Bel Lamington is a hard-working, yet friendless, young secretary scrapping out a living in 1960s London. Life has thrown her some unpleasant surprises, but some wonderful pleasures are also in store. Bel is painfully shy and Stevenson runs the risk of making her too mousey at times. But one of Bel's new friends thinks her self-effacing ways contribute to her beauty and wishes she were as humble. I could identify with this heroine's deep-seated insecurities, which is why I found her to be likeable and believable. I also enjoyed watching her grow and flourish.
In the first novel Bel makes new friends and faces several trials on the road to happiness. In the second book, Fletcher's End, she and her new husband are house hunting and the focus changes to the home they choose. This is not the first time that Stevenson has given a home its own personality (Celia's House, Amberwell) and part of the fun of this sequel is watching Bell unearth the secrets of the cottage.
One of the strengths of Fletcher's End is its handling of the subjects of Christianity and vocation. Modern novelists can't seem to talk about either without heavy-handed preaching. But Bel and Reggie Stephenson converse quite naturally about his faith and calling in chapter 15.
Even though Stevenson is light reading, I don't consider her fluffy. The romance angle is rarely the main thing, and the characters often share witty, literary banter. I also enjoy her rich vocabulary (alacrity, myrmidons, salubrious, etc.)
Both books are free through Kindle Unlimited or can be purchased together for $4.99.