-and-coming artist, Joel Cunningham. After a rocky start, the two gradually become friends and then more to each other, while Camille begins to realise exactly how much she is capable of. Although her unconventional teaching methods at times leave her wondering whether she’s really cut out for the job, the pupils thrive under her tuition – even the slightly odd, though adorable, Winifred. Meanwhile Joel’s latest commission, for a sick old man, puts him at odds with Camille’s former fiancé, who abandoned Camille as soon as her true status became known.
Both Joel and Camille must reconcile themselves to further changes in their statuses and to finding ways to fit into the changed family structure that has resulted from their various reversals of fortune. In the end, each needs the strength provided by the other to cope with all the upheavals, and both manage to prove themselves more than capable of meeting each challenge life throws at them.
A thoroughly enjoyable book that continues the overall story arc most admirably. I’m now waiting with anticipation to discover what more secrets will be revealed as the saga continues.
A reversal of fortune befalls a young woman in the latest Westcott novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Someone to Love.
Humphrey Wescott, 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…
Read an excerpt.