Book Review: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James (Reviewed by Christopher Williams)

I will be the first to admit that I was quite apprehensive when I began reading Ms. James’ When Beauty Tamed the Beast. Everything from the cover seemed to trigger a masculine defense mechanism: the rather effeminate cover, the title, and the synopsis all pointed towards a bland romance story complimented by vacuous sentences and overwhelming imagery.  However, I could not have been further from the truth. When Beauty Tamed the Beast has the rare trait of being not only a captivating read, but so casual in its style as to allow one to enjoy every second of it.  The storyline was not only invigorating  with many plot twists and several entertaining side plots, but also was methodical enough that I could drop it at any time and resume reading with the same fervor as I had before my reprieve.  The style of the book was not so much a rendition of Beauty and the Beast as it was Pride and Prejudice meets House, where the protagonist, Linnet, is often reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennett and the antagonist, Piers, holding to the same clever cynicism that we adore Hugh Laurie for.

The writing style of the book seemed to be tedious at times and the flow of the book was thrown off at times by impromptu clichés, yet the imagery was very conscientious and details occurred only when apt.  The setting was hard to ascertain at first, and her clues were less than helpful in gathering the context of this story in the beginning.  Unfortunately, it is aspects such as these which make the book so hard to get into.  The first fifty-some pages give me no incentive to follow the characters; in fact that first chunk of the book is a prolonged introduction, mindlessly introducing every character through their symptoms in a hauntingly consistent manner. Surprisingly, it is this consistent manner which redeems the book in the latter half.  The novel has some sort of “forbidden fruit” intrigue in it.  I know that there wasn’t anything too novel about a virgin who is starting to look and act pregnant (Freud talked about that quite frequently) but I did know that some kind of scandal was about to occur, and I was fine with patiently enduring this prolonged primer for the sweet spoils of my curiosity that will be given to me later.

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One aspect that I really appreciated was that her characters stayed consistent throughout the novel and the development was quite subtle.  Although the characters constantly argues, it was quite apparent that the spite the main characters had for each other was more of a flirtatious game then it was actual disdain.  I appreciate that much more in a romance novel than some sense of adoration that overcomes the characters when they first meet.  James almost broke continuity when the characters became romantically inclined but the upset later on in the book seemed to balance it out.  The main character’s fall from grace was particularly disappointing, but the juxtaposition to her less-than-admirable mother made the fall all the more probable and overall satisfying.  The ending was a happy ending with the usual miracle rescue from a surprising bout of luck on the antagonist, which I rather disappointed; however I had become so attached to the characters that I would have ultimately been disappointed to see the story unfold in any other manner.

Overall I found When Beauty Tamed the Beast to be both delightful and thought provoking.  The plot was well thought out and entertaining and the exchanges between characters were quite witty and at times humorous.  This book is something I could read a second time and would get something new out of it from, although I doubt it would be resting on one’s mantle.  This book is perfect for movie adaptation and is easy to read on a rainy afternoon or throughout a busy work-week.  One should certainly not judge this book solely by its cover.

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James
On sale 1/25/2011

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