Bella and the Beast by Olivia Drake

Not the best cover I must admit
Not the best cover 
alternative cover pic
alternative cover pic

Published by St. Martin’s Press, 3rd Nov 2015, 352 pages, £5.18

Quick description: mysterious regency romance

Steam?: a lot

Plot: Bella Jones feels like a fish out of water in civilized England. Raised abroad by her explorer father, she’s amused by the very proper manners of the nobility. Nevertheless, to save her younger siblings from ruin, she must infiltrate a ducal household in order to find the map to an ancient treasure trove. Alas, the haughty, handsome duke stands in her way…unless she can tame his beastly temper, that is.
Miles Grayson, the Duke of Aylwin, prefers antiquities to, well, everything else. Especially prying females with their irksome questions. But Bella’s blue eyes and beguiling smile are improbably charming, and the temptation of her kiss is impossible to resist. As the pair is swept into a mystery that reaches back to their childhoods, Miles realizes that Bella has made the rarest discovery of all-the key to his heart…

This is my first time reading Olivia Drake and I must say its a very nice find. Its a good old regency romance with plenty of mystery thrown in. Lately, I have been veering into YA and General territories, so this book has grounded me back to solid romance and why I started this blog in the first place.

I must admit, the cover does not really do the plot much justice. And its these slightly cringey bodice-ripper covers that put women off reading romances- or admit to reading them. Do we need to be blatantly alerted that there’s sex in it? And who’s going to read the paperback on the tube? Although this feeling of embarrassment taps into a deeper problem related to female sexuality and literature, which is a whole other issue.

Anyway, this book is part of a series (Cinderella Sisterhood), but you do not need to have read the previous books to enjoy it. The plot description pretty much sells it all-a missing treasure map, ancient Egyptian mysteries and an undeniably handsome duke prowling around-  what more do you really need for a light read that helps you escape the drudgery of everyday life? How about if I say Bella is a lovely character. She lands in England, completely uncharted territory, having been used to living in Persia, and does not have a clue about social decorum. But she is brave, smart and knows how to survive. She is pretty much left with nothing and needs to support her younger siblings.

She enters the cold and dark Aylwin estate with her head held high and confronts the Duke to give her a job and would not take no for an answer. The fact that the place may hold the key to her father’s secrets was too tantalizing. Miles had been used to being alone with craters of artifacts, scrolls and sketchers. Bella is instantly a curious disturbance to his usual routine. For one thins she has a connection to his own father, and may be able to unlock mysteries that began when they were children. She is also the only other person his age that shares his passion with ancient history.

There’s no joke about it, he really is a beast. His aggressive manner and short temper instantly repulses Bella. And he does veer towards the rape-ish, but I do think the author quickly pulls it back in time before it gets disturbing. The chemistry between them is dynamite, totally swoon worthy. Bella gradually unveils that behind the monster is a sensitive man wrestling with the ghosts of his past. To complicate matters a murderer is on the loose, possibly someone close to them! So plenty to entertain yourself…

@OliviaDrake1

Thanks Amy Goppert at St. Martin’s for my review copy xxx

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