As always I continue to be left in awe at Bella's books. It is impossible to put it down. The way her characters have developed in their own world truly amazes me. I can't wait to see what is next for Alice and Elisabeth.
liljen, reviewed on Amazon.com
The Courting" is a domestic discipline and sweet blush novel set against the backdrop of stunning Waldorf Manor and Barton-Court House. In the third book in the series, Elisabeth Warner moves to Waldorf Manor for the start of her courtship with Bennett Fowler. He sets out the rules and boundaries of their relationship, making it clear that her transition from charge to 'lady of his life' doesn't mean a change by far. At the same time Elisabeth discovers Bennett's formality and discipline have completely stolen her heart as their affections grow.
But they aren't the only ones thinking about courtship.
Meanwhile, Alice has been living at Waldorf Manor for ten months and solidly transitioned into life as Brayden's adopted daughter. When he insists that she have closure with her mother for the first time since leaving home, Alice is challenged to take the next step in growing up properly, and that is to face and forgive her. Watch the lives of Brayden, Alice, Bennett & Elisabeth continue to unfold and see where redemption, forgiveness and a jolly good smacked bottom take them.
excerpt from Chapter Ten
Bennett was indeed speechless when Elisabeth descended Waldorf’s grand staircase that evening. Her short brown hair, which framed her heart-shaped face and sat obediently on her chin, complimented the rest of the look. She wore subtle makeup, blush, and colour on her lips, nothing more. The red dress fit over her frame in a way Bennett had never seen a ball gown fit any female. One side was bustled up onto her hip, but of course the only part of her left leg that was revealed was up to her knees. The other side fell down to mid-calf. The cap sleeves rested over her slender arms and long, white satin gloves ended at her elbows. Bennett actually swallowed as she descended the stairs toward him, although Elisabeth didn’t see. She was too absorbed in the solid, confident wall that was Bennett Fowler in his tuxedo with contrasting black buttons marching down the front of his tall, lean stature. When Elisabeth reached the bottom of the stairs, she walked to Bennett and stopped in front of him. She could smell his cologne and she would have stuttered if she’d been made to speak first. “May I kiss you?” he asked quietly. Elisabeth smiled. “Yes, Sir,” she replied, equally as quiet. “Good girl,” he said, as he first kissed her hand; then secured her around the waist, with his other hand on her cheek before touching his lips to hers. Elisabeth closed her eyes and mingled in the moment. Bennett Fowler had a way of being entirely romantic that took her breath away and kept it for quite awhile. Sometimes just looking at him did that to her. Brayden quietly entered the foyer somewhat surprised to see them kissing, considering he’d never seen Bennett doing it before. He knew full well that Bennett and Elisabeth kissed, but it was the sight that he never thought he’d walk in on. They pulled away from each other and Bennett held her chin. “And no, just because you’re gorgeous doesn’t mean you can have champagne tonight. I want to keep you innocent,” Bennett whispered in her ear. Elisabeth visibly blushed and gave him an embarrassed smile, which he loved. His words had their desired effect. “There she is,” Brayden said, as Alice appeared at the top of the stairs and began down them. Bennett and Elisabeth turned to see her. The smile on Alice’s face was unmistakeable and stayed long after she reached the bottom. She greeted her uncle, and then he and Elisabeth walked arm in arm down the corridor toward the ballroom, as Alice stood alone in the foyer with Brayden. “Happy birthday, Father,” she said, with a bit of nervousness in her voice. He was the epitome of what Alice considered the ideal father. He was handsome, a complete gentleman, a man of his word, always dressed well, firm but fair, and knew when to soften himself for the sake of showing her what grace looked like. Alice knew it was an important moment, as she stood before him in her first ball gown to celebrate his birthday. She felt truly prepared to spend the evening around the exclusive social circle and his friends from boarding school after all the time she’d been at Waldorf. Brayden had built such confidence and security in her, that Alice wanted nothing less than to do him proud with how she’d settled into her life. “You’ll be the prettiest girl at the ball,” Brayden said, as he kissed her cheek. The dress looked perfect on Alice, and anyone who didn’t know her chronological age probably wouldn’t have assumed otherwise. Her long hair had been curled and fell across one shoulder while a matching hunter green satin ribbon secured the top half at the back. Brayden would have insisted that the dress have sleeves, but he also knew that a ballroom full of people meant long sleeves would become tedious. Although, Ana had asked that windows be opened slightly to ensure the roaring fires didn’t add to the heat of a hundred formally dressed, waltzing guests. Brayden offered his arm to Alice and escorted her to the ballroom. Bennett and Elisabeth were facing each other, each with a drink in their hands when Alice entered. She looked around the ballroom. The orchestra was warming up; the drapes of the massive ceiling-high windows were still open and the view of the estate became markedly more beautiful as the sun began to set. She let go of Brayden’s arm when they arrived and walked to the windows where she looked out across the estate as her father so often did. Alice closed her eyes and inhaled. She couldn’t believe that she lived at Waldorf - that she was standing in a ballroom in the home where she lived, and that everything sad about her life before Waldorf had seemingly become untrue. She was incredibly grateful and wanted a moment to acknowledge it.
Ana, dressed in a black gown with a black sparkly Peter Pan collar and matching skinny belt, was speaking to the conductor. She wore smart patent Mary Jane heels and her shoulder length brown hair had been curled then separated into large waves with two diamond earrings dangling beneath. Once Ana left the conductor, the orchestra began playing their repertoire and the wait staff began loading silver trays with tall glasses of bubbling champagne. The coloured drinks in crystal goblets were non-alcoholic and featured a playful shot of red syrup in the bottom featuring small cherries on sterling silver spears. Alice was looking forward to getting her hands on several of those cherry drinks. Brayden didn’t allow Alice to drink anything besides sparkling or still water and orange juice, so it was a rare evening for more than one reason. “Happy birthday, Mr. James,” said Ana. “Thank you,” he replied, one hand in his pocket and the other holding a glass of champagne. Brayden would have offered her one, but she was working. It wouldn’t have been a moral approach to conversation building. “My boss phoned and told me he expects me to work late tonight by staying for the ball,” Ana said, folding her arms across her chest. She wasn’t being impertinent in her regard. Brayden smiled with the corner of his mouth and nodded toward Bennett. “That wasn’t me, I’m afraid.” Ana looked over at Bennett, who was looking down at Elisabeth. They were quite lost in conversing with each other and Bennett had one hand on her cheek. Again. They looked as though they were about to kiss at any moment. “Mr. Fowler?” “Yes. He beat me to it,” Brayden replied, and took a sip of champagne. “Well, everything so far is in order. Of course, if anything goes wrong, I will also be here to receiving my scolding,” Ana said, uncrossing her arms. Brayden was a complete gentleman in every regard, which meant he didn’t let his mind wander. Although, the first thought that entered his imagination when Ana had said, ‘I will be here to receiving my scolding’ was taking her to his study to put her across his lap and smack her backside before making her face the corner. The thought was fitting and he liked Ana’s choice of words. She wondered what Brayden was thinking, hoping she hadn’t put him off in any way. Her words had been strategically chosen so as to lead into a potential conversation whereby she could find out if Brayden was a dominant man outside of running his estate and raising his daughter. She couldn’t be with someone who was inconsistent. “One thing is for sure, if I scold you, it will be up in my study and not in front of the guests,” he said with a bit of a smile. Bingo. Ana gulped and her coy smile faded – it was exactly what she’d been looking for. Brayden was immediately a potential partner in her mind. His wording and tone of voice made it very clear that he took charge and maintained propriety.