Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: To Beguile a Beast

Grand Central Publishing 368 pages

May 2009 By Elizabeth Hoyt



Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.


Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.


Beneath Helen's beautiful fa├žade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find-a happy ever after.

After blogging at Borders last week, a few people suggested this book as a classic example of the Scarred Hero/Beauty and the Beast theme. I could not agree more. I loved this book, even though I am not keen on mistress heroines or children running amuck in my romance reads.

It is 1765, deep in the Scottish mists, our heroine Helen Fitzwilliam is fleeing from her much older Duke lover with her two bastard children from said Duke. She is taking up a position of housekeeper for the reclusive and mysterious Sir Alastair Munroe.

Her meeting with him in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm was wonderful, As lightning cracks overhead, the beast is revealed, and the children scream at the sight of him.

Sir Alastair was wounded and tortured most horribly in the American Colonies by the French and their allied Indians, this being the same time frame and location as "Last of the Mohicans" Which had me picturing Daniel Day-Lewis as Sir Alastair through the whole book!
Scarred on one side of his face, 2 missing fingers and a empty eye-socket is the reason for the children screams, understandable.

But like most tortured, hidden heroes in this situation, how refreshing that Alastair is not some overly brooding, snappish monster, though, he has his moments. He works diligently on his books on flora and fauna, a true naturalist, that is why he was in the Colonies. His castle is a filthy mess, dust and dirt abound, Helen has her work cut out for her.
In more ways than one it seems, as Alastair is immediately taken with her aloof beauty. But also her determination and as he sees, her courage.

What I like is both characters are flawed, but it does not detract from the read at all. And I eventually overcame my sneering dislike of children in the book, especially when I read some in the daughter Abigail's POV. Now THAT isn't done in romance novels, and I liked it.

Alastair is not only drawn to Helen, he is drawn to Abigail and her younger brother Jamie. The children, though well loved and cared for by their mother, really had no contact with their father, the imperious Duke of Lister, to him, they are merely possessions, as is Helen. Hence her escape.
I found the Duke of Lister not very effective as a villain, but the rest of the story more than makes up for that slight flaw.

But the relationship that brought tears to my eyes, more than once, was Alastair's tender relationship with Lady Grey. His loyal, aged dog. Yes. His dog. This reveals more about his character than any passionate kiss with Helen.

An excerpt:

Alistair sighed and climbed back down the stairs to Lady Grey. “Come on, lass.” He bent and gently scooped her against his chest. He could feel her heartbeat under his hands and the trembling in her legs. She was heavy but Alistair held the big dog in his arms as he ascended the tower stairs. Once in the tower, he knelt and set her in her favorite place on the rug before the fire.

“Nothing to be ashamed of,” he whispered as he stroked her ears. “You’re a brave lass, you are, and if you need a bit of help up the stairs, well, I’m glad to oblige.”

The children see this loving relationship with Lady Grey and realize that looks aside, Sir Alastair is not some beast. I loved the growing affection between Alastair and the children.

But it is the steamy, passionate relationship with Helen that fuels this read. As with most men in these situations in romance novels, scarred he may be, but he has a stunning form and amazing bed skills. Fine by me!

Some complained they fell into each others arms too fast, I didn't think so, Helen had been neglected for years by the Duke, and Alastair had not had any congress with any woman since his capture at Spinner Falls, 7 years before. Two lonely people reaching out for each other, perfectly understandable. And they begin to heal each other, and slowly fall in love, I thought it was fabulous.
I was also shocked to read some thought the book vulgar. What? The love scenes were no more sensuous than most historicals I have read.
Some subplot of Spinner Falls, turns out Alastair and his comrades were betrayed, the identity of this traitor is apparently carried over into her next book. Sometimes I don't mind when a certain plot point is carried over to another book, here, I think it should have been revealed. A minor sticking point.

When Helen's true identity is revealed, Alastair is angry, and shocked. He does have a bit of a temper, one of his flaws. But he steps up to the plate and becomes a true hero and concocts a plan to thwart the Duke of Lister and his schemes, culminating with a race to London.

All in all, I enjoyed this immensely, I should mention I adored Alastair's older sister Sophia, she was colorful and outspoken and slapped some sense into her brother at the end of the book. Literally. Good for her.

One distraction, I didn't care for the mini-story of the Truth Teller at the beginning of each chapter, in fact, I skipped over it, that and the fact the Duke of Lister was a rather flat villain, kept me from giving this 4 stars.
But if you love Beauty and the Beast stories, you will love this book. And I am anxious to seek out some more novels from Elizabeth Hoyt!

3 and 3/4 stars out of 4

Kover Kudos: Well, I am a stickler for detail, and I know putting a scarred hero on a cover is not esthetically pleasing, but couldn't they at least put an eye patch on him, hide one side of his face in shadow? I suppose one could argue his missing fingers are under her dress hem. Regardless, lovely, lush colors and the stepback show a sensuous pose and a dark haired handsome male model in profile, very Daniel Day Lewis! But the front cover shows the male model front on, kissing her shoulder. He is NOT Alastair. Too bad. An eye-patch would have gone a long way in my book.

2 stars out of 4


Deb said...

Karyn, great review. Of all her books, this is one of my faves.

I have to be honest, her first book The Raven Prince shocked me for the hero's language and for the sex. I almost did not read the other books because of this reason. These are books I would not pass on to my mother, LOL!

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Thanks Deb! Much appreciated!

Ooooo, Language AND Sex? *runs off to order it* LOL, just kidding, maybe that is the book the reviewer was alluding to. And I hear you, there are books I wouldn't let my mother read, heck I won't let her read what I write!!