Heather Grothaus is here with a stunning Beauty and the Beast tale, straight out of 12th century Europe. An atypical era for many historical romance readers, Taming the Beast will still enthrall historical romance aficionados of a more contemporary mind – that is to say, the regency-era reader.
Roderick Cherbon has returned from the Crusades hideously disfigured and with a demand from his recently deceased father to marry before his thirtieth birthday, or lose the family lands. In an effort to keep his estate, he sends out a proclamation asking marriageable ladies to the castle.
Lady Michaela Fortune, also known as ‘Miss Fortune’, comes from a poor but titled family. After being rebuked harshly by the man she thought she loved, she leaves for the Cherbon lands, determined (and I do mean determined) to win the man and the fortune he’s offering to heal her damaged pride and save her family from ruins. But the ‘Cherbon Devil’ turns out to be more than Micheala bargained for at first – can she even hope to tame the beast?
The book provides accounts of the events from both Roderick and Micheala’s point of view, but avoids sounding repetitive since Michaela and Roderick have such different takes on each situation. The dialogue is witty and fast: the kind of engaging repertoire expected when two determined characters in a romance novel shack up. Occasionally, the dialogue is inconsistent with the time period, including phrases that seemed too modern for 1103. For readers not bothered by anachronistic language, however, all will be well.
Much of the book’s plot surrounds Micheala’s persistence to help Roderick see the good in himself, and his insistence to only see the worst in himself. Roderick is the epitome of a tragic character. His abusive father instilled in him a sense of his own worthlessness which is furthered by the results of his involvement in the Crusades. Readers easily bored by angst-driven heroes, beware; the brooding behavior lasts most of the novel. However those who enjoy the ‘broken warrior’ type will find this book to be a soulful, and often heartbreaking, page turner. Lady Micheala Fortune is admirable and lovable throughout. She keeps hoping even when it feels hopeless, and is the right blend of patient and relentless. She grows stronger throughout the novel, while still retaining all her beautiful uniqueness. Her motherly sentiments towards Leo, Roderick’s son, and how she brings the father and son closer together are definitely a highlight of the novel.
Issues with the plot arise at the end of the book, when the lovely Happy Ever After (HEA) is made far too happy, far too quickly, in an outrageously unrealistic way. It reads as though Grothaus doesn’t trust readers to be satisfied by a HEA with a disabled/crippled protagonist. Her deus ex machina (of sorts) was disappointing – the physical limitations of the developing relationship only made the love between Roderick and Michaela that much stronger, and more poignant, throughout the novel.
Especially since this radical departure from the world Grothaus has created in happened about two pages from the end of the book, it was rushed and confusing. It seemed like a last-ditch effort to recreate the ‘perfect’ couple of many other romance novels, instead of allowing the very well-rounded, imperfect characters of Roderick and Michaela to stand up to the HAE test of the epilogue. Instead of feeling contented, the way a good HAE should leave a reader, it left me with questions – how will this significant change alter their relationship? How do they both react? How does this affect Roderick’s personality? And mostly, it left me wondering why the author felt compelled to ‘fix’ the disability of the protagonist in order to justify the book ending on a romantic and positive note. Don’t crippled heroes deserve love, too?
Still, fans of Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels will find this book right up their alley, and the unique time period is refreshing for regency-gorged historical romance readers.
Reviewed by: Meghan Barrett