SOMEONE TO HOLD: What it Meant to be a Bastard

Someone to Hold
By Mary Balogh
A Westcott Novel
Category: Historical Romance | Regency Romance
Published by Penguin Random House/Berkley
Feb 07, 2017
Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
400 Pages

I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.


A reversal of fortune befalls a young woman in the latest Westcott novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Only a Kiss and Someone to Love.
Humphrey Wescott, Earl of Riverdale, has died, leaving behind a fortune and a scandalous secret that will forever alter the lives of his family—sending one daughter on a journey of self-discovery…
With her parents’ marriage declared bigamous, Camille Westcott is now illegitimate and without a title. Looking to eschew the trappings of her old life, she leaves London to teach at the Bath orphanage where her newly discovered half-sister lived. But even as she settles in, she must sit for a portrait commissioned by her grandmother and endure an artist who riles her every nerve.
An art teacher at the orphanage that was once his home, Joel Cunningham has been hired to paint the portrait of the haughty new teacher. But as Camille poses for Joel, their mutual contempt soon turns to desire. And it is only the bond between them that will allow them to weather the rough storm that lies ahead…


My Take Oblong Shaped

As always Mary Balogh uses the forum of Regency Romance to look at issues in an historical context: In this novel I feel she looked at Illegitimacy as the overriding theme and to a smaller degree the birth of the modern woman.

In recent years being born out-of-wedlock (when I worked in public records it was the official term) has become normal.  I have tried without success to research the validity of being legitimate and then being made illegitimate when the father was party to the bigamy and the mother only knew about the bigamous nature of the marriage post-facto. I have found instance where children were not deemed illegitimate if at least one party did not know they were being married by a “false priest” (something I learned while working in public records) and while a man falsely representing himself as able to marry seems a similar case cannot find anything about that.

But, regardless of how one were made illegitimate, having been a member of the nobility and a bit of a snob, being made a bastard would have probably caused many to leap off a bridge.  This would be worse than any notoriety today other than a formal conviction for a heinous crime. 

Even beyond the societal loss, bastardy for Camille, who had held herself as the perfect regency lady, meant a loss of her very identity.  She had been a bit of a blank slate, would have been the perfect model of a Regency era wife and mother and literally skimmed through life. Love for her husband was not important; love of family was.

For whatever reason, Camille finds strength and rebuilds herself as a new woman; one with the need for a job.  In rebuilding herself, it seemed to me that Camille was conceiving of the new woman, freed from the strictures of society.  At the same time, she never truly loses access to the finer things in life because her family has not cast her out.

I felt that in her shock Camille realizes the perfidy of measuring one’s worth by legitimacy, by “nobility” or wealth. In her anger and in her acceptance by people in her family and outside she comes to understand the nature of love and allows herself to be loved. She gathers to herself the meaning of true nobility and accepts that people will love her outside of her social position, and that she is worthy of love for herself and not her title. 

She gets a job and understands the value, as well, of making one’s own way.

Joel is illegitimate, no one seems to recall his father’s name. The law of the time made him nobody’s child, but he was well-treated and fairly well educated.  His talents were nurtured and encouraged, which given other stories about orphans in the period makes the orphanage wherein he is raised very special.  He is more gallant and noble than Camille’s former fiance who turns out to be the basest of men.

In this book Balogh also discusses artistic process; something I love reading about. 

In examining bastardy Balogh looks at what it truly meant to be a bastard in Regency England. How it is ridiculous to base one’s position on whether one’s parents were legally wed.  Camille in losing her place, her half-sister gaining legitimacy and vast wealth is the simplest example of the flimsiness of the concept. And in the actions of Camille’s former fiance, and the more noble actions of the male love interest, she also demonstrates, easily, what it truly means to be noble.  In this story, as in that of the Bedwyn series, Balogh looks at how society’s rules and laws depend on the people in positions of wealth and power behaving responsibly and with the nobility they are granted by circumstance, and how that circumstance is a house of cards.

Highly recommended!


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