Renee Ryan: Loving Bella…and Opera



Thanks to the fillies for inviting me back, yet again, to guest blog with some of my favorite authors.  It’s always a pleasure to be here.  My head is a bit jumbled lately.  In barely a month from now, I’ll get the opportunity to watch my daughter (my youngest child) graduate high school.  It’s been a surreal few months as I’ve attended her last game as a Varsity cheerleader, her last show choir concert, her last speech and debate competition, her last honors ceremony.  This weekend will be her last prom.  Can you hear me sniffling all the way through cyber space? 


I’m not here to whine about my soon-to-be empty nest.  No, seriously.  With every ending comes a new beginning.  I’m really looking forward to solo-time with my husband.  And more hours in the day to devote to my writing, which also means more time doing my favorite part of the writing process.  Researching. LOVING BELLA

Speaking of which, I had a lot of fun researching my latest release, LOVING BELLA.  My heroine is an opera singer.  And since I know nothing about opera I had the opportunity to delve into a brand new, exciting world. 

You probably already know this already, so bear with me.  Opera, put simply, is an art form in which singers and musicians work together to perform a dramatic story set to a musical score.  Duh, right?  Opera is a form of musical theater in that it has all the common elements of acting, scenery, elaborate costumes and dance.  The modern opera incorporates full orchestras, but this wasn’t always true in its earliest form.  Often, singers performed with no musical accompaniment or very little. 

Opera was born in Italy at the end of the 16th century.  Although England, Germany, and France soon developed their own opera traditions, Italian opera dominated most of Europe for centuries after its birth.  Even Mozart, probably the most renowned opera composer and an Austrian, is famous for his Italian comic operas, The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni.   

The words that are sung in an opera are called libretto.  Some composers often write both the music and the libretto.  Mozart was not one of them.  However, he did work closely with his librettist, a man called Lorenzo Da Ponte.  Traditional operas consist of two types of music/singing—the recitative or passage that drives the plot, and the aria, where the singer gets to express the character’s emotional reaction to an event in the storyline.  My heroine, Bella, is brilliant at arias. Drury Lane Theater

LOVING BELLA is set in late 19th century, during the “golden age” of opera.  Bella loves being an opera singer.  She also loves William Gordon, Lord Crawley.  She believes he’s going to ask her to marry him after one of her more stellar performances.  He proposes all right, suggesting she become his mistress, since he’s already married.  Poor Bella, she’s become (gasp) a tragic heroine in her own life.  Afraid she’ll succumb to the scandalous offer, she runs off. 

She heads straight to her brother’s home in Denver, Colorado.  Her brother is a preacher at a church connected with an unusual orphanage called CHARITY HOUSE, where the children are by-blows of prostitutes and gunslingers.  Bella, feeling as though there’s no turning back for her, tries to earn repentance as a doctor’s assistant.  Shane, the local doctor with his own scandalous past, grows to love Bella and she begins to love him in return.  All is well, until her past comes looking for her.

This book resonated with me on so many levels.  Not on the opera level, but rather by way of solidarity with Bella.  How many of us, women especially, have made a terrible mistake or watched a friend make a terrible mistake because of the unfortunate decision to put a boyfriend ahead of common sense?  How many of us have allowed a past mistake to define who we are in the present?  

I pray we all learn our lesson like Bella did, before it’s too late.

And I bet that’s all you ever wanted to know about opera.  I’ll probably never make it to the Met, but one of these days I plan to watch a performance at my local opera house.  I owe it to Bella. J

Leave a comment and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of LOVING BELLA, book 3 in my CHARITY HOUSE series.

Renee Ryan writes for Steeple Hill’s Love Inspired Historical and Love Inspired line.  Her fabulous editor is Melissa Endlich.  For more information, you can visit Renee at