Have you ever wanted to read a Beauty and the Beast retelling that stars Dr. House? Well, Eloise James has you covered.
Plot: The Earl, Dr. House (his name is Piers but he is literally just House minus the drug addiction) has a reputation of being a monster with a short temper, but he’s tolerated because he’s a brilliant doctor and a future duke. Linnet is The Most Beautiful Woman in England, daughter to a beautiful woman that was infamously generous with her affections, which has led everyone to believe she would be the same. So people’s first assumption when she shows up to a ball with a badly fitted dress was that she was pregnant. Time for a rushed wedding! Only the prince people assume had done the deed won’t have anything to do with her, so she’s sent off to marry House. Shenanigans ensue.
James has made a very smart decision with this retelling of Beauty and the Beast, mostly because she got rid of just about everything. Sure, Linnet is beautiful and loves to read novels, and House pretty much never leaves his castle and his staff is scared of him because of his temper. Also, there’s little French influences here and there. There’s a minor arc towards the end with disfigurement, but it’s really just a tacked on third act complication that has no real stakes and no consequences (ergo the lack of a “spoiler” warning). The story is inspired by Beauty and the Beast far more than it is a retelling, so if you’re hoping for curses and singing tea pots, this will not do, but I think it makes the story stand much better on its own merits.
For me, where this story really fails is that of all the things to keep about the original principle, the Abusive Partner Red Flag Master List should have been first on the cutting room floor. At least if you’re not into that sort of hero. If you like Julia Quinn, you’ll like this book. It has:
- the Brooding Hero With Self-Destructive Daddy Issues,
- the Heroine Who Is Beautiful And Kind And Decides To Meddle In The Hero’s Trauma Without Understanding It,
- the Plucky Kid Just There To Show How Nice The Heroine Is,
- the Attractive Guy Mostly There To Make The Hero Jealous (who in this case is combined with the Best Friend Who Tells Hero He’s Being A Jerk),
- the Hyper Controlling Father That Will Do Anything To Influence His Family’s lives (although in this book we’re expected to accept this as proof of love, rather than a manifestation of deep self doubt and feelings of entitlement expressing themselves as abuse),
- the Beleaguered and Abused Mother Who Is Also A Paragon,
- and my nemesis, instalove.
In the end, I found all the characters flat, either cruel or stupid or just tepid. Just about all the conflict in the book could have been resolved if people had actual conversations. In my books, if you’re not willing to listen to someone, you don’t love them, and very literally everyone in this book chooses not to listen to people they claim to love.
That said, if you like your heroes on the aggressive side, your heroines to be inexperienced but feisty, and enjoy old style romances that tell enclosed stories that don’t delve into social commentary, this may well be for you.