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 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 Lady Estelle, she is most certain that they could never make a match.
Mary Balogh has written more than one hundred historical novels and novellas, several of which have been New York Times bestsellers. They include the Bedwyn saga, the Simply quartet, the Huxtable quintet, the seven-part Survivor’s Club series, and the Westcott series. Learn more online at marybalogh.com.
Tracy’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Westcott, #9
Release Date: November 30, 2021
Justin Wiley, the Earl of Brandon has come to Prospect Hall to collect his younger half-sister Maria and bring her home to Everleigh Park. For the last six years, since their father’s death, Maria and her mother have lived at Prospect Hall, but when her mother died a year ago, Maria has lived there with only her governess/companion and even though Justin knows she dislikes him, he is determined to bring her home and introduce her to society.
He knows it will not be easy on either of them, but he truly loves his sister and wants what is best for her. Years ago they were close, but at the age of 22 Justin’s father turned him out and all but disowned him, so he has not seen her in years and has no idea what stories his stepmother told her about him. So to smooth her transition, he asks her neighbor and good friend Lady Estelle Lamarr, the daughter of the Marquess of Dorchester, and her twin brother Bertrand, Viscount Watley to join a house party he has put together – he hopes having her friends near will ease the transition. But Justin is not prepared for his reaction to Estelle and soon wonders if he could tempt her into becoming his countess!
Lady Estelle is positive that she and Justin will never suit – but the more time she spends with him, the more she wonders why he was sent away – society at large has offered many theories over the years, but none seem to fit the man she has come to know. But as it happens, secrets have a way of coming to light and the truth is almost more shocking and painful than any scenario she could have imagined. Can she help him heal from the past and find that this dour, imperfect man is in reality, her someone perfect?
This was a well-written, gentle read, with wonderful characters and a good helping of emotion. The romance between Justin and Estelle is slow-burning and doesn’t always feel like the prime focus of the book and it is a bit on the wordy side, but it is a lovely story nonetheless. The book has wonderful secondary characters, warmish love scenes, secrets, heartache, regrets, and an especially fun, sweet relationship between Estelle and her twin Bertrand before culminating in a very nice HEA. This book is part of the Westcott series, but it is loosely connected and you should have no problem reading this book as a standalone title.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*