Mary Balogh continues her delightful series about the unexpected ups and downs of the Westcott family with this tale of a man who neither expected, nor desired, to inherit an earldom, but is now determined to do right by everyone and repair the years of neglect wrought on the entailed estate by his predecessor in the title. The one snag is that while Alexander Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, has business acumen and experience in estate management, he lacks the resources to turn around the fortunes of his new estate quite as easily as he succeeded with his previously inherited property. Fortunately help is offered from an unexpected quarter in the guise of an unmarried female neighbour, who has recently inherited both property and considerable wealth.
Wren Heyden’s newly acquired fortune has come from trade, by way of her uncle, and guardian, who owned a very successful glassworks, and so she does not have an automatic pass into society, in spite of her wealth. Since being abandoned by her mother at an early age, Wren has been brought up as her uncle’s successor in the business and is aware of which of her unmarried male neighbours might be prepared to marry for money. Deeply traumatised by her terribly vain mother’s shame at having a daughter with a highly visible birthmark, Wren is convinced that no man could love her for her looks, yet she craves intimate relations with a man who will also provide her with the children she longs to bring up.
Alexander is actually Wren’s third attempt at wooing a suitable gentleman. The first two were lacking in appearance and personality, respectively; while Wren hides her marked face behind a veil, she still wants a man who is passable to look at and capable of holding entertaining conversations. Alexander is perhaps too qualified on both counts and is aware that while his family will accept Wren as she is, she will also have to spend time with others in Society who may be more judgmental. He, therefore, challenges Wren to accompany him to local social gatherings and then to spend time with his mother and sister in town, before he gives her an answer to her proposal.
Alexander’s family are, of course, awesome, as we have discovered in previous books, and it was good to get to know them better here. I enjoyed seeing Wren as an accomplished businesswoman exploring London and finding new possibilities for the products of her glassworks. I also adored Wren’s relationship with her maid, and liked seeing her mother get her comeuppance at the end. At times I felt that Alexander was a little too presumptive in his actions; however, sometimes his spontaneity was needed to solve other people’s problems in the nick of time. All in all, an enjoyable addition to the series.
Read Cecilia’s review here.
When Alexander Westcott becomes the new Earl of Riverdale, he inherits a title he never wanted and a failing country estate he can’t afford. But he fully intends to do everything in his power to undo years of neglect and give the people who depend on him a better life…
A recluse for more than twenty years, Wren Heyden wants one thing out of life: marriage. With her vast fortune, she sets her sights on buying a husband. But when she makes the desperate—and oh-so-dashing—earl a startlingly unexpected proposal, Alex will only agree to a proper courtship, hoping for at least friendship and respect to develop between them. He is totally unprepared for the desire that overwhelms him when Wren finally lifts the veils that hide the secrets of her past…
Read an excerpt.