My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Amy Rose Bennett was a complete new-to-me author when I found myself hosting a blog tour on Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal. It was one of those rare finds where I had no idea what to expect, yet it blew my mind. The storyline was pretty unconventional, as were the twists. I was honestly expecting a been-there-done-that governess storyline but found something much more dark and deep. I loved the author’s writing too. So much emotion, with so many heart-tugging moments that I cried, laughed, grinned and sighed all over it!
Elizabeth’s marriage was supposed to be a match-made-in-heaven. After all, she was swept away by one of the most sought after bachelors of the season, all golden good-looks and charming smiles. Hugh was her first crush, first love, first lover... and the first man to show her how cruel a man can be, too. Elizabeth, or Beth, was in love but all her hopes were crushed when her ‘beloved’ husband started showing his true face very soon after their marriage. Not only he cast her aside calling her a ‘cold fish’ but also, he started breaking every vow he made on their wedding day. He was a known rake before marriage and went back to his former lifestyle with gusto; bad friends plus all sorts of debauchery with gambling, drinking and whoring. Beth learned that she had married a shallow, self-centered piece of a$$; sparkly on the outside, empty on the inside.
Hugh’s revelries were known throughout the Ton, making Beth embarrassed and humiliated more often than not. But she has been the epitome of ‘good and biddable’ wife as her duty commanded. It’s also been more than a year that Hugh has made demands to exert his ‘husbandly rights’. Beth’s life was empty but at least she had many duties to perform on behalf of her rich husband.
Then one day, a letter came to Beth, from one of Hugh’s many mistresses informing her of something that shatters Beth’s world once again. No, it’s not about Hugh’s infidelity. Beth has known about that for long now, but something more sinister. Hugh has STD, more specifically, syphilis; an unsurprising result of so much debauchery without any caution whatsoever. The mistress-without-name warns Beth not to make the same mistake she had made and now paying for. Without a second thought, Beth knew she had to run. If Hugh ever wants to have sex, she can’t deny him his ‘rights’ and no one is going to save her either. Beth doesn’t want to die, not with something that wasn’t her fault to begin with.
Yet, Hugh does come to her one night, looking lost in thought, rather forlorn. It has suddenly occurred to him that he needs to beget an heir, hence this visit. But Beth is determined, maybe for the first time, to get away so that Hugh doesn’t find her, ever.
We don’t get to know exactly how Beth manages to escape Hugh that night for a long time in the story. Rather, we find her journeying to Scotland in hopes of becoming a governess to the recluse Marquess of Rothsburgh’s only daughter. His wife, as rumored, has passed a while ago. One of Beth’s charity sponsors is Rothsburgh’s sister, and it was through her that Beth got this information. Of course, she couldn’t say anything to anyone but had to journey as a widowed soldier’s wife, Mrs. Elliott.
It seems Rothsburgh’s monolithic castle, Elean Tor, sits on the farthest reaches of the Highlands, as forbidding in appearance as it is in its structure. The castle has a causeway that drowns in the high tide, leaving it completely detached from the mainland. I actually kept imagining how that castle must’ve looked like. A stormy day finds a newly arrived Beth on her way to her destination when no one would even think of venturing out there, making her way through the churning ocean around the causeway. But Beth is desperate, she has no place to stay. Then, upon her arrival, when she keeps beating on the door, no one would answer. A despondent Beth was about to turn back when a big, bearded man in his shirt-sleeves opens the door, scowling squarely at her, as if to show that she was disturbing his ‘quiet and peace’.
Naturally, Beth was wet and tired and took the man as the grouchy butler. She requests the Marquess’s company and states the reason for her arrival. The man, though reluctant, takes her in. The huge mansion seemed abandoned, with nary a light or a human being, in sight. At one point, when she’s taken to the library, the man in question, who introduced himself as ‘James’, brings her tea. It’s in her hazy, fevered state, Beth realizes that this, indeed, is the Marquess himself! But she wasn’t in any state to refuse or refute anything. Beth looses consciousness, leaving James to ponder what to do with this beautiful bundle, who, as he finds out, has a high fever raging through her.
James’s life, also, should’ve been enchanted. If I try to talk of that, it’d almost echo Beth’s own. He married the most sought after debutante of the Ton, the daring beauty that every man at that time would die for, Isabelle. James thought himself in love, and gave everything. Unfortunately, the daring beauty had nothing to give him in return. James has heard of Isabelle’s ‘wild ways’ but didn’t give that any thought until he realized his ‘beloved’ wife carries the child of another man! Every illusion he might’ve had regarding their marriage was shattered soon afterwards. And when Annabelle started growing up, it was plain to see that she was not his. James is tall and hunky, with dark hair and eyes. Isabelle also had dark hair. But Annabelle has golden curls with a pair of sparkling blue eyes.
It hurt James so much, knowing that Isabelle never truly cared for him, let alone love, that he decided to go his separate ways. There was no marriage to speak of as Isabelle was living her own life mired in all sorts of debauchery. James became the laughingstock of the Ton due to her wild escapades. He moved away, also took mistresses, to forget a life he so wanted yet never truly had. The only good thing of this marriage probably was, his daughter, Annabelle. He was determined to take care of her, give her a proper life, shading her from her mother’s scandals as much as possible.
Some months ago, Isabelle committed suicide. It’s not known, much later into the story, exactly why but James never mourned her. He didn’t care. But he returned here and has been living like this. His sister, Helena, has insisted on a governess to take care of the 4yrs. old but James had no interest. Meanwhile, Annabelle was taken away for a visit to Helena’s back in Edinburgh. Apparently, the governess, Mrs. Elliott as she introduced herself before fainting, doesn’t know of this nugget of information. Unfortunately, or fortunately, her delicate beauty has already called out to James’s protective side rather bad. And now, he doesn’t really want her to go. Not that the weather would permit either. Still... James is adamant about knowing Mrs. Elliott a little better. Maybe they can work something out after all.
By which I mean James had an inclination of making Beth his mistress for as long as she’s here. He thought it’d be a perfect, seeing she needs money and shelter. It’s not as if anyone is going to come to look for any scandal in this godforsaken part of the country. He doesn’t have many servants, but they’re loyal, so keeping it a secret wouldn’t be difficult. But first, he needs to woo Mrs. Elliott, for it was very obvious that Beth is not the type of woman he usually made his mistresses in the past.
As James nurses her back to life, Beth is overwhelmed with gratitude. Yet soon, she’s informed that she’s not needed as a governess since her would-be charge is not at residence. When a dejected Beth, who suddenly becomes fearful of discovery, not having any other plan or destination in mind, turns to leave, James gives her a proposition. Well not what he had in mind, but something that can work out… for now. Elean Tor needs a housekeeper and Mrs. Elliott can see to that duty right away for as long as she’s here.
Beth is completely relived because she read the spark of interest, and lust?, in her employer’s eyes. He seems to be genuinely happy to have her around, as his servants will confide in her. Beth knew she probably wore the same look, with flush and all, for she can’t stop staring at this handsome man. When she first planned on coming here, Beth certainly wasn’t expecting a virile young Marquess to be waiting! Now that he has cleaned up and she can see his sharp bone structure and muscular body... Beth begins feeling things she never even felt for Hugh. Hugh, her husband, who doesn’t know where she is. Yet. Beth feels guilty of betraying her vows even by fantasizing about Rothsburgh. But she can’t deny the pull between them whenever they’re talking or smiling at each-other. The ‘click’ has happened on the first sight and there was no turning back.
It was only a matter of time that Beth and James become lovers. It just seemed that natural to me. Though Beth had repeatedly been burdened with guilt about committing adultery, she also realized the only person who has ever made her happy has to be James. She loves everything about him, maybe she’s even falling in love with the man himself. And though, she knows their affair would lead to heartbreak for, Beth gives in. TBH, I wasn’t happy that she was only happy to have an affair, but I also saw how difficult her life was going to be, not to mention if Hugh ever finds her out.....
The sex scenes were HOT and intense. Gradually, the bond that initiated on the first moment begins to grow stronger, too. Though James didn’t think ahead of Beth’s life after she leaves here, he begins now. He starts feeling guilty of making a ‘fallen woman’ out of her. He even, call him crazy, begins contemplating a marriage! I mean, what’s stopping them? For a starter, he absolutely adores Beth. She’s beautiful, graceful, smart and very capable of running a big household like his. Moreover, she’s a widow. They can easily marry and the rest of the society can go hang themselves. It’s not like James care for them anyway. Unfortunately, one day, Helena’s husband suddenly arrives with a friend in tow. This guy, a notorious rake, instantly zooms in on Beth and begins perusing her, his intentions clear. And from that ensues bigger trouble. Beth had a feeling that the man just might know her identity, seeing he’s the type Hugh normally consorts with. When he tries to force himself on Beth, James sees red. He beats the crap outta him, probably would’ve killed him had Beth not stopped him, he was that angry.
Though his BIL leaves with his troublesome friend, Beth knew her time here has come to an end. At the same time, James decides to propose to her, his feelings for her clearer than ever. I couldn’t even imagine what was going on in Beth’s mind at that time but there was nothing she could do but to deny James. It hurts the poor man so much, and since Beth didn’t confide in him, James was left to ponder why wouldn’t she accept his proposal! The old wounds open up along with the pain of rejection. So unfair! I already knew Beth is in love with James, so, for me, it was such an unhappy situation.
It so happens, Beth leaves at dawn, scared and lonely, hurt and miserable. She has already had a job in mind and decides to journey there. James, on the other hand, is shocked to hear she left. He was drunk last night, drowning out his hurt and confusion in liquor again. But he never wanted Beth to leave. When he finds out where she’s headed, James immediately rushes out to after her. On his way, James begins mulling over the last few days and suddenly, the puzzles were falling in place. From the bits and pieces of conversation he and his unwanted guest had before they left, James has heard that Beauchamp’s wife is missing. She’s also one of the patronesses and used to know Helena. James knew of Hugh’s notoriety and wondered what if... then, when the guy mentioned that Beth kinda looks like her, all pale and cold, James just knew in his guts exactly why Beth ran away the moment he proposed.
James tracks down Beth quite easily and this time, he was not letting her slip away again. He informs her that he knows. He also requests her to make him understand. After a night of frantic lovemaking, they talk... and from that the whole sordid affair comes pouring in; the betrayal, the hurt and the humiliation. Beth is shocked but not entirely surprised to know Hugh having a long time affair with Isabelle, and that Annabelle is, indeed, his daughter. Because Hugh didn’t have marriage in mind that Isabelle ensnared the next fool, who just happened to be Rothsburgh. Then there were more of the unsavory stuff that James informs Beth, who was too innocent even to know the kind of perversion Isabelle and Hugh loved immersing themselves in. That it was Isabelle who, when she found out she also contracted syphilis, thanks to her last visit to Hugh, and dying, had written that letter as a last attempt to perhaps allay her guilty conscience. Beth didn’t know her, didn’t know that she committed suicide either. But now, all was out in the open. Beth feels so much sadness, for James, for even Isabelle and Hugh and this completely f*cked up situation that they all find themselves in. James and Beth, it seemed were paired with the wrong people, at the wrong time and suffered. The irony now is that, though they’re finally together, they can’t really be together in any real sense as long as Hugh is alive. :(
James would protect Beth from anyone, even Hugh, but being her husband, he’d always have the upper hand through law and in the eyes of the society. But they plan to return to Edinburgh for the time being, with James asking Beth to live with him for long as they can. He also promises Beth that he’d wait for her, no matter how long it takes and would marry her when the time comes. After all, James wanted that even before he knew everything. Beth is overwhelmed with this reciprocation of her feelings for the first time in her life, as she was only happy to return. Also with gratitude. Life is good now, them being together, but for how long?
One day, James proposes that she meet Annabelle. It was one of the most heartfelt moments for Beth for the girl looked so much like Hugh that her heart gave a lurch. Maybe, in another lifetime, she would’ve borne her and they would be happy together... Then Annabelle goes and breaks her heart by asking Beth if she’s going to be her mother with such a longing in her voice... Beth doesn’t know what to answer. She wants to, oh so much, but will that day ever come?
Unfortunately, they are soon discovered by Hugh, with a demand that Beth returns with him. He’s mad knowing where she has been. Beth doesn’t deny anything, neither does he deny that he had always known of Annabelle’s existence. She is forced to leave James on threat, something that was already breaking her heart. But knowing Hugh, he probably had an ulterior motive. It surfaces soon enough, the same demand; he needs an heir, and Beth will provide it to him somehow. He knows he can’t impregnate her anymore, not without ruining his ‘plan’, so Hugh orders Beth to go and be with James for one night. Beth is utterly shocked by Hugh’s suggestion. What a joke it’d be for all of them! But it also means she can see him again, and so, Beth grabs that chance...
That one night, no matter the reasons why, was probably one of the most intense nights of their lives. James and Beth have always had this chemistry between them, but that night surpassed all the intensity of their previous lovemaking. James is angry knowing Hugh’s plan, but what can they do but to grab this opportunity to be together one last time, when their future, if any, is so uncertain? Beth pleads to James to move on and find someone else but how can he? No one would ever make him as happy as his Beth has made him these past few months. James can never have anyone else.
I found James to be an intensely sexy hero. Many-a-times, he reminded me of those sexy Lisa Kleypas heroes I loved drooling over (still do!). Though the fact that he had taken mistresses throughout his marriage bugged me initially, after knowing the farce he was force to endure, I couldn’t blame him at all. I can’t expect him to be celibate when Isabelle had a male harem of her own. Neither was I disturbed by Beth and James becoming lover for I never doubted James’s love and loyalty to the person he bestows it upon. Beth also proved that she’s a much stronger woman than I initially gave her the credits for. It never, once, occurred to me that they don’t belong to each-other. I HATE reading adultery in a novel, but in here, it wasn’t really an issue for me. I SO wanted Beth and James to be together that I was absolutely heartbroken with the realization that there’s a chance that that day may never come. I can’t even explain the heartache I suffered with them, and the tear it brought to my eyes. :(
The ending was really good. I’d say that the situation was solved to my liking. I LOVED it, except that an epilogue would’ve made me happier. But I ended Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal with the knowledge that James and Beth are finally going to be happy, what more could I have asked for? Their new bundle of joy only made it more of an occasion for celebration. I mean, talk about me having a silly grin on my face. :D
There was no way I was going to rate this book any less than 5 stars! I’d say, do yourself a favor and read this book. You won’t regret it.
I received a review copy from Goddess Fish Promotions in exchange of an honest review as a part of a blog tour, August 2014.