Eloise Bridgerton has had her fair share of marriage proposals and turned them all down. She wants a love match, as impossible as that seems. While she waits for love, she is content to participate in society, and write copious amounts of letters. Just as her best friend and favorite brother are falling for each other, Eloise accidentally starts falling for her cousin’s widowed husband. When he invites her to visit, she decides to go and see if they would suit… without informing her family. As Eloise and Phillip, and his twins Oliver and Amanda, attempt to get along in a house filled with sad memories, a reckoning is on the way in the form of all four, very large, Bridgerton brothers. Will the quiet Phillip be up to their standards? Will Eloise be in it for the long haul, or will the sadness of the past push her over the edge?
This one doesn’t have as much character development as I always hope it will. We get a much better sense of Eloise’s personality in the other books, when she is a secondary character, than when she is the main focus. As a heroine, she nearly disappears except in the presence of Oliver and Amanda. Sir Phillip is so wrapped up in what he wants out of a second wife that he barely notices her, and then suddenly realizes just how dependent on her he has become. I wish he had been able to appreciate her varied character a little more, and I wish she had spoken up a bit more often, rather than attempting to smother her outspokenness so as not to scare him off. She never smothered that aspect of her personality before, so why now? That aspect of the character, of her being incredibly insecure when we’ve known her to be sure and steadfast throughout the series throws me every time. The ending definitely redeems Phillip, but I do tend to be quite frustrated with him by that point.
*** Trigger Warning for themes of suicide in this one, folks ***
Viola Kingsley has suffered a lot in the three years since the death of the man she thought was her husband. True, there has been much happiness as well; she has gained friends, a son-in-law, grandchildren, and found real love from a family she wishes she could claim as her own. But she still feels isolated in her misery, unable to process and move past the horrific events that she has been forced to live through. So she runs. She meant to go straight home and hide out alone for a month or so, but fate had other plans.
Marcel Lamarr is a haunted man. After the death of his young wife, he took up a life of frivolity and womanizing, unable to look after his two young children for more than a few days at a time. Over the past seventeen years, he has hidden from his obligations in every way he knows how. Until he runs into Viola, the woman who spurned his love fourteen years earlier. He tries to leave her in peace but instead finds himself running away with her, fleeing their lives entirely. As Marcel and Viola find their true selves again, their lives start to creep back in, and a split moment’s decision might cost them everything they’ve ever wanted.
Mary Balogh does a wonderful job bringing Marcel and Viola to life in this fourth book of the Westcott series. Whereas I felt disconnected from everyone in the last installment, I felt the emotions acutely in this volume. Viola and Marcel’s problems run deep. This is not a simple miscommunication mix-up. They have both glimpsed happiness and had all they hold dear taken away from them in the blink of an eye. These are not wounds that can be healed through any of the common methods, and Balogh goes above and beyond to bring the characters to the roots of their problems.
I am thrilled that Viola’s book went so well, and I can’t wait to see how Elizabeth fares in the next installment, due out at the end of this month.