Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dual Review: To Beguile A Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

CAN A WOUNDED BEAST . . .

Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.

TRUST A BEAUTY WITH A PAST . . .

Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.

TO TAME HIS MOST SECRET DESIRES?

Beneath Helen's beautiful fa├žade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find--a happy ever after.

Hilcia and I decided to team up on this one and have a conversational/dual review for Elizabeth Hoyt's To Beguile a Beast. Enjoy.

Brie: Okay Hilcia, Lets get going. What did you think of To Beguile A Beast?

Hilcia: I loved this book, Brie. I thought it was a lovely well-developed Romance that was centered mainly between the Hero and Heroine, well... and the children. I thought their characters were well developed also. I loved both Sir Alistair and Helen in the book, neither let me down, even when the conflict hit its climax.

It did have some weaknesses, but not enough to make me not love this book.

What about you, Brie?

Brie: I'll start by saying that I did enjoy the book. That said, I wasn't wowed. I liked all of the main characters - and, like you, thought that they were well developed. The romance was very sweet, but I think that it moved too fast! Alistair and Helen were in love in just a matter of weeks. Not to say that I didn't like the way that it happened, I thought that it worked well, I only wish that it had been more of a slow build.

What I did love about the story was that the Beauty and the Beast theme worked well. Alistair did fit the description of a Beast. So many times the "scarred hero" isn't truly disfigured. But Alistair was, people screamed at the sight of him. I also liked that Ms. Hoyt didn't stop at the face and extended his disfigurement to one of his hands. His internal angst about his face was believable and well done. I thought he was a great character and hero. I really did like him from the start.

Hilcia: I didn't quite see it as them falling in love too fast, I saw it as a sexual attraction. Alistair was attracted to Helen almost on sight, he found her beautiful and desirable. It took Helen a while longer, but yes they acted on that attraction. This part didn't bother me, they were both so lonely and neglected, they were hungry. I thought Hoyt really highlighted that about both of them. The love, I thought, took a while longer to develop.

I loved what Hoyt did with Alistair's character. He was what I think of as a true "tortured" hero. He certainly had reason to be, it wasn't a contrived situation. The way he was described, he wasn't an easy sight to behold. You already mentioned his physical scars, but I loved his sense of honor and courage, as well as his vulnerability and tenderness. It was obvious that he suffered from psychological scars on top of the physical ones. It was a great combination and I just wanted to eat him up!


Brie: I agree, the sexual attraction was understandable - especially on Alistair's part. But there was something about the speed at which their relationship developed that felt off to me. Whenever a character would make reference to it being "two weeks since so in so..." I would think: Dang, this is moving fast! But I guess that a lot happened in those few weeks to bring them together so strongly.

Moving right along. I've stated before that I'm not a big fan of children in romances. A lot of times I feel like they take something away from the main characters. In this book, Helen's daughter, Abigail has a good amount of POV. I was surprised by that, but at the same time I understood why it was needed. What did you think about Abigail having a POV?

Hilcia: I'm not a fan of children in romances either. Like you, I was also rather surprised by Abigail's POV. In this case, I actually didn't mind the children, they played a pivotal role in the story. Abigail's POV helped us see what was going on in the Duke's home, it is through her eyes that we see him. I thought it was Hoyt's way of showing us the Duke's nature and true feelings for his children -- as well as Abigail's feelings for him. At times, it is through Abigail's thoughts and reactions that we get a better understanding of Helen. Well done, if unusual.

Brie: When Alistair finds out that Helen was the Duke of Lister's Mistress his reaction really surprised me. Since Alistair knew that Helen was hiding something from him, I really didn't expect him to become so upset with her when the truth came out. I get that his reaction was fueled by jealousy, but he had become tender and kind with Helen and I thought that he would take her news in stride. His upset and comments disappointed me a little. How did you take his initial reaction to the news?

Hilcia: I wasn't surprised at all by his reaction, Brie. This is the way I saw it. I didn't think it was just jealousy, he did know that she was running away from a man, however he thought it was a husband. Putting that aside, I thought Alistair was upset about the fact that she lied to him to the extent that she did -- even after they started the relationship. He seemed to be more upset with her about what he saw as her irresponsibility -- having two children outside of marriage, and what that meant to their future -- than he did about her being a mistress, although that bothered him plenty. And, last but not least, he knew the laws of the times, a Duke or any male aristocrat would have automatic ownership of their children. So, yes I understood his reaction and was expecting it.

You know, we've been talking an awful lot about Alistair, but I really liked Helen throughout the story. I think of her as being one of those perfect "imperfect" heroines. What are your impressions of her?

Brie: I liked Helen a lot. I liked that she accepted her faults and the missteps she'd taken, and did what she could to set things right not for herself, but for her children. She was smart in her decisions and a strong heroine in many ways. I really did come to care for her.

What did you think of her back story and how she came to be The Duke's mistress? I had a few qualms with the seduction angle and also thought that Lister was the standard cardboard cut-out bad guy: single minded and non layered. I really wish that his character had been better drawn.

Hilcia: I loved Helen's courage, the risks she was willing to take for her children and her perseverance in the face of rejection when she arrived at Castle Greaves, plus her ingenuity in gaining the position -- I loved that part. She's the type of heroine that recognizes a "good man" when she sees one, for having experienced the wrong one. Most of all, I liked that in the end Helen didn't sell herself cheap, that she gained enough self-esteem to want more for herself and her children.

I thought the Duke's character was definitely one of the weaknesses in the story. I found him to be a bit under-developed. The seduction was easy, but then she was 17 and believed she was in love. Since she was ruined, I do understand a harsh, judgmental family giving her up. Having said that, we certainly don't get to know much about him, I mean here's this monumental villain and yet, I thought his reasons were a bit paltry. No background information on him either. I didn't think Hoyt dug deeply into the other secondary characters either. She really centered this story on Alistair and Helen when it came to character development.

There were about three conflicts going on this story, Helen and Alistair, Helen and the Duke of Lister, the traitor at Spinners Falls. What did you think of the resolutions to the conflicts?


Brie: Helen and Alistair's conflict was was well handled. Their major issues were more internal than anything else, and had more to do with them working things out within themselves. I liked that Helen took steps to become her own woman in the end, but...

(Highlight for spoiler)
*
[When Helen left Alistair, I thought that was a good decision on her part. Even though she loved him, I felt like she needed time with just her children and herself after everything that they had been through. I had hoped that we would get at least a chapter of her life without Alistair and see her blossom into a more self sufficient woman. I had a little bit of a problem with the speedy resolution to their conflict. I think that they needed some real time apart before moving forward together.] *
(End Spoiler)

As for Helen and the Duke, I felt that his lack of development made that conflict a little dull for me. Because he was so shadowy a character, I felt no real fear or angst when it came to him. This is where my major issue with the story comes into play. I thought that for all the talk surrounding The Duke, he turned out to be no real threat. The resolution was just too easy and anti-climatic.

And the Spinners Falls reveal was interesting. It was nothing that I would have ever thought to guess and looks like it will play into the next book. But in this book the whole Spinners Falls theme felt like much to do about nothing.

Hilcia: I honestly thought the conflict between Helen and the Duke of Lister was going to be a hard one to resolve. The resolution was both simple and effective because of who was involved and where it took place -- socio-political instead of physical -- it was plausible. I guess I've read too many super-villain stories where the obsessed character doesn't give up and that's exactly what I was expecting. Hoyt didn't go for it, and I liked that.

In the end I was more than happy with the way the conflict between Helen and Alistair was resolved. I understood both their reservations and reactions to each other. I thought Alistair's insecurities were understandable. Helen grew to admire and love Sir Alistair, however, even though she was in love, Helen wasn't broken, she thought of herself as worthy of more. Good for Helen!

There really wasn't much of a conflict in this book when it came to Spinners Falls and the traitor. There was a small revelation, if that. I really didn't mind it much, it looks as if it will take center stage again in the next book.


Brie: For me, one of the highlights of Ms. Hoyt's stories are the accompanying Fairy Tales. I thought that Truth Teller was well done. The story of both the Princess and Truth Teller saving each other was very much in line with Helen and Alistair's story. How did you like it?

Hicia: I loved her fairy tale Truth Teller. I haven't read one yet that I haven't liked. I enjoy reading them before starting the chapter to see if her clues to what's going to happen in that chapter are subtle or obvious. I usually re-read the whole fairy tale when after finishing the book to fully enjoy it.

Brie: You know, I've never re-read any any of the Fairy Tales. I need to do that!

So, we've come to the end and while we agree on some points, we also differ on others. Overall, I liked To Beguile a Beast. I enjoyed both Alistair and Helen individually, and together I thought they were a good match. There are some things that I wish had been handled differently, but as a whole, the story was a good addition to the series. I'm going to give this one a solid B.

Oh, and after reading the excerpt for the next installment in the series, To Desire a Sinner, I'm really anxious for November to roll around!

Hilcia: I'm with you on this one Brie, I can't wait for the next installment!

I thought this was a lovely well-developed romance, centered mainly on the Hero and Heroine. The main characters, including the children, were well developed, as was their story. Alistair and Helen found more than each other, through their mutual love they learned how to love themselves and in the process found redemption and hope. I enjoyed this Romance from beginning to end. With a lovely tortured hero and a perfect "imperfect" heroine, this is a definite keeper for me. I'm giving this one an A-.


Visit Elizabeth Hoyt here. Read an Excerpt for To Beguile a Beast here.

6 comments:

  1. I have a WHOLE pile of books but after semi-reading your review, this is the book I picked up and am reading now :)

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  2. Hi Kristie, I have a feeling that you will like this one. :)

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  3. Very interesting review, girls! :)

    I like the idea of a child being given a POV - see the story unfolds through her eyes. I think that's quite original.

    Although ultimately, I think I'm going to pass this book. Not a big fan of Ms Hoyt ^_^;

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  4. Great review ladies! I have to say I've picked this one up in the bookstore a couple of times but never actually bought it. I'll have to change that. :)

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  5. Nath, The child POV was very different. I wasn't expecting it but in a way it made perfect sense. Hoyt isn't for everyone.

    Hoyt isn't for everyone. It took me to this book (the third one) to be able to get into the series. The Prince Trilogy is still my favorite of hers, though. IMO this series hasn't lived up to that one yet.

    Hi Tracy, Thanks! If you decide to get this one, I hope you enjoy it. :)

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  6. Brie and I had a great time discussing this book. I've been following this series and this book is my favorite, so far. Like Brie, the Prince Trilogy is still my favorite. Of course, after reading the excerpt for the next book, I can't wait for it. ;)

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