Monday, December 10, 2012

Pop Tarts Book Club: When Beauty Tamed the Beast

It's time for another installment of the Pop Tarts Book Club. This time, we read "When Beauty Tamed the Beast" by Eloisa James. Spoilers ahead, of course.

The cover. Read more from Eloisa James at her website, here.

Synopsis: Beautiful Linnet Berry Thryne starts out "When Beauty Tamed the Beast" as a ruined woman. She's been flirting with Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, so when she pukes at a musicale after eating a bad prawn, then shows up at a party in a gown that makes her look pregnant, she's screwed, even though she hasn't been, well, screwing. (It doesn't help that her late mother was notorious for having lovers that were not her husband.) Prince Augustus can't marry her, since he's a royal duke (and, perhaps, a royal ass), so Linnet's father and her chaperone hatch a plan to marry her off to a so-called beast - Piers Yelverton, Earl of Marchant. He lives in a castle in Wales, working as a doctor and being generally foul-tempered. He has a terrible leg injury, which reportedly also left him immune to the charms of women. Piers challenged his father, the Duke of Windebank, to find the perfect woman, and his father finds him Linnet - who he also believes is pregnant, which would give him an heir even though his son can't give him one.

Linnet journeys up to Wales to meet her husband-to-be, and they almost immediately agree that they don't want to get married. However, she sticks around and starts to get to know Piers. They go swimming together - the pain in Piers' leg is only helped by swimming in a beautiful salt-water pool overlooking the ocean - and Linnet gets to know a few patients and changes a few things at the makeshift hospital - she sees the value in allowing family members to visit and other human things like that.

Also in the middle of all of this, Piers' beautiful French mother, who is divorced from Piers' father, shows up to meet Linnet, and Piers' parents flirt and fight.

Of course, Linnet and Piers can't help but enjoy each others' company, not to mention noticing that they are two very attractive people. After much flirting and fighting and swimming, they get caught in a storm while they're swimming and have to dash to the guardhouse. Pretty soon, they have sex - turns out that Piers isn't impotent after all! He just made that up to make his father feel bad because his father injured his leg while he was hallucinating on opium! - and soon they're doing it all over. They still say they don't want to get married, and that they're only playing, but things are more complicated.

Things get even more complicated when Piers realizes that a patient has scarlet fever, and that it's starting to spread. He kicks his parents and Linnet out of the castle, and tells Linnet that it's over between them. Linnet gets in a carriage to go back to London, while Piers' parents shack up in the guardhouse. Unfortunately, Linnet has already caught scarlet fever, and when she shows up at an inn with the fever, she is put in a chicken coop by an innskeeper and slips near death. Once the epidemic is under control at the castle, Piers realizes that Linnet had been dancing with someone who came down with scarlet fever, and he is sure that she has the fever too. He takes off on a desperate search, realizing that he wants to marry her after all. He finds her in the chicken coop near death, kicks the innkeepers out and drags Linnet upstairs to begin caring for her. After a tough, dramatic night, Linnet begins to recover, but she has horrible scaly skin and scabs. For about a week, Linnet won't see Piers because she's ashamed of how she looks, so he brings her to the pool. She is still embarrassed, but Piers tells her that he loves her for her wit and personality, not just her beauty. The saltwater helps the scabs fall off, they reunite and all is right with the world.

Kel's Thoughts: I sped the hell through this book I loved it so much. Linnet Thynne goes down as one of my top ten favorite romance novel heroines. No, she wasn't perfect, what with her epic freakout over having blisters all over her body. But I think I can forgive her for that since if it happened to me, I would probably have a bit of a meltdown also. I wouldn't probably worry quite so much about losing my looks, but I can definitely see how one would need an adjustment period. Also, she had almost died, so I think we can cut her some slack. Other than that, I loved her. She was funny and smart and had no problem standing up to Piers, who tended to be an epic dick most of the time. Plus, she was really nice and kind to everyone and didn't mess with Piers' head. Speaking of Piers, who doesn't love a House-type doctor in the Regency period? I mean, come on. In real life, I would smack him, but in romance-novel world, I love him.

I really enjoyed their relationship. An engagement before they had met, a genuine dislike of each other's personalities, a stubbornness for admitting that their dislike was not really probably all dislike. I mean, what more could you ask for? My favorite thing was right after they had sex for the first time, they went right back to arguing and not wanting to marry one another. And even after admitting to themselves (though not each other) that they liked one another, they still didn't want to marry. As I said...stubborn!

I thought the drama was really good. Obviously, you know that Linnet is not going to die of Scarlet Fever, but knowing that she has it when Piers doesn't and then figured it out...oh so good. And the scene in the Inn when Piers is carrying her and trying to nurse her and good. So Good!

And besides that, it was a genuinely sweet and funny story. I laughed and giggled multiple times. And found myself doing little girly sighs. It was great. Exactly what I look for in a good romance novel. I occasionally have issues with Eloisa James characters being too dumb to live (Annabel from "Kiss Me, Annabel" comes to mind) or just really weak, but I thought all the characters were really good. And I absolutely loved the side-story of Piers' parents. Overall, I really enjoyed When Beauty Tamed the Beast and would highly recommend it to anyone.

Jen's Thoughts: I really enjoyed "When Beauty Tamed the Beast" as well. I thought it started out a little bit too slow - there were a lot of scenes showing that Linnet was beautiful and able to charm men, and naive, but also very smart and sassy, and lots of scenes of how much of a dick Piers is. I did like the whole aspect of Piers being basically Dr. House in regency times. He was a pretty great character, and I liked his various layers - his issues with his parents, his injury, his interest in medicine, his stubbornness in not letting patients die ...

Once the book sped up, it really sped up and I couldn't put it down. I loved them getting caught in the guardhouse, and all the "playing" thereafter, and then Linnet getting scarlet fever and Piers having to save her. Apparently I like the medical drama subplot of historical romances - most of my favorite romance novels have somebody getting a fever or an injury or something - and this had a good one! It was especially great to see Piers trying to save Linnet the first night in the inn. It was sweet and dramatic and just plain great.

I thought Piers and Linnet were a great pair. There was a lot of chemistry there, and that makes for a good book. It was nice to have two intelligent protagonists - Linnet was naive, but it was understandable since her mother died when she was young, and Piers was incredibly smart with his brain if not with his heart. They both had real, complicated personalities, which was also great. They weren't just a series of quirks, but they both seemed to be pretty well thought-out. Their relationship really made sense, going from being not particularly interested in each other and then slowly, as they spent time together, falling in love. It was very romantic and fun.

I really enjoyed this book, and I, too, would recommend it. It wasn't too deep, but it was dramatic and also had a lot of very funny parts. If you're looking for a good romance novel, check this one out ASAP!

Next time on Pop Tarts Book Club: Next, we're reading "The Lady Risks All" by Stephanie Laurens, which was recommended by our mom! Thanks, mom!

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