Night Visitor

Belle by Melanie Jackson
(Leisure, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-8439-4975-9
Have you ever read a book that felt like you were in the middle of a bunch of episodes of a TV sitcom? A lot of half-hour adventures thrown together around a very thin plot and no real resolutions to anything, until the last episode of the year when the show is cancelled? That describes Belle. This is not a style I enjoy and it makes this a less than acceptable read.

From the opening prologue, this book makes little sense. There is no reasonable plot that I could explain except that all of these things happen to these two people and they fall in love.

In the prologue, our hero, Stephan Kirton, has just received a letter from his fianceé breaking their engagement, as she states she could not stand being married to him. In fact, she says she would “prefer a lingering death to a place in your household…” The reasons given do not make sense and is just the first example of a meandering writing style that left me wishing for the end.

The story opens at dubious house party attended, apparently, by dubious people. Stephan is there and so is our heroine, Belle Winston. It takes about half of the book to discover that Belle was brought to this house party by a suitor intent on having his way with her. Of course, she had no idea of the reason at the time. Once there, she pops the suitor in the eye, and he storms off. She stays, knowing that her reputation is ruined. (I cannot understand this reasoning but it makes perfect sense to Belle and Stephan). Stephan decides he will seduce her, as he is attracted to her, but in the middle of the seduction scene, he discovers his conscience and decides he wants more from her.

It seems that they are long lost friends from childhood. Stephan is a bastard, hoping for a good match, and Belle is a good match, or at least, she was. So now Stephan decides they must marry.

Please understand here…we are just on page 29!

The entire rest of the book surrounds their adventures to get married, a course for which Stephan is determined and Belle is fighting. Belle thinks marriage to Stephan will ruin HIM since she is already ruined. As you can see, logic is not her best trait.

Episode one involves a ridiculous scene at the houseparty in which Belle tries to leave, getting lost in a wood in a rainstorm. Stephan finds her and takes her to a less than wonderful roadhouse. He decides they need to head to Scotland. Episode two involves a Bow Street runner and another roadhouse that is owned by people who drug their guests and then kill them. (This part was rather gruesome. In an attempt not to be too explicit, the author wrote it in such a way I had difficulty understanding exactly what happened.) It is not until they meet up with the runner during another episode that you finally figure it all out.

There is more…kidnapping by Scottish reivers, a hasty marriage by a blacksmith and another adventure at a roadside inn, this time involving the initial rogue who left Belle at the party.

The sensual scenes are somewhat romantic, and there is a time or two that I enjoyed the repartee between Belle and Stephan. One scene involves them each dropping a sleeping drug in the other’s food: Belle so she might run away, and Stephan to keep her from running. It is a cute little scene. But it is short-lived and ruined by some corny declarations and even sillier arguments.

There is a writing style that is overly descriptive at times, often to the point of torture. The scenery, the hotel, the house…all these things are detailed down to the type of flowers in the vases. Every copse of trees is waxed poetic to the point of numbness. It is disconcerting to realize that the author takes four pages to describe a simple setting, but is unable to provide a reason to care what happens to these two people.

Belle is one of those books to just pass on by.

--Shirley Lyons

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