STARRED REVIEW
August 25, 2020

Someone to Romance

By Mary Balogh
Review by
Moments after laying eyes on Lady Jessica Archer, Gabriel Thorne decides that she is the woman he will marry. But this isn’t love at first sight. It’s not even like at first sight.
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Moments after laying eyes on Lady Jessica Archer, Gabriel Thorne decides that she is the woman he will marry. But this isn’t love at first sight. It’s not even like at first sight. Freshly returned to England to make a long overdue claim on his title and estate, he’s staying incognito, getting the lay of the land, when Jessica sweeps into the nondescript inn and asserts a superior claim to the private sitting room he’s reserved. He’s unimpressed with her arrogance. She’s unimpressed with his rudeness. Love is definitely not in the air, but matrimony . . . is?

Gabriel will need a wife by his side to manage the family drama he came to England to resolve. The right sort of wife—imperious, irreproachable, from the right family with the right upbringing, manners and connections. And Jessica, commencing her sixth (or possibly seventh—she’s lost count) season in London, is more than ready to settle down. While she’s always been praised as a “diamond of the first water,” encircled by a constant throng of smitten admirers (think of that barbeque scene from Gone with the Wind when all the men beg to be allowed to fetch Scarlett O’Hara’s dessert), she’s done with drifting through life. She has a plan to pick a groom that is every bit as practical as Gabriel’s plan to pick a bride.

Then they meet in the proper society setting, Gabriel makes his intentions clear—and everything goes off the rails. Jessica realizes, suddenly and deeply, exactly what she does and doesn’t want. And a strictly proper courtship, complete with stifling social calls, stiff dances and a constant evaluation of the assets that she brings into the match, is definitely on the “no” list. It doesn’t matter that she is highly valued on the marriage mart when her value has nothing to do with who she truly is inside. She demands that Gabriel find a way to romance her as a person. She doesn’t ask for love; if anything, she shies away from using that word. But she does demand to be respected for who she is rather than for her bank balance or her pedigree.

Up until that point, I was enjoying Balogh’s Someone to Romance as a stately, engaging dramedy of manners with lots of high-society escapism and the juicy fun of Gabriel’s family secrets. But when Jessica throws down that gauntlet, I started to really love this book. I admired Jessica’s strength and resolve, her determination to chart out her future on her own terms. And I was incredibly moved by Gabriel’s response to it—the tiny, deeply personal gestures with which he shows his growing esteem and trust. The happy marriage they build together is worlds away from the practical, businesslike matches they both anticipated at the start of the story, and yet it resolves in the sweetest of all imaginable happy endings.

This is a love story that earns the name on every level, not just for the love the hero and heroine find but also for the love you’ll feel for everyone involved by the time you reach the final page.

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Someone to Romance

Someone to Romance

By Mary Balogh
Berkley
ISBN 9781984802392

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