Even a confirmed bachelor can meet his match.Because sometimes fairy tales do come true...
OF ALL THE FABLED TREASURES
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.
THE MOST PRECIOUS ONE IS LOVE
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...
The Cinderella Sisterhood series is:
"Filled with romance [and] breathtaking passion."-Night Owl Reviews
"Magical."-Once Upon a Romance
"Sensual...engaging...beautiful."-RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Olivia Drake, who also writes as Barbara Dawson Smith, is the author of the Heiress in London series (Seducing the Heiress, Never Trust a Rogue, and Scandal of the Year). She has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 1981, and her novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Best Historical Romantic Suspense and Best Regency Historical from Romantic Times, and the prestigious RITA award. She lives in Houston, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
Bella and the Beast
By Olivia Drake
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Barbara Dawson Smith
All rights reserved.
Clarissa, the Countess of Milford, was sorely in need of a project.
Seated at the breakfast table, she buttered a slice of toast while reflecting on the dilemma. She had risen from the ashes to marry an earl. Then, as a young widow, she had enjoyed a scandalous love affair with a prince. She had led a full life as a doyenne of London society. Now, her fondest ambition was to give other women a chance at happiness, too.
Clarissa reached for the morning newspaper. Turning the pages to the gossip column, she scanned the names of notable debutantes who had attended the previous night's ball. Those pampered ladies, however, stirred no interest in her.
She was hoping to find mention of a lowly chaperone or a penniless companion. Such women were the forgotten of society, too often ignored or mistreated. They were wallflowers doomed to spinsterhood by undeserved misfortune.
Surely there had to be one in need of a matchmaker.
In the few weeks since the start of the season, Clarissa had searched in vain for the perfect girl. There had been several possibilities, but none had seemed quite right. None had stirred a flash of intuition in her. And none had inspired her to lend out the enchanted garnet slippers.
Sipping cream tea from a blue porcelain cup, Clarissa finished reading the news sheet. As she was closing it with a sigh, a man stepped into the dining chamber. Hargrove was the quintessential butler in a black tailcoat, pristine gloves, and cropped white hair. His harsh, stoic features masked his inner thoughts.
Clarissa set down her teacup and regarded him with great interest. He never disturbed her breakfast without good cause.
Hargrove reached the linen-draped table and inclined his head in a bow. "Madam, the one you were seeking has returned to England."
Clarissa gazed up at him in perplexity. Hargrove was a man of few words, and it took a moment to grasp his meaning. Then a frisson of interest prickled her skin. Pushing back her chair, she rose to her feet. "Isabella Jones? Are you quite certain it's she?"
"Indeed." Hargrove stepped forward to hand her a folded paper. "This arrived from Oxford not ten minutes ago."
The red wax seal had been broken, for the letter was addressed to Hargrove. The cheap paper felt rough to the touch. Opening it, Clarissa scanned the cramped penmanship, and the message brought a delighted smile to her lips.
"Most extraordinary," she said, returning the letter to the butler. "Miss Jones has been abroad for most of her life. For her to return now, and still unmarried at her advanced age ... well, I must confess that I never imagined your search would be so fruitful. Or so swift."
"Perhaps, my lady, some things are fated."
Not for the first time, Clarissa wondered if Hargrove knew more than he let on. Although he was her most loyal servant, she had never revealed to him the mystical power of the garnet slippers. That secret had been entrusted to her long ago, when Clarissa had been an orphaned girl, disinherited by her wealthy stepmother and ridiculed by her two stepsisters. At the lowest moment of her life, banished to the kitchen as a servant after her dear papa's death, Clarissa had taken pity on a Gypsy crone who had come begging at the back door. She had fed the old woman a hot meal, and in return, the Gypsy had presented her with the exquisite beaded shoes.
The slippers would fit only a girl who was worthy of true love.
Clarissa left the breakfast table and glided to the tall window overlooking the street. She gazed down at the carriages and pedestrians for a moment, then turned back to the butler. "I've another mission for you," she said. "This one will require considerable finesse. The Duke of Aylwin must be convinced that he is in dire need of an assistant. Discreetly, of course."
"At once, madam."
With a bow, Hargrove departed the dining chamber. Clarissa knew that she could depend on him to take care of the matter. He had a far-flung web of contacts worthy of a master spy for the Crown — indeed, that had been his vocation during the Napoleonic wars.
Her thoughts returned to the pleasure of the unexpected news. At last she had found the perfect wife for the reclusive Duke of Aylwin. Someone who could entice him out of his beastly guise and back into the world of the living.
At least she hoped so.
Would the slippers fit? Would Miss Isabella Jones become the newest member of the Cinderella Sisterhood?
Clarissa could scarcely wait to find out.CHAPTER 2
Bella Jones stopped to read the small card in the window of the dress shop in Oxford. She had been trudging along the busy street, not heeding the stylish gowns on display behind the glass panes, for such luxuries were far beyond her reach. Then her attention had been caught by the square of white pasteboard propped in the lower corner of the window.
SEAMSTRESS WANTED. EXPERIENCE REQUIRED.
A jolt of hope struck her heart. Bella desperately needed to earn a wage in order to support her brother and sister. She'd tried to be a tutor, but all of her inquiries had come to naught. Learned scholars abounded in this university town, men with advanced degrees in science and mathematics and literature. No one would hire a female whose education had consisted of studying archaic texts while trekking with her father through foreign lands. No one wanted a woman who could speak the Farsi language like a native Persian, or who could recite long passages from the Ramayana in the original Hindi.
When Papa had died in Persia nearly a year ago, he had left his three orphaned children a cottage in faraway Oxford — and a promise of riches beyond their wildest imagination. So Bella had scraped together the funds to purchase passage to England. She and her siblings had left their tiny hut in the mountains, trekked by mule caravan across the Mesopotamian deserts, and sailed what seemed like halfway around the world in order to fulfill her father's last request.
Return to Oxford, Papa had gasped out on his deathbed, clutching at her hands. Promise me. Find Aylwin. Find the map. You have half ... the pharaoh's treasure.
Amid her grief and worry, Bella had been sustained by a vision of gold and jewels. She had resolved to find Mr. Aylwin, ask him about the map, and demand Papa's half portion of the pharaoh's treasure. Then she would be free from the yoke of poverty. There'd be no more fretting about food or clothing or books or a dozen other household expenses.
Upon their arrival the previous month, Bella had made inquiries among the townsfolk of Oxford. She had questioned the postmaster, the butcher, the vicar. But no one had ever heard of a man named Mr. Aylwin, and finally she had been forced to conclude that Papa must have been rambling nonsense. He had been incoherent from the high fever that had claimed his life.
They had journeyed to England for nothing.
There was no Mr. Aylwin. There was no treasure map, either. A pharaoh's riches would not save them from the poorhouse. That bitter truth lodged like a stone in her craw. Ever since, Bella had scoured the newspaper advertisements for work. She had gone to dozens of interviews, but to no avail.
Now, she lifted her gaze to the gold lettering on the window glass: FOTHERGILL'S FASHION EMPORIUM.
Perhaps no one here would deign to employ a woman who knew little of English style. With a single glance at her brown skirt with its gold-spangled trim and the crimson blouse belted in the traditional Persian fashion, they would scorn her as a foreign bumpkin.
Bella tugged the green knitted shawl tightly about her shoulders. Blast it, why should appearances matter so long as she could sew a straight seam? She certainly knew how to ply a needle — tedious though the task might be. Hadn't she always mended Papa's shirts and trousers? Hadn't she stitched every article of clothing for Lila and Cyrus until her sister had grown old enough to undertake the chore?
On that righteous thought, Bella pushed open the door of the dress shop and stepped into a beehive of activity. The buzz of conversation filled the high-ceilinged room. Swarms of ladies flitted from table to table, their lacy sleeves and kid-gloved hands fluttering over the displays of rich fabrics and lavish trimmings.
As busy as it was, however, the shop had an aura of refinement unlike the crowded bazaars of the East. Instead of shouting merchants and haggling customers, the black-clad salesmen here looked as elegant as the ladies they served.
Bella knew the moment one of those shop assistants spied her standing by the door. The scrawny man had dark beady eyes that narrowed directly on her. Beneath a long mustache, his lips pursed as if he'd bitten into an unripe pomegranate. He started toward her, but a lady stepped into his path and he turned with a pretentious smile to show her a tray of buttons.
Bella had no desire to be ejected by an underling. She needed to find the owner of the shop.
Keeping her head down, she slipped past the throngs of customers and made her way toward the rear where a door surely led to the offices. The variety of fine articles for sale dazzled the eye. Like women the world over, these English ladies liked to adorn themselves with myriad ornaments. There were boxes of colorful beads, cards of intricate lace, collections of ostrich and peacock feathers. Along the back wall, a display of multihued cloth drew her like a lodestone.
There she paused, unable to resist touching a sheer bronze silk. The fabric was so light that it slithered through her fingers like falling water. A distant memory stirred in her. As a girl, she'd entered their hut one afternoon to find her mother wearing a gown sewn of a similar fabric. The precious garment had always been kept tucked away in a trunk during their travels. But on that particular day, Papa had been off on an overnight exploration, and Mama had remarked wistfully that it was their wedding anniversary. So she had donned her bride dress, the only link to her life back in England.
A lump ached now in Bella's throat. Mama had never had the chance to return home to Oxford. She had died some fifteen years ago, shortly after giving birth to the twins ...
"Remove your hands at once," a male voice hissed from behind. "That is French silk from Paris."
Bella dropped the cloth and spun around. It was the man in the black suit. From close-up, he had taut shiny skin like the carapace of a beetle. When he curled his lips in disdain, the ends of his long mustache waggled like antennas.
Bella lifted her chin. "I wish to speak to the proprietor."
The man snatched up the length of silk, turning it to and fro as if to assure himself it hadn't been soiled or torn. "I am Mr. Fothergill and this is my establishment. You must depart these premises at once. There is nothing here that you could possibly afford."
"I came to inquire about the position of seamstress."
His scornful gaze crawled over her foreign garb. "The post has been filled."
He was lying, she could tell by his shifty manner. "But the sign is still there in the window."
"Do you dare to question my word? Out with you now. Gypsies are not permitted on these premises."
Bella stiffened. Even abroad, Gypsies were regarded as tricksters and thieves. "Sir, you are mistaken —"
Her words broke off as Fothergill seized hold of her upper arm, his fingers biting like pincers. Without further ado, he hauled her toward the front of the shop.
Many of the customers turned to stare, whispering and exclaiming, some arching their necks to get a better view of the spectacle. One young blond lady in a pink bonnet said something to her friends and they all laughed aloud. From them, the tittering swept the large room in a wave that inundated Bella and completed her humiliation.
Heat burned her cheeks. During previous interviews, she had detected a certain suspicion in the faces of those to whom she had applied for a post. People had seemed wary of a woman in foreign garb. But none had been so scornful as these posh aristocrats who viewed her as an object of ridicule, as if she were dirt beneath their well-shod feet.
Their laughter sliced deeply into Bella's pride. The weeks of fretting and frustration already had eroded her confidence. A part of her wanted to cringe, to scuttle away in shame. Yet another part, a fierce primitive core, imbued her with a volatile fury. The force of it rose in her like a tide of fire.
Nearing the front door, Bella reached beneath her robes and drew out an ivory-hilted dagger from its hidden sheath. The ancient metal blade emerged with a metallic snick.
She pressed the tip beneath Fothergill's chin. "Filthy dog! Release me at once!"
The shopkeeper halted, paralyzed. His dark eyes bulged. The manacle of his fingers let loose of her arm.
Gasps rose from the ladies. Several screamed. They shrank back in alarm, skirts rustling and feet scraping.
Fothergill's air of snooty authority had vanished. His face took on the paleness of a corpse. The trembling of his lips made his mustache quiver. "P-please!" he gurgled. "Don't ... don't kill me!"
Bella kept the tip of the knife beneath his chin. She relished his fear. She wanted the insect to squirm. It proved he was no more her superior than the bandit who'd crept into her tent in the deserts of Chaldea, intent on stealing her purse.
That one had fled howling into the night, dripping blood.
One of the onlookers let out a sob of fright. A glance around showed the ladies were staring at her in wide-eyed terror. She had lingered here too long. "I'll spare your miserable hide this time," Bella hissed. "But the next woman you mistreat may not be so generous."
She slid the dagger back into its sheath at her waist.
Fothergill staggered sideways. He clutched at his throat, gingerly rubbed it, then examined his hand for blood. Seeing none, he drew himself up. "Blasted dirty Gypsy!" he sputtered. "The magistrate shall hear about this!"
The word cast a chill over Bella. She could ill afford trouble.
Turning, she yanked open the door and dashed outside into the cloudy spring afternoon. She took off down the busy street, zigzagging past housewives with shopping baskets, dons in black robes, and ladies peering into shop windows. Behind her, Fothergill alternately shouted for a constable and implored someone to stop her.
She evaded the grasping hands of a stooped old workman and then a white-aproned chemist who had stepped out of his apothecary shop. The other pedestrians gave her wide berth. Determined to elude arrest, she plunged into the heavy traffic on the cobbled road, dodging a wagon filled with large barrels. Too late, she spied a fancy yellow carriage coming along at a fast clip.
It almost ran her down. The skittish chestnut danced sideways. Despite the efforts of the driver, the animal veered too close to the foot pavement. A stack of wooden crates in front of the greengrocer's crashed to the ground.
Fruits and vegetables rolled in all directions. The proprietor shouted curses as the hapless gentleman reined in the wild-eyed horse. People went scrambling after the goods. Several urchins began stuffing their pockets with strawberries and oranges.
Bella seized advantage of the distraction by losing herself in the multitude of shoppers. She slowed her steps to a swift walk to avoid drawing attention. Making a quick turn at the nearest corner, she slipped down an alleyway, hurrying along before emerging into a tree-lined neighborhood.
Clouds hung low, heavy and gray, swollen with rain. The cool air smelled of dampness and coal smoke. Bella cast a furtive glance over her shoulder to make certain that no one was following. There were only a few people outside, and thankfully, none paid her any heed as she headed rapidly past a row of brick town houses.
The stone buildings of the university were visible over the rooftops, along with the tall pointy spire of St. Mary the Virgin's Church. Though new to the bustling town, Bella had learned to orient herself by those landmarks to keep from getting lost during her hunt for work.
Work. She was still unemployed. Having made a spectacle of herself, had she ruined any chance at all of securing a post?
Excerpted from Bella and the Beast by Olivia Drake. Copyright © 2015 Barbara Dawson Smith. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. At times I liked it and at times I thought "how much longer". I liked both the hero and heroine, both were strong characters, both had a difficult up bring and Bella had a back bone of steel. I guess I just didn't like the story itself. It didn't flow well and and got boring at times. The H/h spent a lot of the book by themselves even though they were in the same house. The best of the book was when Bella and Miles were together and interacting with each other, then the book made sense and was exciting.
Waiting for more!
Clarissa, the Countess of Milford has been lucky in life and feels the need to help other young women find happiness as well. She wants to find the perfect candidate, such as a wallflower, on whom she can bestow her help. Clarissa has a pair of magic beaded slippers and only if a young woman is worthy of true love, will the slippers her as they had fit Clarissa. Miss Isabella Jones, age 29, desperately needs a job to support herself and her 15-year-old twin brother and sister. Their mother passed away when the twins were born leaving Isabella to raise them. Their father, Sir Seymour Jones, was a scholar and they lived in Persia until her father’s recent passing. Isabella was summoned by the Countess who told her that Miles Grayson, the fifth Duke of Alywin was in need of a curator for his vast Egyptian artifacts. The Duke lives in a huge mansion and is known to be a recluse. Isabella is delighted because her father worked with the Duke’s father gathering artifacts in Egypt. On her father’s deathbed, he told her to find a certain document which would prove that she now owns half of the treasures. Isabella was then given the shoes without knowing their magical powers. The shoes fit perfectly. When Isabella applied for the job with the Duke, he was rather skeptical that she was the person he remembered when they were children. But he allows her to begin the job by starting in a roomful of minor artifacts. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse between the two of them as she makes headway in documenting the artifacts while at the same time trying to find the proof that her father mentioned. Alywin is a mean and crabby man which makes it difficult for Isabella to reach out to him. The mansion has very little staff and is dark and vast. Add to the mix the Duke’s heir and his wife pushing their way into the home always looking for more money from Alywin and trying to take over. We encounter mummies and the idea of curses for people that disturb them. Isabella and Alywin soon find an attraction and a love affair sparks between them. Will Isabella find the proof she seeks to allow her to claim half of the treasure? Can she hide her own secrets from Alywin if she is falling in love with him? I liked this book but found it to be a bit tedious at times. I would have awarded it less stars but I realized that the author obviously put a lot of research into the background of the story and her descriptions were great. All of these things need to be taken into consideration when rating a novel. Copy provided by the the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Bella and the Beast; A Cinderella Sisterhood Novel. It is the story of Bella and Miles. The most precious treasure of well known fables is love: sometimes fairy tales can come true. Even a confirmed bachelor can meet his perfect match. Bella Jones has been raised overseas by her explorer father. She is entertained by the customary etiquette of nobility, but she can feel like a fish out of water when she returns to cultured England. In order the save her younger siblings from financial disaster, she must gain access to a ducal household to find the map to an ancient collection. Unless she can ply the proud, handsome duke from his fits of bad moods, it will be a worthless attempt. The Duke of Aylwin, Miles Grayson, prefers antiquities above all else. He especially doesn't like meddling females with all their irritating questions. Miles is charmed by Bella's blue eyes and smile. She is unusually enchanting, and he has trouble resisting the temptation to kiss her. The pair are suddenly involved in a mystery going back to their childhoods. Miles realizes that Bella the key to his heart, the most valuable discovery. This was a romantic story with passion, stirrings, and mystery. I enjoyed it and will look forward to reading other books in this series.
It has been a really long time since I have read a historical romance book and after reading this well-written and emotional story, I don't know why I haven't read more before this. Totally enjoyable and grabs you from the beginning. Look forward to more.
Bella and the Beast is my first book by Olivia Drake. I was impressed with Ms Drake's writing. Miles and Bella's story is a fun read and a well written book. The characters in Bella and the Beast are fantastic, I like the way Bella breaks the rules, who doesn't enjoy a feisty heroine. This book has plenty of drama, a bit of action and suspense and a bit of spice. I enjoyed reading Bella and the Beast and look forward to reading more from Olivia Drake in the future. Bella and the Beast is book 4 in the Cinderella Sisterhood series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.
This is book 4 in the Cinderella Sisterhood series. Bella Jones is determined to get the legacy her father told her about on his deathbed, but she is uncertain as to how to go about it until she gets a visit by the Countess of Milford. With the countess's help, Bella gets a job helping to catalogue artifacts for the Duke of Aylwin. She hopes that looking through the artifacts will uncover the map that her father left her. Having become the Duke at a young age, Miles does everything in his power to make his dead father proud of him. Top on his list is getting the artifacts that the former duke got Egypt catalogued and organized. Not wanting another person his his life, he is intrigued enough with Bella upon meeting her that her hires her to help. It also helps that she is the daughter of his former mentor and he is also looking for answers. What happens when Miles finds out the real reason that Bella is working for him? Do his feeling for her outway the lies she has told? I really enjoyed this story. I'm a huge fan of Ancient Egypt so it was very interesting to have the history of the country play a part in the storyline. The interaction between the H/H was interesting to read as neither trusted the other. But as they spent more and more time together, their attraction for each other won out and they ended up working together to solve both of their mysteries. I can't wait to see what Drake has in store for us next! Thanks go out to St. Martin's Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
This is book four in "Cinderella Sisterhood" series. This is also my first book that I have read in the series (which I am quickly trying to correct!), so for me this is a stand alone book. Reading out of the series is not a problem but I must admit that it just made me want to read the other books in the series and by this author! This book was that good! I just loved this book and so enjoyed reading it. It does have some emotional ties..sad, funny, aggravating but those are usually the best books when they bring out your emotions for the characters. Our heroine is Belle Jones, her father has past and she is trying to raise a brother and sister with no real income. Her father on his deathbed tells her to return to England (they travel a lot on excursions for her fathers work) and find Aylwin who has what she thinks is a treasure map that the find should be half hers (and her siblings). Sir Jones (Bella's father) and Aylwin worked together in Egypt, which is also part of the mystery here. Bella, her brother and sister all go to England, where Bella is lead into a job for the Duke of Aylwin. Bella had been looking for a Mr.Aylwin and did not know he was a Duke. Our hero, Miles is Duke of Aylwin and is what they call a "beast" because of his attitude. At first, Miles does not believe her to be who she says. Miles does remember her father and his daughter but she doesn't look like the little girl he remembers. So they go through several questions and she does have one thing that he knows about that would prove who she is...so she must show him that. When he does hire Bella, we find that they both have alternative motives for doing so. This starts their great and stormy love affair that I truly enjoyed and so hope that you do too!!
Excellent historical romance! Bella was raised abroad by her explorer father, on his death bed, he tells her to find the other half of a treasure map. She begins working for the Duke of Aylwin to find the map but also finds a way into his heart. Great read, plenty of drama and the chemistry is hot. Loved it!
Bella and the Beast, the fourth book in Olivia Drake's Cinderella Sisterhood series was a sophisticated spin on the story Beauty and the Beast. With a Gothic ambiance, from the brooding hero to the brave and desperate heroine in a dark and looming house, this novel successfully conveyed an air of mystery and romance from its onset. Both the main characters were surrounded by long unanswered questions resurfacing from shared past events, this book was a page turner! Note worthy research gave a credible feel to the Archaeology angle of the story line. Smoothly and smartly written Olivia Drake's talent clearly carries through in her latest work! *I received this ARC via Netgalley.* *While part of a series this book can be read as a stand alone.*
Bella and The Beast is an adventurous read that intermingles with a burgeoning love story. Olivia Drake did an exquisite job with her descriptive writing. It makes the story so much more enjoyable because the reader feels like they are a part of the story and experiencing the exotic locations first hand. I was even a fan of Bella. Determined to provide for her siblings she did not sit back and wait to be rescued. She took charge and went to any means necessary. Strong female characters are a great asset to any story. I did not like the love story. It came across forced and rushed. I received an ARC of Bella and the Beast from NetGalley. For anyone who has an adventurous spirit this is the book that will satisfy that craving.
Is the cover explaining what the book is about.