Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In the Spinster's Bed - Sally MacKenzie (Zebra - June 2015)

Series: Spinster House (Book .5)

At Spinster House, a woman can enjoy the spoils of single life -- or find the love of a lifetime…

It has been twenty years since Lord William Wattles laid eyes on Annabelle Frost. Still, he remembers everything -- her ethereal beauty, her bookish intelligence, her surprisingly modern attitudes about love...and lust. But Belle’s allegedly wanton behavior led her father to send her away to save the family’s reputation. Now she resides at Spinster House in the village of Loves Bridge, where an unmarried lady can live -- and in Belle’s case, support herself as a librarian -- in peace...

Beautiful, passionate Belle -- sworn off marriage? William can’t believe the woman he once knew could end up like this. But when the hands of fate bring him to Loves Bridge, his long-lost love might just end up back in his arms. Is their unwavering desire worth the sweeping scandal that is sure to follow them both? Absolutely.

Good introductory novella to the Spinster House series characters though it doesn't have much on why the Spinster House exists to start with. The current resident is Belle Frost, though she's known as Miss Franklin to the people of Loves Bridge. Twenty years earlier she had been kicked out of her home by her father for scandalous behavior and sent to a relative in Loves Bridge. She has served as the town librarian ever since and led a quiet life.

William shows up in Loves Bridge looking for a place to hide out for a while. He is tired of being the butt of gossip because of his wife's antics and wants somewhere to go where no one knows him. He will be plain Mr. Wattles and fill in for the music teacher while he is in Loves Bridge.

Belle and William's reunion came as a shock to both of them. Belle does her best to convince William that he has mistaken her for someone else, but he doesn't believe her. William is stunned to find the passionate girl he knew is all prim and proper. Neither can deny the sparks that still fly between them. A confrontation between them gets heated, then passionate, until Belle recalls that William is married and calls a halt. They spend the next several months doing their best to avoid each other and temptation. Then Fate takes a hand, and William is free to pursue Belle again.

I liked the development of Belle and William's  relationship. Though they had been apart for twenty years, they had never forgotten each other, even as they went on with their lives. I liked seeing their backstory as it was revealed through flashbacks. I admit to being a bit disappointed in the young William's behavior when he returned to school and didn't try to contact Belle, leaving her to deal with the fallout when it happened. I liked that he realized he was wrong to kiss (and more) Belle while he was still married and avoided temptation after that. When he returns after his wife's death, there is no longer an impediment to their being together. It doesn't take long for them to fall into each other's' arms. Those times between them are intense and rekindle the feelings they had before. At this point neither is thinking of the future, until William is called home because of his father's illness.

There isn't much love lost between William and his father and two older brothers. I had the feeling that many of William's actions as a young man were directly because of how they treated him. But he certainly didn't expect the depth of the tragedy that awaited him when he arrived. I ached for William and everything that he went through. During those weeks he finally realized his feelings for Belle and that he needs her with him and in his life forever.

Meanwhile, Belle has to deal with her own unexpected circumstances. I wasn't surprised at the fix she was in, only that she had believed herself too old at all. I ached for her and her fear that she wouldn't see William again because of his new status. I loved her surprise at his sudden appearance and their joy at being together again. Poor Belle was so nervous about confessing her secret, but William's reaction was great. I loved his way of proving to her that his proposal was not being forced by honor.

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