Spotlight on Mary Balogh | LibraryReads Author

The third title in Mary Balogh’s “Westcott” series (after Someone To Love and Someone To Hold), Someone To Wed moves up the line to the newly minted
Earl of Riverdale, Alexander Westcott. Finding himself with a title, numerous responsibilities, and a need for funds, can he accept an offer of marriage
from his reclusive neighbor? Via email, LJ asked the author about her latest work:

You went from a successful series about war survivors to one about
an aristocratic family in crisis.
What was involved in that transition?
I needed something different. Writing stories for seven wounded war heroes was wonderfully challenging and also a bit draining. So for my next series I decided I needed a family saga. That involved creating a multimember, multigenerational family and plunging them into an opening crisis that would give rise to a number of individual stories—all love stories, of course. It meant shifting my focus from the angst of the Napoleonic Wars and their effects upon those who fought in them to the troubles big and small that face a family and [test] the bonds of their relationships.

Rowena (Wren) Heyden is nearly 30 years old and has been sheltered owing
to a port-wine stain. What led to that choice?
I don’t always know what makes me choose one thing over another. But I did need something that had been with her since birth. A scar would have been acquired later and some other physical limitation might not have been so revolting to her mother, who could not bear to admit anything imperfect into her presence. I didn’t want anything that caused Wren physical pain or that limited her in any physical way. But I did want something that would be with her for life, something she would have to face and accept eventually if she was to be worthy of being called a heroine.

What research was required to tackle Wren’s psychological trauma?
None at all. It is all in the power of the imagination as it was with each of the wounded heroes in the “Survivors’ Club” series. I put myself soul-deep into my characters until I know what it is like to live their lives with all their strengths and limitations, joys and pains. I reread and rewrite constantly in the course of producing a book until eventually I “get it.” It doesn’t always or even often come right from the start. It takes a great deal of thought and imaginative identification until I’m there, indistinguishable from my character. Actually, it is the joy of writing!

Alexander remarks that “he is the proverbial handsome man of fairy tales,”
yet he is open to the possibility of a relationship with this deeply troubled woman.
How did you conceive of his character?
From the start of the series, [Alexander] is an honorable man. After his father died, he remained at home, saving it from the neglect it had suffered as a result of the older man’s extravagance. He had just accomplished that and looked forward to turning his attention to finding some personal happiness when he unexpectedly inherited his title and the impoverished property that went with it. He could have neglected his inheritance. He really did not want it. But it was something his character would not allow him to do. His responsibilities, unwanted though they were, must be put before personal gratification because there were people involved—workers and servants who depended upon him. When he met Wren, who offered her fortune in return for marriage, he had to act true to character. He could not marry her for money alone. He could marry her only if he could feel some degree of respect and affection for her. And so it went on. Like most of my characters, Alexander created himself.

Not to give too much away, but Lady Hodges is a unique character.
What was your inspiration for her?
I wanted a vain and selfish woman as Wren’s mother so that Wren’s harrowing childhood was explained as well as her longtime reclusiveness. The mother soon revealed herself to be far more than just vain and selfish. She is an extreme example of a narcissist. There is only one way such a person can behave. She was not difficult to write once I knew who she was. Though such extreme narcissism is fortunately rare, I don’t think she is a caricature.

The entire Westcott family make appearances in the books. Did you know starting out which ones would have their own stories or do they speak up as you write?
I didn’t know in what order the stories would be told, but I did know who would get a story….
I have to set things up [so] there is enough material for a whole series. [When] I created
the Westcotts I knew there would be eight stories—for Anna, Camille, Alexander, Viola,
Elizabeth, Jessica, Abigail, and Harry…. The series explores the nature and meaning of family.
I want to show how adversity can either destroy a family or draw it closer together. With the Westcotts, the latter happens. A number of the [relatives] will not have stories of their own,
but they have an important role to play in the series anyway, and I love them all.—­
Kristin Ramsdell & Bette-Lee Fox

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