Friday, November 6, 2015

Bella and the Beast by Olivia Drake

Even a confirmed bachelor can meet his match. Because sometimes fairy tales do come true...
 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...
Series: Cinderella Sisterhood # 4 |  Publisher:  St. Martin's Press| Pub Date: November 3, 2015 | Genre: Historical Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4

I’m always looking for something a little different in my romances, so I was intrigued when I stumbled across the cover for Bella and the Beast and noticed that the heroine of a historical romance had a tattoo on her ankle. Then I read the description and knew that I had to read this book. 
Here’s what’s going on: Bella Jones has just returned to England with her younger siblings. Having been raised by her explorer father abroad, she doesn’t really fit into English society and she doesn’t really care. What she does care about is finding Aylwin, the man her father spoke of one his deathbed, and the ancient treasure that is half hers. When a friend of her father comes calling and offers her a way into the Duke’s household, she gladly accepts, even if it means honoring the lady’s odd request and wearing the red slippers.
Miles Grayson, Duke of Aylwin, has had enough of meddling women hoping to snare him into marriage. He wants to be left alone with his Egyptian antiquities then Bella shows up at his door. His first instinct is to refuse her, although he’s certain she has the answers about his father’s murder in Egypt all those years ago. Although her father already proved to him he couldn’t be trusted and he knows that Bella’s hiding something yet there’s an attraction blooming between.
Will their search for answers regarding a mystery that stems from their childhood bring them together or tear them apart? And does the Pharaoh’s treasure really exist?
Okay, so this was one of those books that I couldn’t put down. It kept me guessing and it kept me wondering if Bella and Miles were ever going to get it together.
The characters were truly intriguing but both have the potential to be unlikable to some readers.
Bella was very interesting and completely different from your normal historical romance heroines. She’s been raised abroad by her explorer father so she’s more than a little wild. She’s doesn’t fit in with the prim and proper English society and she’s okay with that. I liked that she doesn’t want to conform. She’s comfortable in her own skin and she can hold her own.
Oh, Miles, you surly thing, you. I think a lot of readers will probably have a problems with Miles, but I have a thing for dark, broody heroes so I thoroughly enjoyed most of Miles. There’s a lot going on with Miles and it’s slowly revealed as the plot unfolds but it sort of makes him, occasionally, come off as cold and distant. There’s a spot in the book where Miles definitely wins the ‘wanker of the year’ award and I wasn’t sure if he was going to get back in my good graces, but he does eventually redeem himself.
The relationship between Miles and Bella was fun to watch. Although Bella doesn’t remember it, she and Miles knew each other when they were children and I enjoyed watching him reveal their history.  While there is a slight spark of chemistry at the beginning, the novel starts with the two of them at each other’s throats and it takes away before they finally get into a comfortable groove.
Throughout the book a mystery slowly unravels regarding what happened in Egypt all those years ago, why Bella’s father left Miles with a man he hardly knew, the Pharaoh’s treasure, and ghostly specter lurking in the halls of Aylwin House. While I had my suspicions about what was going on it was still fun watching it play out and a few things that was revealed did surprise me.
There is a lot going on in this book.  And even though there was a lot of backstory and recollections thrown in, I felt that the pacing and plot sailed smoothly.  Each aspect from the mystery to the romance was balanced out and flesh-out. I wasn’t left wanting more and I love it when an author can find that perfect balance of history, mystery, and romance.   
Overall, this book, as a whole, was great. It was engaging, unique, vivid, and mysterious with a great romance thrown in. I enjoyed that this was a Victorian romance and the characters scholarly. Another plus was the fact that this book dealt with Egyptian artifacts.  
I was expecting something fresh, new, and exciting and I that’s exactly what I got.

Bella and the Beast is the fourth book in the Cinderella Sisterhood but it works perfectly as a standalone. This is the first book in the series that I’ve read and I did not encounter a single problem from missing the first three.

Cinderella Sisterhood Series
If the Slipper Fits
Stroke of Midnight
Abducted by a Prince
Bella and the Beast

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