On When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

I bought Eloisa JamesWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast on impulse—I think I was drawn to the flagrantly purple-fuchsia concoction that is its cover. Can you blame me? Anyhoo, the impulse has paid off, and continues to: It’s been weeks since I last read this, and I still keep going back to certain images, certain exchanges, certain scenes. I still remember how I had to muffle the side-splitting laughter and the squee-y giggling because it was way past midnight and I shouldn’t have been reading the book anyway. I still remember, later on, having to pause between paragraphs to bury my face in my pillows, and me fighting so hard not to curl up into a ball and keen like there’s no tomorrow, and failing anyway.

This is one of the best romances I’ve ever read, one of the best experiences I’ve had with the genre. Holy baby pandas, I think this is a perfect book, that this was my perfect book.

I loved its characters, so funny and headstrong and greatly flawed and so very human. I loved being witness to their easy friendship and their inevitable tension, their side-splitting banter and the quiet moments after—I loved being along for the ride as they reached their much-deserved Happily Ever After. I loved that I was enjoying the romance, that I was laughing so goddamned hard for most of the book, only to melt into an emotional wreck-y puddle in the last hundred pages—and to act like a complete idiot and read the last hundred pages all over again after a teensy breather.

For posterity’s sake, I will attempt to be comprehensible: Why is this book awesome? Still, for the summary: This book is awesome, dammit. That is, you can ignore what I say in the next several paragraphs and skip right to the last sentence, because that is one of the truest things I know.

[Oh yeah, what’s the book about? I suck at this, but here goes: Linnet is disgustingly (hur) beautiful and so very witty, and she’s embroiled in a scandal. Piers is going about his lone, grumpy, ridiculously good-looking life, and unbeknownst to him, his father made a deal with Linnet’s odd family: The two are betrothed, ta-da. And then, of course, they meet. And then, of course, the fun begins.]

Basically, I’ve realized that When Beauty Tamed the Beast thumbs its nose at conventional tropes. At its simplest is the diversity in atmosphere and in tone it displays. A handful of sweeping examples, focusing on just the nitty-gritty of the plot:

[01] It began as an introspective social diary, a nonchalant satire of the times.

[02] We were then introduced to an absurd family—absurd, if only because they don’t usually act the way families of the ton act when faced with a scandal. And the heroine, Miss Linnet Berry Thrynne, is so in a scandal. Also, yes, that is her name.

[03] And then, we’ve got an impossible situation that finally brings Linnet and Piers Yelverton, the Earl of Marchant, together. An impossible, almost farcical situation—don’t romance novels specialize in these kinds of things? the book seems to nudge-nudge and wink-wink me.

[04] And then, hello, rumbling romance, which opens with wit and banter that stands for and makes evident a growing friendship of complementary souls. This is not your usual cat-and-mouse riot, because Piers and Linnet are palpably good friends.

[05] But! The romance is constant, it’s inevitable. That’s what the best representatives of the genre should point out: That love and romance is right, that it ought to happen. You stand witness, you believe in its triumph. And thank goodness for letting these leads work so very hard for that HEA.

And with all that, with the genius crafting of the characters—your blackest of black hearts gets emotionally attached. It’s a diversity that proves crucial to the progression of the narrative and the wholeness of the characters. It even thumbs its nose at the usual plot devices [say, The Free Willy Goodbye, which involves Character A saying, I don’t love you! while hurling a projectile at Character B’s way]—it even makes new the changes the leads undergo—changes where the characters responded consistently with their personalities, changes that are of absolute importance to how this romance will succeed, how these people will live for the better.

[And, writing this now, I realize I can’t say anything more substantial than that because I will fall apart, okay? I will goddamned fall apart. Aherm. But a modest taste:] Yes, Piers and Linnet both undergo a credible, transformative process—and, because this is a romance, the success of that process wouldn’t have been possible without the other dude—Oh god, I am remembering the scenes, oh god oh god oh god I can’t do this anymore.

Aherm. Breathe, Sasha. Okay. I bid you, dear Reader, to take this away:

This book—this is why I read romance novels.

4 thoughts on “On When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James


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