To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
To Beguile a Beast takes a tried and true romance theme and does it justice. In this case, the Beauty is the fugitive mistress of a powerful duke, who takes her children to start a new life, not as a kept woman, but as a legitimate housekeeper. The Beast is a naturalist who was tortured by Indians in the colonies, as the result of an ambush against British soldiers.
The writing flows and compels. The romance not only involves Helen and Alistair, but also the bond that develops between Alistair and Helen's troubled children, Jamie and Abigail. I guess I am just getting older, but lately I really appreciate the idea of a hero or heroine who has children meeting someone who embraces those kids and makes them part of their life in all ways, founding their own parental bond. In this case, I loved how this relationship develops between Alistair and the children. I felt bad for them that their father wasn't really a dad to them at all. He didn't even talk to them or acknowledge them, although they didn't lack materially. They were just possessions to him. Whereas Alistair does spend time with the kids and genuinely cares about them.
As much as I liked this book, I didn't love it as much as The Raven Prince. I think the subject matter might have been a bit more dicey for me. I don't really like the idea that Helen willingly committed adultery with a married man. I understand her actions were those of a young, starstruck girl-woman, and she fully accepted the accountability for those actions. I didn't judge her for her actions, I just felt disappointed for the choices she made, but probably nowhere as near as she did. She threw away a lot for a man that wasn't worthy of her love, and paid the price for it. The one good thing that came out of it was her children, and she decides to make tomorrow a different and better day for herself and her children, which definitely shows character in a person. From a creativity standpoint, it makes sense to have a story for once about the 'other woman', but my deep-seated issues with infidelity give me a bit of heartburn about that. I'm never going to take that subject likely, so I do always feel a twinge when I read a book and the characters go down that road, past or present. Conversely, I didn't like that Alistair gave Helen such a hard time about her past when he finds out. I mean, he really rubs it in her face. Considering that his past is hardly lily white (a man who admittedly has slept with prostitutes (another ick factor for me), it was sort of like kicking a puppy. I know part of his issues were jealousy because he will never be a duke or have the powerful, accepted status in society as a duke. And also, his issues with his disfigurement. For all my disappointment with him, I did love how he rallies around Helen in her time of need and works to ensure the safety of her children from their father.
The other issue I had was I guess I expected the duke to be a bit more sinister. I was waiting for other shoe to fall, and when it does, it's a bit of a thunk instead of a bang. Helen seemed very afraid of the duke, and when he appears, he doesn't have even a smidge of the presence that Alistair has. Stylistically, I would have liked a little more Gothic flavor here. The book sort of begs for it, really. I suppose it's just my melodramatic/drama hound nature. I just felt like I wanted something deeper, more intense in this novel. Maybe more angst and flair than it had. Having said that, I do like the crafty way that Alistair deals with the situation. I love a hero who has as much or even more brains than brawn and uses them to solve a tricky problem.
Despite my misgivings, I found this to be a pleasant, highly enjoyable read. The powerful passion between Helen and Alistair made for good reading, along with the relationship between Alistair and the kids. As before, Hoyt sets an authentic historical tone that really works for this reader. The story of the beast finding love with the beauty will always be timeless and beloved to this die-hard fairy tale lover, and Elizabeth Hoyt gives it a different spin and gives it justice overall.
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