Monday, 22 July 2013

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed the Beast (2011)
Eloisa James
Grade: A-
Genre: historical romance / fairytale-retelling
Sex scenes: a notch hotter than mild
Source: library
Happily Ever After: (1) A Kiss at Midnight, (2) When Beauty Tamed the Beast, (3) The Duke is Mine, (4) The Ugly Duchess

Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne is A Beauty. She takes after her mother (not a good thing) and has the whole Ton at her heels. This has attracted the attention of Prince Augustus and after spotted kissing at a ball, the Ton put this together with her naturally overly-large bosom, and the fact that her dress was particularly voluminous, as if she had something to hide, coming to the scandalous conclusion that she’s pregnant. Her own father doesn’t believe her and overnight, Linnet is no longer the Ton’s pinnacle of innocence.

Piers, Earl of Marchant and heir to the Duke of Windebank, is known as A Beast. He’s a well-respected doctor based in Wales but his temperamental attitude and scorn for the live-in doctors-in-training who tag around after him has earnt him a less-than-genial reputation. He uses his castle as a convalescent home where people travel from afar to receive his legendary disdainful diagnoses. A childhood injury damaged the muscles in his leg causing constant pain, requiring the aid of a walking stick to get around. On bad days, the pain makes him a little grumpy. More importantly, he is an only son and to get his father off his back about Marriage and Reproduction, Piers has not dissuaded rumours that he is Incapable as a result of his injury.

For their respective fathers, marriage is the ideal solution. No one will ever believe that Linnet is innocent, and there’ll be no more queues of eligible bachelors wanting to woo her. The Duke isn’t getting any younger and as he believes that Piers can’t father a child anyway, what better than to marry a girl who’s already pregnant? Neither is quite what the other expects and while they both tell themselves that nothing will be borne from this acquaintance, love has another fate in mind …

I read this such a long time ago, that I had to re-read it in order to write this review. And again, it’s been a fortnight or so since I finished reading, and so if I didn’t start writing now, it would never get done.

My lack of review-writing does not mean that I don’t love this book. Eloisa James is one of my favourite funny-historical romance writers and with every book I read, she gets better and better. She achieves that perfect and enviable balance between funny and poignant until you don’t know whether you’re crying from laughter or the brilliance of her work. Her writing and dialogue has that smooth ease that I can never achieve and she’s just one of those authors who I take great pleasure in simply reading, no matter what she writes.

Linnet is the perfect Eloisa James heroine. She might be the type of girl who everyone hates for possessing enough of the pretty gene for a small village, but you just can’t not like Linnet. Everyone’s prone to thinking she’s a bit of a bubblehead because of her looks and she’s not one to dissuade them if it works to her advantage. She’s brave, funny, speaks her mind, isn’t afraid to ask questions or get her hands dirty, and is fantastic with people. She gets Piers where others don’t and while everyone might be afraid of him, Linnet certainly isn’t one to let his dominant personality to get in the way of what she thinks or wants.

Piers is fantastic: surly and sarcastic with the body of a God, and a brilliant Doctor to boot. His childhood injury might have left him crippled, but his physical and mental strength would put a regular guy to shame. He uses his leg as both a shield and sword against the world and until Linnet came into his life, it was working perfectly well in keeping the world at bay. Piers might not be as susceptible to Linnet’s looks and charm as every other guy still in possession of his eyesight, but her smile and personality goes some way to disarming him and he can’t help but fall under her spell. For the first time, Piers finds his defences breached and he doesn’t have the willpower to get them back up.

This is classically Eloisa James funny and that’s one of the things I love about her. Ms James is prone to throwing in characters with peculiar traits, quirks and personalities into all her books and while it’s something that all authors try and do, no one does it quite like Eloisa James. Where else would you find a spying butler, a hero teaching his heroine how to swim and trio of trainee doctors collectively nicknamed ‘Ducklings’?

If you're a regular follower of this blog, then you'll be aware of my fascination and obsession with all things fairytale. The new season of Once Upon a Time is brilliant and while I'm not fond of Belle, Beauty and the Beast itself is my favourite fairytale and from what it seems, the story most likely to be retold. Ms James did a fantastic job. While it's by no means an exact retelling, she's taken teh parts that work best for the story and played them to her best advantage. Her characters know their strengths but also their weaknesses and Linnet isn't afraid of embracing either. It takes Piers a little longer but he comes to realise what he needs and it was a fun and very humorous journey to watch unfold. There's no doubt that this is a story of Beauty meets the Beast with a classic ELoisa James slant. I LOVE this and can't imagine why you wouldn't too.

Image courtesy of Book Depository

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