Beauty – and the Beast?
When rough diamond Anthony Townsend, who also happens to be one of the richest men in England, bursts into Lady Fenella’s house and demands she hand over his runaway nephew, this dashing widow embarks on a breathtaking adventure that might just end in exciting new love.
Fenella, Lady Deerham, has rejoined society after five years of mourning her beloved husband’s death at Waterloo. Now she’s fêted as a diamond of the first water and London’s perfect lady. But beneath her exquisite exterior, this delicate blond beauty conceals depths of courage and passion nobody has ever suspected. When her son and his school friend go missing, she vows to find them whatever it takes. Including setting off alone in the middle of the night with high-handed bear of a man, Anthony Townsend. Will this tumultuous journey end in more tragedy? Or will the impetuous quest astonish this dashing widow with a breathtaking new love, and life with the last man she ever imagined?
And the Beast?
When Anthony Townsend bursts into Lady Deerham’s fashionable Mayfair mansion demanding the return of his orphaned nephew, the lovely widow’s beauty and spirit turn his world upside down. But surely such a refined and aristocratic creature will scorn a rough, self-made man’s courtship, even if that man is now one of the richest magnates in England. Especially after he’s made such a woeful first impression by barging into her house and accusing her of conniving with the runaways. But when Fenella insists on sharing the desperate search for the boys, fate offers Anthony a chance to play the hero and change her mind about him. Will reluctant proximity convince Fenella that perhaps Mr. Townsend isn’t so beastly after all? Or now that their charges are safe, will Anthony and Fenella remain forever opposites fighting their attraction?
Publisher and Release Date: Anna Campbell, February 2016
Place and time: England, 1820
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Wendy
I’m not generally a lover of novellas as they normally feel insubstantial to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the content and quality of Tempting Mr. Townsend, the second in Ms. Campbell’s Dashing Widows series, about three widows who befriend each other and who, for various reasons, have decided to live a little.
This is described as a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story and although the character of Lady Fenella Deerham is certainly clearly delineated as a beauty, my vision of Anthony Townsend is rather different to a beast. He actually comes across as an attractive man, large yes and maybe a bit rough round the edges but certainly no beast – I liked the honourable, clever man that Anna Campbell has created. In fact I really liked both characters; Fenella, feisty, determined, protective of her child and Anthony, a tough but gentle giant, doing the best he can for his orphaned and grieving young nephew.
The two are thrown together when the two boys run away from Eton and Anthony tears up to London, expecting to find his nephew being sheltered in Fenella’s home. After their traumatic, explosive meeting, where Anthony unfairly accuses Fenella’s son of being the leader of the escapade, they settle into an uneasy partnership, united in their wish to find the boys and bring them to safety. And as they travel together, the attraction between them begins to grow.
The first few days of their relationship move fairly quickly, which is understandable given this is a novella, although the need to pack in a lot to a short page-count is one of my complaints in a book of this length. Nevertheless, Anna Campbell handles the burgeoning physical attraction between this unlikely pair really well. At this point I could well understand Fenella’s attraction to the charms of this lovely man, although she is also wracked with guilt, feeling torn between her desires and loyalty to her dead husband’s memory.
So, as beautifully and sensitively written as Tempting Mr. Townsend is, I still found the culmination a little too rushed. I have no doubt that Fenella would have capitulated, but I can’t quite see her doing it quite so quickly.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this lovely feel-good novella, and aside from the speed at which the relationship moved, I have no real complaints. On a personal note, I do feel that Ms.Campbell missed an opportunity to expand the premise and further develop the rather excellent character of Anthony Townsend. One of my favourite tropes is a rags-to-riches story and I would love to have seen the hunky Mr.Townsend’s rise documented; from his humbler beginnings as a mine managers son to the powerful, clever business mogul who captured the heart of a highborn lady.