About the Book:
Sometimes, just one person can pull a whole family apart. And sometimes, it just takes one person to pull it back together. New York Times bestselling Regency Romance author Mary Balogh shows how love truly conquers all in this new Friends of the Westcotts novel.
As a young man, Justin Wiley was banished by his father for mysterious reasons, but now, his father is dead, and Justin has been Earl of Brandon for six years. A dark, dour man, he, nonetheless, takes it as his responsibility to care for his half-sister, Maria, when her mother dies. He travels to her home to fetch her back to the family seat at Everleigh Park.
Although she adored him, once, Maria now loathes Justin, and her friend, Lady Estelle Lamarr, can see, immediately, how his very name upsets her. When Justin arrives and invites Estelle and her brother to accompany Maria to Everleigh Park to help with her distress, she begrudgingly agrees, for Maria’s sake.
As family secrets unravel in Maria’s homecoming, Justin, too, uncovers his desire for a countess. And, while he may believe he’s found an obvious candidate in the beautiful 25-year-old Lady Estelle, she is most certain that they could never make a match…
Read an Excerpt:
Temptation was not to be resisted, Estelle decided at last, perhaps because she did not put up any great fight against it. She pulled off her shoes and set them neatly beside her, peeled off her stockings and pressed them into the shoes so they would not go wafting away in the breeze, folded the lower half of her skirt neatly over her knees so that some remnant of modesty would be preserved, and lowered her feet gingerly into the river. She gasped at the coldness of the water, but she lowered her legs farther, wiggling her toes as she did so, and found that they quickly adapted. And oh goodness, it felt delicious.
This was pure bliss.
Until, that was, she became aware of someone panting— someone who was not her. And then she heard low, menacing growls. And then angry barking. Her eyes flew open and she whipped her head about to see a huge monster of a dog dashing toward her across the grass, all bared teeth and ferocity and flying spittle and giant paws. If Estelle had not been half paralyzed with terror, she might well have jumped screaming right into the river. Instead she sat up sharply, spread her hands before her face, palms out, fingers spread, and cried out. Something idiotic like, “Good doggie,” she thought afterward. By then she hoped fervently she had not actually said doggie.
“Heel, Captain!” The voice that snapped out the command came from somewhere behind Estelle. It was a harsh masculine voice—and instantly effective. The dog stopped in its tracks, a mere six feet from Estelle and towering over her. It growled menacingly once, tipped its head to one side, one brown ear flopping against its head, the other swinging free, black jowls quivering, black nose twitching, black eyes glaring death and destruction—and turned to trot to where the voice had come from.
Estelle sucked in a deep breath of air, perhaps the first since she had heard the panting. She turned more fully, drawing her feet from the water at the same time, curling her legs under her, and pulling her skirt down over them. All a bit too late for modesty.
People never came this way. Well. Almost never.
He was astride a massive horse, an equally massive man, or so he appeared to Estelle from her vantage point close to the ground. Oh dear God, her hair was all about her in a half-tangled, untidy mass. Her dress was soggy and clinging to her bare legs. He, on the other hand, was immaculately clad for riding, a man with wide shoulders and a broad chest and powerful-looking thighs. He was dark and dour of countenance, though the fact that his tall hat was pulled low over his brow and cast his face in shadow might account for at least part of that impression. His black-faced brown bloodhound panted up at him as though awaiting the order to attack and kill.
He was some distance away from Estelle, holding his horse quite still while he regarded her in silence. He made no apology. He asked for no assurance that she was unharmed. He uttered no greeting of any sort. Except that even as she noted this he touched his whip to the brim of his hat and inclined his head perhaps an inch and a half in her direction. Then he rode down the track, across the bridge, in among the trees that lay beyond the bank on the other side, and disappeared.
After that one slight acknowledgment of her existence he had not once looked her way.
Estelle gaped after him. She was trembling, she realized.
From SOMEONE PERFECT published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Mary Balogh.
As a boy, Justin Wiley, had an ideal childhood, with fun and loving parents who lavished him with affection and attention. Much of the light went out of Justin’s life when his mother died when he was only ten, but he and his father became closer because of their shared grief. It shocked Justin when four years later, his father announced he would be immediately remarrying, and to a young woman only four years older than Justin. When this marriage produced a daughter, Maria, Justin fell in love with his young half-sister. For eight years he protected, played with, and cared for Maria, while doing his best to tolerate his stepmother. Then the incident happened – one that tore the family apart. Justin has been forever banished from his father’s sight, ordered away from the home, and not even allowed to tell his beloved sister goodbye. The intervening twelve years have been hard for Justin, now thirty four. He had to become a manual laborer, and live a life totally unlike the one he was brought up in. When he learned that his father had died, he sent his stepmother and sister off to live elsewhere and returned home to take up the duties of Earl of Brandon, a dour, sober, and joyless man. Upon learning of his stepmother’s death, he decides it’s time to bring Maria home. Maria, however, hates the brother she once loved, and has put up barriers which won’t let him get close to her.
Lady Estelle Lamarr also knows the pain of family loss. She and her twin brother, Bertrand, lost their mother in a terrible accident when they were only a year old. Their guilt ridden father abandoned them to the care of their aunt, only visiting them briefly and sporadically, never becoming close to them. It was only when Estelle became an adult that she confronted her father, cleared the air of misunderstandings, and set in motion a loving relationship. Now twenty-five, Estelle wonders if she’ll ever meet her SOMEONE PERFECT – a light, joyful, caring man, one who will definitely have blue eyes. When Estelle’s friend, Maria, is about to be removed to her brother’s home, Justin invites Estelle and Bertrand to visit for a while, hoping the presence of friends will ease some of the awkwardness between the estranged siblings. Estelle’s initial opinion of Justin is intense dislike, but her desire to aid her friend overcomes her reluctance. She and Bertrand set off for Justin’s house party, which will also be attended by members of both Justin’s and Maria’s extended families.
A house party has the distinction of putting guests in close proximity for an extended period of time, making it hard to avoid people. This can be good, or, very, very bad. Maria went in with a chip on her shoulder, with preconceived notions, thanks to her mother. She believes the worst of Justin, his relatives, and her own relations. As truths begin to be revealed, albeit, quite painfully, it becomes clear that Justin was the victim, not the villain.
SOMEONE PERFECT is yet another example of Mary Balogh’s excellent writing. Justin’s story is truly heartbreaking, especially as we see glimpses of the joyful family he had as a boy. The sunny, happy child he was became a sad, somber man, one who makes no effort to defend himself against false accusations. He immediately was attracted to Estelle, but she made no secret of her dislike of him. As the days pass, Estelle sees the caring side of Justin, and even before the past is revealed, she comes to believe that he was not the guilty party. It soon becomes clear that Estelle’s supposed dislike is her own fear of the intense attraction she feels for Justin. I adore how their love developed, and how Estelle’s light brought life and light back to Justin. Seeing him smile, and hearing him really laugh brought some happy tears. I especially love how the story didn’t end with their mutual declaration of love, but told of the days leading up to their wedding, and the beautiful notes Justin sent Estelle every day. The families are as essential as characters as the two leads are, not only Justin’s, but Estelle’s, as she is connected to the Westcott family. I suppose it’s helpful to have read previous Westcott novels in this series, just to keep track of who’s who, but it’s not necessary. SOMEONE PERFECT is a heartwarming, romantic, and sentimental novel, one which touched my emotions. Family, romance, redemption, and reconciliation make this a keeper novel for me. ~Rose