Fans of Regency Romance are well advised to grab hold of Anne Stenhouse’s recent release, Bella’s Betrothal, an exciting and engrossing read, which gripped me from the first page. It contains murder, attempted kidnap and evil intent, family secrets, malicious gossip and mayhem, plus much wit and humour and engaging characters, not least the hero and heroine, whose sweet romance is at the heart of the plot.
In Regency Britain reputation is everything, no more so than amongst the Ton. So when Lady Isabella Wormsley, finds herself in a situation where she is the focus of gossip and innuendo most foul she is sent in disgrace to her aunt and uncle’s house in Edinburgh. En route her room at an inn is invaded by handsome Scottish Laird, Charles Lindsay, in a deliciously action packed and sexually charged scene. Charles has uncovered a plot to kidnap her by a rogue called Direlton, but Bella starts to wonders if Charles may be a more dangerous threat, at least to her heart.
Charles is a friend and neighbour of her Aunt Hatty Menzies and a regular visitor. Exiled by her unfeeling mama, Bella hopes the delivery of her young cousin’s baby will prove her own innocence. However, Bella’s presence disrupts the lives of everyone connected to her. Direlton makes another kidnap attempt and Charles comes to her rescue and is compromised. Only a betrothal will save his business and Bella’s reputation. Will the growing but unacknowledged love between Bella and her Scottish architect survive the evil machinations of Direlton and the scandal mongers?
I found the characters of Bella and Charles to be believable. Not only are they were well matched as a couple, but they are also interesting characters in their own right. Although Charles is a Laird, he is no lazy aristocrat. His work as an architect, gives him an outlet for his creativity. Bella is outspoken and headstrong, yet responsible and keen to protect those around her from damaging their own reputation by associating with her. Charles, recognising how his own reputation could be harmed initially resolves to have little to do with her. However, his conviction does not last long as he is wildly attracted to her and he cannot stop thinking about her. Moreover his strong sense of fair play and honour, not to mention his friendship with the Menzies, leaves him honour bound to help ease Bella into Edinburgh society. This of course means more contact with Bella, which only feeds their mutual attraction.
I liked the fact that Charles was very willing to protect Bella’s honour at all costs, not just against the gossips but also against those who wish her physical harm. There are many touching scenes between the couple as they grapple with their own feelings, whilst at the same time hiding their growing love from each other. Although a sweet romance the reader can certainly sense the passion the couple have for each other simmering below the surface in a number of heated scenes! Bella fears that Charles has only agreed to marry her to protect his business and Charles has his own insecurities to contend with, not least a meddling mama and a past in which he was betrayed by a woman. The villain Direlton and his cronies are ever present throughout the tale, adding considerable tension and danger to the plot.
The supporting characters were delightfully well drawn. I particularly liked how the author portrayed many of the women in the novel, especially Bella’s aunt and Charles’ mama and how Bella’s appearance and subsequent betrothal affected their friendship. Lackie, Charles’ man, helps keep Charles’ temper in check on numerous occasions and provided additional humour. The villain Direlton was credible and well motivated in his evil intent.
The author’s knowledge of the history, geography and architecture of the city of Edinburgh shines through in this novel. I found myself easily transported Regency Edinburgh and into the scenes that she painted with her words. The dialogue too was well crafted and sparkled throughout and this undoubtedly reflects the author’s experience as a playwright.
I recommend this novel to lovers of historical romance, especially Regency Romance. I enjoyed this book, which was a fast paced, entertaining and often humorous read, with characters I very quickly came to care about. I would definitely read more by this author and have put her previous novel, Mariah’s Marriage, on my reading list.
Reviewed by Tina Williams
A copy of Bella’s Betrothal was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest and fair review.
Released on September 20, 2013
Cover designer Charlotte Volnek
About the Author
ANNE STENHOUSE has always loved words. Reading them and using them greedily, she can’t truly remember a time when she couldn’t escape into the pages of a book and certainly can’t remember when she couldn’t talk and ask questions. Anne is a published and performed playwright. She studied both English and History at University in Edinburgh, and finds it a great joy to combine these two disciplines in her first novel, Mariah’s Marriage. Being a playwright means Anne loves dialogue and knows a piece is going well when she ‘begins to hear the characters talking to each other’. She has been a civil servant, full-time Mum and, for a while, a worker in an Addictions’ rehabilitation unit. Anne lives in Scotland with her husband and dancing partner of over thirty years. Their children and a grandchild are close by.
Author’s Other Works:
Love to Death, a one act play, New Theatre Publications