I’ll say that this is probably more of a 2.5 book that I am rounding up because I liked it but also kept wincing until near to the end (if not the end), which is not a reaction I want to have with these types of books.
I believe this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling I stumbled upon after reading When Beauty Tamed the Beast and deciding that this would be a vein I’d pursue in some more detail. If it weren’t for the fact that they out and out said it a couple of times (ah we are like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), I think I might have picked up on it as well? Pretty sure. I once was many chapters into a Persuasion Star Wars retelling, where each chapter started with a Persuasion quote and I still was like HMmMMMmm this plot seems FaMiLiAr.
I’ll get the real reasons why I kept wincing out at the top. It’s nicely balanced: one racistish thing, and one misogynistic thing, neither of which ever let up! I’ll start with the racist thing–Lord Dain, our titular Lord of Scoundrels, is half English and half Italian. That makes him olive complexioned, as he is reminded and/or noted as being multiple times. He is also the Earl of Blackmoor. But he’s frequently described, either by himself or by other people, as blackamoor or with blackamoor skin. And that’s just…awkward. I know this was written a while back. Using “blackamoor” to describe someone with dark skin (especially? even though? that someone who isn’t Black) was not really kosher a while back either. I’d hoped that the usage of the word as a taunt in his school days was meant to highlight the terribleness of society boys, but eh. I wish it weren’t there. The misogynistic part is the constant, unrelenting focus on the whoring. WE GET IT. Everyone loves the whores/tarts/trollops/ladies of a certain type. Do people have to TALK about it that much? In such clearly angry, dismissive language?
I mean, I want to enjoy myself in a vaguely ye old British setting without having to think about the POC erasure and second class nature of women. If you chose to bring those topics to the fore you must do extra work to ensure that it’s not distracting (e.g. The Duke Who Didn’t and A Rogue of One’s Own). This book unfortunately brought up both in a way that just made me uncomfortable.
But if we set all that aside–and, in some level, I feel like all historical romances require you do that somewhat–are there HRs that feature women who aren’t blushing virgins?–then there were many parts of this that I enjoyed. Jessica is the wisecracking, rapier wit heroine of everyone’s dreams. Her exasperation with her brother gives me life. Her grandmother is the grandmother we all wish we had. The Stockholm-ness of Beauty and the Beast has been successfully negated. And I cannot deny that I read this all in one setting starting from late at night to later.