Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What I'm Reading: To Beguile a Beast

Elizabeth Hoyt owns me. I'm not exactly sure why. Among romance writers, I can think of better craftswomen. Better wordsmiths, better plotters, better delineators of character, not to mention writers whose sex scenes never involve the word "cunny." (Gack! Fingernails on a blackboard just typing it!)

But somehow I always seem to go along for the ride with Hoyt. Or almost always - the only book of hers I wound up skimming was To Taste Temptation, which just had too much angry/hostile sex in it for my taste (not a fan of the angry sex).

To Beguile a Beast had no angry sex and - first for Hoyt, IIRC - not a single instance of "cunny." Two entries on the plus side of the ledger right there. It had a nice "drawing the exile back into life/the community" story, too, particularly in the hero's growing relationship with the heroine's children. In fact I'd say that was the most effective, and affecting, part of the book for me; the gradual, mutual healing that took place between Alistair and the children.

I liked the choice of a horribly disfigured man for a hero. The early scenes in which he recognized his attraction to the heroine/despaired at her ever returning the feelings were powerful and rich, for me, particularly when he flashed back to his one post-disfigurement attempt to visit a prostitute. For whatever sick reasons, I always like seeing a hero or heroine brought low, and the image of him retreating, ashamed and humiliated, once the woman got a look at him and demanded double payment, really raised the stakes for whatever physical relationship might evolve between him and Helen, the heroine.

Unfortunately I don't think Hoyt really followed through on that setup. The H/H fell pretty quickly into that kind of "Girl, you know you want me" flirtation that's standard in historical romance, and I didn't see much of the self-doubt I'd been looking forward to in Alistair; I didn't see what a huge, huge risk it was for him to make any kind of sexual advance.

Probably not a re-read for me, but it definitely had its good parts, not least of which was the teaser chapter for the final book in the series, due out this fall. Damn.

No comments: