Beauties, Beasts and Trolls

On the heels of Fenris who disappointed, I read Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. She’s the one who also wrote Mr. Impossible which was amazing. I will repeat what I said before:

If you have ever had reservations about romance novels, if you think they’re all the same, if you think they’re all about silly twits and jerk heroes, then please read her. I don’t care if you never read any other romance novel. If you read one of those two (and I’m certain her others are just as good) then you will understand that not all romance novels are the same.

Lord of Scoundrels like The Castle of the Wolf has the monstrous hero and the smart heroine. In fact, there’s plenty of similarities. But rather than succumbing to a cycle of “oh-I-am-a-monster-you-can-never-love-me” Chase’s heroine defeats the heroes fears one by one, freeing the way more other legitimate conflicts to threaten their love.

Humans like redemption. We tune into Intervention and Wife Swap because we want to see people change their lives around. (We also like train wrecks which is why we watch all the VH1 dating shows but that’s a different subject). And we also like danger. Put them together in a love story and we get the excitement of the following books we’ll be discussing today.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase: Lord Dain


As said above, this book goes right where poor Fenris went wrong.  The set up is that Jessica Trent, a spinster with an eye for antiques, sets out to save her dimwitted brother. Bertie Trent has fallen into the company of Lord Dain but has not inherited the smarts or sense that Jessica did. Lord Dain is notorious for his gambling and debauchery and Bertie is determined to follow in his footsteps. Jessica attempts to extract her brother and ends up attracting Lord Dain’s notice instead, which leads them to an incident that ruins both their reputations.

Lord Dain isn’t a perfect man. He’s violent and rude and  has a lot of bad habits but here’s the thing: you don’t hold it against him. Without rubbing it in your face, it becomes clear that Dain is a man who never received any scrap of affection and is really just a child. He’s not traditionally handsome, he’s had an awful childhood and he’s been an outcast all his life. But it never turns in to “oh poor poor me.” Instead its “He’s had a tough life and this is the way he is” followed by “this is how he redeems himself.”

One thing I loved especially was how they avoided the BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS. Have you ever read a book where the two main characters had some fight or misunderstanding that tormented them for the rest of the book because neither of them had enough sense to talk about it? Chase has none of it. When Dain ruins Jessica’s reputation (meaning he kisses/gropes her passionately and then society people see it) he assumes she planned the whole thing because the same thing happened with another girl eager to get her hands on his riches. She assumes the same thing. At this point I was like “great, now they’ll spend the rest of the book hating each other over this.” But within a chapter she’s all “you bastard, why did you set me up?” and he’s like “oh…I thought you set me up.”

They still get married but it’s not Angstfest 1813. There’s drama and there are fights but no angst. Which makes Ally a happy reader. I actually squealed a little once I finished it. Go read this, now.

Man Grade: A-

Valiant by Holly Black: Ravus

Valiant is the second book in the Modern Faerie Tale trilogy by Holly Black. The first two are somewhat stand-alone though it helps to have read the first to understand the context of the second. The book is about a young woman named Val who, upon discovering that her boyfriend is having an affair with her mother, runs away to NYC and takes up with a group of homeless kids with ties to the faerie world. When one of the kids she’s living with gets in trouble with a troll, Val pledges a month of servitude to save her friend.

Ravus the troll is a potion maker who delivers them to the faeries in the city. Without the potions, faeries could not abide the iron that makes up NYC.  But the faeries who receive his wares are dying mysteriously and suspicion has fallen on him.

Ravus is a troll who has some human in him and can glamor himself (change his appearance) to look more human so he’s got some sex appeal but you would still have to like green guys. Actually I liked Ravus more for his personality, how shy he is, how fearsome he appears but how hesitant he can be, how he interacts with Val who takes the role of hero/knight in this story. He’s sweet and strong.

And like most of these men he has past guilt and is not sure he should be with the heroine. But it’s not something he bemoans all the time (though we see the story from Val’s point of view so he could very well be emo-ing behind the scenes. It doesn’t seem like it though). When he thinks Val has betrayed him it’s not because he’s so sad and unloved but because Val did screw up and he’s been down this road before.

Holly Black does touch on subjects that might make you uncomfortable: sex, drugs, homosexuality. But her gay characters are some of the best I’ve ever read and she treats the serious issues realistically. So give it a chance.

Man Grade: A


Beauty by Robin McKinley: The Beast

I consider Beauty the quintessential fairy tale retelling and Robin McKinley the quintessential re-teller of fairy tales. Her other novels that aren’t re-tellings are pretty good too.  She’s always been a favorite.

Beauty follows the original format of the fairy tale. A merchant loses his money and leaves the city with his three daughters. One winter he goes back to the city and on the way back, he is lost. He finds shelter at an enchanted castle, takes a rose and ends up having to send his daughter Beauty to live at the Beast’s castle. Every night the Beast asks Beauty to marry him. She keeps saying no.

One day Beauty wishes to return home to tell her sister that the sister’s old fiancée is not dead (she found out through a looking glass). She stays too long at home and when she returns the Beast is dying. She promises to marry him, the spell is broken and they live happily ever after.

This version of the fairy tale isn’t terribly exciting but McKinley makes it so. The man twist of the story is that Beauty…isn’t a Beauty. Her given name was Honor but when she was little she hated it and demanded she be called “Beauty.” It’s stuck and has plagued her ever since. The story deals with her family’s adjustments to a new life in the first part and then Beauty discovering the magic and enchantments around the Castle.

As for the Beast..he is very polite. And very cautious around Beauty. The moments where he interacts with her are very sweet. She teaches him how to interact with her horse (he’s always been wary of animals because they don’t like him) and he gives her a library with books that haven’t been written yet, like Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. And he’s shocked to learn she doesn’t consider herself beautiful because he thinks she’s lovely.

The Beast is..a Beast. He’s not like Lord Dain who is not handsome but big and strong or like Ravus with his humanish features. He’s a Beast. He has grown to consider himself more animal than human after centuries of being cursed. Although he keeps asking Beauty to marry him in order to break the curse, he seems pretty resigned to his fate. Overall, likeable and a good character.

Man Grade: A-/B+

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer: Edward Cullen

Imma gunna eat you...

…Okay okay. Here, have a serious picture.

Haha…sorry…

I really shouldn’t touch on this because someone is going to get angry.

Oh well.

So I wouldn’t immediately think of Twilight for Beauty and the Beast because Edward is pretty and sparkly. But he’s a monster (as he constantly reminds Bella) and at any second he could eat Bella (as he tells her).

I’ll be honest. When I started out, I was not a hater. Honest. I devoured those books. The girl i was borrowing them from couldn’t give them to fast enough and she lived right next door. But one thing I found ridiculous early on was how much Edward had to tell Bella that he was DANGEROUS.

He falls into ugh territory. I’m sorry. Nothing will convince him he’s not this awful and he just keeps bringing it up. In New Moon it makes him leave and while yes, I agree that its dangerous for Bella to be around the vampires, he sorta just comes back and continues the “I am a monster you shouldn’t want to be with me.” And there’s the awkward scene where Bella tries to seduce him…

Actually, the book Edward is not that bad. He has flaws but Bella irks me far more. It’s the movie Edward that skews your perception.

Can I ask something, twihards? Why do you like Robert Pattinson? I know he has moments where he seems attractive but the man criticizes Twilight, his character, Stephanie Meyer, everything.

The man has said:

If Edward wasn’t a fictional character and you met him in reality he is like one of those guys who would probably be an axe murderer or something.

And

…when I read [Twilight], it seemed like I was convinced [author] Stephenie [Meyers] was convinced she was [the book’s lead character] Bella and it was like it was a book that wasn’t supposed to be published. It was like reading her sexual fantasy, especially when she said it was based on a dream and it was like, ‘Oh I’ve had this dream about this really sexy guy,’ and she just writes this book about it. Some things about [Pattinson’s character] Edward are so specific, I was just convinced – I was like, ‘This woman is mad. She’s completely mad and she’s in love with her own fictional creation.’

If I were a Twihard  or even a moderate Twilight fan I would be mad as hell. If they made a movie of one of my favorite books and the lead characters made fun of it and set out to play the character as a creep I’d be ranting from the rooftops.

So please tell me, why do you like RPatz?

Please tell me you’re just watching it for Taylor Lautner and the werewolves. I know I am.

Sorry to get way off track there.

Man Grade: C

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: Beast


My ideal man. Enough said.

Man Grade: A+

Well I feel ranted out. Sorry if that turned any of you off.  If someone could clear up the RPatz thing please do. Oh and let me know about your faves Beauty and the Beast couples. Even if they’re not official couples.

And go read Loretta Chase!

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