Saved by the Belle by Shana Galen
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Royal Saboteurs, #3
Release Date: March 7, 2023
Fresh off his first mission with the Royal Saboteurs, Hew Arundel is enjoying a visit with his friend Charles Randall and Charles’ very pregnant wife Lydia. He enjoys dinner with them and then insists on leaving early, as it is clear that Lydia is not feeling her best, Hew is looking forward to a quiet night, but while waiting for a hackney, he is attacked and stabbed, just as Lydia calls to Charles that she has gone into labor. A doctor is called, but Charles knows he can’t tend to both Hew and Lydia, so he makes a desperate plea to George Howard for help. With Hew’s family out of town, Charles has limited options, Mr. Howard’s youngest daughter is married to Lydia’s brother so he is family and someone he can trust to care for his friend.
Isabelle “Belle” Howard and her father are surprised when they get a message from Charles asking them to come immediately, they barely know the Randalls, but they close up their tea shop and rush over. They are shocked to learn that Charles needs them to care for his friend, who according to the doctor, might not survive the night. Belle is annoyed, but they agree to take him in, she is then shocked by her immediate attraction to him. Belle survived smallpox as a child and is scarred, something she is very self-conscious about and something that has caused her pain in the past. She is sure no man would ever want her, not only is she scarred, but she is bold, outspoken, and doesn’t suffer fools. They nurse Hew and by some miracle, he survives. She is annoyed that she finds him even more attractive and charming now that he is awake, but she is sure that he would never want a girl like her. Little does she know that her scars don’t bother Hew and he likes her spitfire attitude, but Hew has been burned once and refuses to risk his heart again. They try to ignore their attraction, knowing it can go nowhere as they will soon part. But when it is clear that the attack on Hew wasn’t random and now Belle and her father are in danger, Hew knows that he will do anything to keep Belle safe. But Hew will soon learn, Belle is not like any woman he has ever known and she is not willing to wait to be rescued nor will she let ghosts from the past steal her happiness.
This is a well-written, nicely-paced adventure featuring two very flawed, yet likable characters. Hew and Belle are clearly perfect for each other, but they both let past hurts cloud their judgment and Hew just can’t seem to let his past go. I understood his reasons, but he just held on to it way too long. As usual, this author treats readers to an engaging story filled with action, witty banter, steamyish love scenes, great secondary characters, danger, spies, tea, and a sweet declaration scene leading to their HEA. This is the third book in the series, but there is enough backstory given that you could easily read this as a standalone title. I loved Belle and Hew’s story and I am happy to recommend this book and hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that I requested and was provided to me by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.*