Is anything sweeter than revenge?
In a family of remarkable people, ordinary Beatrice strives to prove herself worthy. When her family is threatened with losing everything, she rushes to London to save them. Unfortunately, she chooses as her savior the very man who will see her family brought low.
Garrett has sworn vengeance on Sir Arthur of Anglesea for destroying his life when he was a boy and forcing his mother into prostitution for them to survive. He has chosen as his instrument Sir Arthur’s youngest daughter, Beatrice.
Can Beatrice’s goodness teach Garrett that love, not vengeance, is the greatest reward of all?
Sweet Bea is an entertaining medieval road-trip story into which the author has thrown a feisty, breeches-wearing heroine, a not-so-heroic hero, a tart with a heart and various other romantic novel clichés and somehow managed to come up with a story I didn’t entirely hate!
Lady Beatrice of Anglesey is the baby of the family (although not for much longer, as her mother is expecting) and even though she’s now a young woman, her family continues to treat her like a child. She’s usually sent from the room when discussions get interesting and it’s clear to her that nobody expects her to amount to very much. To be fair, her parents and siblings think they are doing her a favour by keeping her from hearing stories of the unpleasantness in the world around them, but haven’t stopped to think that perhaps there really are times when a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The only way Bea ever finds out anything – she says – is when she manages to eavesdrop; and it’s during one such conversation that she learns her family is in danger and that she’s the only one prepared to do anything to help.
She overhears a discussion between her uncle and one of her brothers, from which it seems as though her father has angered the king (John) and that their home may soon come under attack. Her mother is unwell, her brother Henry is unwilling to leave to find their father and brothers – so Bea determines to sneak away and go to London to fetch him.
She can’t travel alone, however, and enlists the aid of her childhood friend, Tom. He’s completely against Bea’s plan – but knowing she’ll likely go anyway, he grudgingly agrees to help. The problem is that he doesn’t really know how to get to London – but Bea is undaunted. She will ask one of the recent newcomers to the village, a man named Garrett (and there’s a typical medieval name if ever I heard one!) to come along, too, as she’s sure he will know the way. She doesn’t know much about him, it’s true, but Garrett is handsome, charming and pays her the kind of attentions she’s never received from anyone else – and she’s very thoroughly smitten.
Tom is suspicious of Garrett right away –and with good reason. He definitely has Bea in his sights as a target for seduction, but for reasons that go deeper than the simple desire of a man to bed a pretty girl. Garrett holds Bea’s father responsible for the fact that he and his mother were forced from their home when he was little more than a child, and for his mother’s having to become a whore in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. He plans to ruin Bea, figuring that making a whore of the daughter of the man he regards as his bitterest enemy will be the perfect act of revenge.
At first, the hero’s unlikely name, the heroine’s recklessness and the revenge plot induced much eye-rolling from this reader. But I kept reading and was surprised to myself engaged by the story and characters, which actually have something endearing about them. As the days pass, Garrett begins to realise that Bea is far from the spoiled princess he had thought her; it’s true that her tendency to rush headlong into danger lands them in hot water on more than one occasion, but she’s capable of great generosity and kindness, too. Her bravery and spirit begin to charm him, and to awaken his long-buried conscience.
And while there were times I wanted to throttle Bea for doing something stupid, or not thinking before she acts, she’s a little different from your average “feisty” heroine because she actually learns from her mistakes and wants to do better.
The story really picks up at around the three-quarter mark, when everything Bea has assumed concerning her father’s situation and the threat to her family is turned on its head, and the danger comes much closer to home. The ending is a little too pat, but I couldn’t help smiling at some of the exchanges between Bea’s father, brothers and Garrett.
What didn’t work so well for me, however, was the book’s execution. There is a lack of sophistication to the storytelling; the language is very simplistic, and in spite of the use of a number of more archaic terms – “chainse”, “braies”, for example – the tone is quite modern.
My biggest problem with the book is the fact that Ms Hegger seems to favour the use of lots and lots of short sentences. One after the other. Which happens a lot. And which I don’t like. At all. It’s a matter of personal preference, of course, but it’s something I find particularly irritating, especially when it happens as often as it does here.
Overall though, Sweet Bea is a relatively quick and undemanding read. While some aspects of the story are rather clichéd, it’s nonetheless very readable, and the way that both protagonists grow as characters is definitely one of its strengths.