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REVIEW:  Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas

REVIEW: Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas

Dear Ms. Thomas:

I have the same problem reviewing you as I do Courtney Milan. As in, do I really have the temerity to criticize such an amazing writer? Apparently the answer is yes because while Beguiling the Beauty was beautifully written, I wasn’t feeling the romance. This may be an “it’s not you, it’s me not liking the masquerade trope thing” but at the end of the book, I hadn’t been convinced of the HEA.

Beguiling the Beast Sherry ThomasVenetia Townsend is one of the most beautiful women in all of the world. One look at her face when Christian de Montford, Duke of Lexington, was young man and he was dumbstruck and tumbled instantly in love. Unfortunately for Christian, Venetia was already married and it was his first realization that he, a pampered Duke, might be ordinary.

Christian felt as if he were falling from a great height.

He’d always considered himself a breed apart. Now he was just another sod who might yearn and strive, but never achieve his heart’s desire.

This love for her face festers into something hateful. When Venetia’s husband dies, in debt and near ruin, Christian chalks it up to Venetia’s vanity. When she remarries a year later to an older wealthy man and is rumored to be cuckolding the man, Christian pegs her as shallow. “Evidently Christian’s beloved was a shallow, greedy, selfish woman who injured and diminished those around her.”

Despite his intense dislike of her character, he still finds her beauty unparalleled and his lust for her seems unabated.
“Almost five years had elapsed since he last saw her. The passage of time had only enhanced her beauty. She was more radiant, more magnetic, and more dangerous than ever.

A wildfire raged in his heart. It didn’t matter what kind of woman she was; it only mattered that she become his.

He turned and walked away.”

He becomes obsessed with either her or his reaction to her. I was never certain. Were his actions driven by an unacknowledged self loathing or by his shallow judgment of her? Because he hasn’t yet had her, but is still obsessed, Christian denounces beauty and does so by obliquely referencing Venetia with just enough details in a Harvard lecture that those who are well versed in society  knows that it is her.

Venetia conveniently is in the lecture hall, having brought her sister over to New England and away from a negative influence. Venetia’s unmarried sister, Helena, appears to be embroiled in an affair with a married man and Venetia and her sister in law Millie, conspire to bring the sister to the attention of the Duke in hopes that another man could spring Helena from the clutches of her improper relationship.

Sitting in the lecture hall, hearing herself being torn apart by a man she’s never met, but one she had admired from afar, was crushing. In a fit of anger, Venetia vows revenge. She will use ever guile she has ever accumulated and make Christian fall in love with her. Then she will break his heart. She does this while the two are sailing back to England from Harvard disguised as a German baroness, appearing veiled in the daytime and occluded from Christian’s gaze at night by the darkness.

The basis of their relationship is lies, vengeance and obsession. The primary problem I had was that my heart ached for Venetia and I didn’t feel that Christian was worthy of her. When Christian and Venetia carry on their veiled affair and Christian supposedly falls in love with Venetia, he falls in love with one person and it just so happens that he conveniently gets to match that one person with the one face that he’s lusted over, obsessed over for 10 years. But if you strip away the convenience, you still have Christian in love with one woman and obsessed with another. I never felt like Christian’s issues with Venetia were adequately dealt with.

After the two have supposedly fallen in love, Christian sees Venetia (not knowing she is also the Baronness he professes to love and to want to marry)

He wanted to make cast models of her. He wanted to take a set of precision calipers and measure every distance between her features. He wanted her blood and glandular fluids analyzed by the finest chemists in the world—there must be something detectibly different in her inner workings for him to respond so dramatically, as if he’d been given a drug for which science had yet to find a name.

But more than anything, he wanted to—

He yanked himself back to his senses: He was a man who had committed himself to another. The baroness might very well not reciprocate said commitment, but he expected more of himself when he gave his word.

This repeats itself. Christian can’t stop thinking of Venetia, a woman he barely knows, a woman whose actions are despicable to him; and hardly remembers the Baronness, the woman with whom he fell in love.

Christian views himself as a victim, Venetia the heartless beauty. Venetia knows her plan of revenge was wrong but somehow justified. Venetia’s great sin was to choose to punish Christian knowingly.  Christian’s careless remarks weren’t so intentionally targeted.  This is a beauty and the beast story which the Great Beauty being the beast in disguise and so in order to fall in love, the beauty has to be obscured for it, like the beast’s ugliness, informs incorrectly.

Yet, even if you can get past the misdeeds the two inflict upon each other, I could still not overcome Christian’s obsession with Venetia.  If the Baronness had not been Venetia and someone else, Christian would have still be obsessed with another woman and in that, I could not find happiness in the ending.  B-

Best regards

Jane

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REVIEW:  Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick

REVIEW: Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick

Tweet Heart by Elizabeth RudnickDear Ms. Rudnick,

Social media is probably one of the funnest tropes that’s present in young-adult fiction.   How often do you see a regular adult novel belting out blog posts, emails, and IM’s in a way that tells a full fledged story?   Not very often.   Books that use social media have always been fun reads for me.   Some, like the TTYL series by Lauren Myracle, have become long-time favorites, while others like Heart on My Sleeve by Ellen Wittlinger fell flat.   Tweet Heart is a comfortable, in-the-middle type of novel that may not live up to the success of authors like Lauren Myracle, but provides a quick, entertaining read all the same.

Claire has just joined Twitter, the newest social media fad to hit high school, and is making the most of it.   Her BFF Lottie is coaching her through her major crush, hot lacrosse player JD, while trying to find the guy of her dreams as well.   Claire’s best guy friend, Will, is trying to find the courage to ask her out, but her crush on JD is making things a lot harder than they should be.   And Bennett, her other male comrade, is just trying to get attention from the opposite sex.   Being a Sci-Fi geek who knows Klingon and Elvish can put a damper on one’s social life.

Things are shaky but constant, until Will decides to hatch a plan.   JD doesn’t have a Twitter account, and Claire is desperate to talk to him – why not make a fake name, pose as JD, and make her happy?   Bennett convinces him it would be a good idea, but only once.   After that, no more speaking, comfort Claire, and maybe move past that dreaded title of friend into something more.   Nothing could go wrong – could it?

Talking to her once as JD was fine, but Claire was so happy and eager, Will just couldn’t stop at once.   Before he knows it, Claire’s feelings for JD have only grown stronger.   Now that school is back in, Claire, Will, and Bennett are working together on the school paper, and all they end up talking about is that jock JD.   Will can barely get a break, and Claire is too excited to think straight.

Tweets, blog posts, emails, and advice column segments make up this novel of misplaced affections and high school drama.   These four friends go through everything to discover that the person you like isn’t always so great after all.

Reviewing a book that uses social media is really difficult because I can’t talk about description or action or many other things that regular narratives have.   Social media requires strong characters and dialogue to make up for a lot of those aspects, and you have both hits and misses with them.

Claire and Will are a nice young-adult couple.   Claire’s Get Clueless column segments were really amusing, and were some of my favorite parts of the book.   I liked that she rode horseback and read, all of which made for a pretty well-rounded heroine that remained grounded when it came to things other than her crush JD.   Will was a nice fit for her, and his occasional bouts of geekiness made him really appealing, though his overall personality wasn’t anything that I got excited about – not to mention I would have liked him to quite the act of playing JD sooner.

Lottie and Bennett were my favorite of the two couples.   While it’s rather cliche to have the secondary characters get together as well, they added   interesting spice to the story.   Lottie’s constant boy troubles were always amusing and good for a few laughs, as was Bennett’s constant references to the geek world.   They brought some needed color to the book and it’s plot, and by comparison made Claire and Will’s troubles a lot easier to swallow.   Bennett’s blog posts in particular were funny, and I liked that he wasn’t the typical guy friend and egging Will on to continue the charade.   Having him be sensible and thinking of Claire, whose friendship means just as much to him, was nice, and broke from the bro-code mold some authors put on their heroes and their close friends.

Dialogue between all four of the characters was usually really witty and real.   You really know how to make your characters feel like high-schoolers instead of the usual mature, twenty something character type in a teenage skin that YA has a tendency to show.   This example   of a Tweet conversation between Lottie and Bennett is one of my favorites:

LotsOLove:   It’s Friday and I’m in love.

KingOfSlack @LotsOLove:   Hey genius – it’s not Friday.   Coming to Claire’s show tmrw?

LotsOLove @KingOfSlack:   Hey dork – I know.   Was quoting a song which you would know if you listened to anything but Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

KingOfSlack @LotsOLove:   mori er

LotsOLove @KingOfSlack:   Say what?   Are you throwing crazy made-up languages at me again?

KingOfSlack @LotsOLove:   Glad u don’t speak Elvish.   U don’t want to know what I just called u.

LotsOLove @KingOfSlack:   I cannot understand why Claire hangs out with you.

KingOfSlack @LotsOLove:   Simple.   I’m a stud muffin.

LotsOLove @KingOfSlack:   Muffin, maybe.   Stud, not so much.

The plot was nothing to really get excited about.   I’ve seen it done before to various degrees, and it was a pretty average take on high school relationships.   The social media format was really well done, however, and between the Tweets and the emails, I felt like the story seemed really fresh.   Other than a few minor things to figure out slang-wise, everything was really easy to read, and made for a good book to finish in a few hours.

While the plot doesn’t market itself as anything original or groundbreaking, Tweet Heart‘s use of various social media conventions like Twitter and Email makes for a fun story and read.   Coupled with witty dialogue and a fun cast of secondary characters, I am really anxious to see where you go next, especially if your next novel is in this same format.   B-

All the best,

John

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