I got this as a recommendation from…. Aw, hell, there isn’t a name attached to the rec, but Sarah sent in on because “it’s fun when your head explodes!”
So there’s a couple things you should know: first, like many people, I went through a dinosaur phase in my misspent youth, so there’s that. Not a big enough of phase to want to become a paleontologist, but still, very interesting and whatnot. There are pictures of dinosaur poo on my twitter feed from my Christmas visit to the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Second, Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie. Ever. I know there are people who think it’s an example of Stockholm Syndrome and that it encourages the idea that women can change men, which I think is a simplistic reading of the text and we could get into it, but the core lesson, I think, is that if you want to be treated like a person, you have to act like a person. And sometimes it’s someone calling you on your shit and refusing to tolerate your dickishness that provides the impetus. (“YOU NEED TO LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR TEMPER.”)
I fucking LOVE Beauty and the Beast. And not just because he GIVES HER A MOTHERFUCKING LIBRARY. Though that helps.
Anyway, so this is- loosely- a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And there were some good compenant parts. And there was some fuckery. And then there’s the part where I disagree with the person who recommended it.
You’re hooked, aren’t you?
So, our heroine is Christine, who is a paleontologist. She is 28, and doesn’t consider herself a great beauty. We meet her at a gala for the Not British Museum just as she is hoping to be announced as the leader of an expedition to dig up some dinosaur bones in Perth, and she has intentions of asking another paleontologist to marry her. Of course, the other paleontologist shows up at the gala with her best friend, announcing that a) they are going to Gretna Green as soon as the gala is over, and b) he’s been given the expedition to Perth.
She does not have a good night. But then Erik, Duke of Sedgwick shows up. Erik is Scottish (and we’ll get to that), but also an old flame of Christine’s- ten years before, they’d been screwing each other silly, until Erik went off and married her cousin. Her cousin died two weeks after the wedding, then Erik married another woman, had a daughter, and the second wife disappeared 6 years before the book starts. Everyone seems to think that he killed Wife #2, and that is why he is never received by people.
To add to the fun, there’s apparently a curse on the Sedgwick’s- any one of the Dukes that are born with the white streak in his hair will die before their 35th birthday.
So the story kicks off when Erik shows up to talk to Christine about a giant fossilized tooth that he’s found on his land- he’s rerouting a river and this fossil washed up- along with a human jawbone that he is certain belongs to his disappeared 2nd wife. (We know he didn’t kill her, because he is the hero. Heroes don’t kill their wives. They just don’t.) So he offers Christine marriage so she will produce an heir, and she can go dig up the creature that produced that giant-ass tooth. Also they are still incredibly sexually compatible (which they prove during the proposal against the door of her laboratory) (with members of her family overhearing them.) She accepts, because where else is she gonna get to dig up dinosaurs?
So Christine accepts, but gets disowned by her family (except her aunt, who goes with her to Scotland), because apparently Erik is a horrible person who treats everyone like shit, and he’s a wife-killer and what the fuck is she thinking?
She’s thinking dinosaurs and sex, that’s what.
So a LOT of crap happens. There’s a ridiculous amount of ridiculous plot. There’s the searching for the dinosaurs and a lot of talk about lava floes. There’s Erik’s daughter Erin, a Plot Moppet of the first order, who is partially deaf, and highly suspicious of Christine. There’s Erik’s relationship with his sister, 16 and a sleepwalker, due to trauma that’s not explained until the third to last chapter. There’s Erik’s estranged relationship with his mother. There’s the curse of the Sedgwick’s and Erik’s awkward relationship with his former in-laws/familial arch enemies. There’s a concern that Erik’s disappeared wife isn’t dead, and his marriage with Christine isn’t valid and maybe at the same time, he’s a murderer (it doesn’t work like that). Oh, right, there’s also the issue of a magic ring. And all of this crap needs resolving.
It’s exhausting. To give Thomas credit, it does all get tied up. So there’s that.
My biggest problem with this book is how Erik is presented as The Beast. He talks a lot about how he just buys who and whatever he wants and doesn’t give a crap if people like him, and he’s generally terrible, except that the only people who think he’s terrible is the Upper Crust. He’s a good duke, who cares very much about the welfare of his people, and they all seem to like him- until he has the audacity to show up at the village festival and then they all hate him. Or something. I don’t even know. So I’m still kind of not sure what made him a Beast in this scenario.
I found the Phantom of the Opera (another one of my favorite stories oooooh, should I review the original book? I might do that) reference to Christine and Erik (The Phantom’s name) kind of annoying. What’s with a Scottish dude with a Scandihoovian name? I ASK YOU.
AND SPEAKING OF THE SCOTTISH
For the most part, Thomas avoided writing in a Scottish accent- it would come up every once in a while, a bit of “ye” for you and a few “Aye”s thrown in for flavor, not egregious, but kind of annoying. What was egregious was how much Erik liked talking about how great he and Chrsitine were at fooking.
But the reason this book was sent to me was because Christine had a goal of becoming a world famous paleontologist, and in the end, she doesn’t. The quote I was given was “but it implodes at the end when the heroine decides to give up her discovery and her career to bone to the hero full time.” Which is, quite frankly, inaccurate. That’s not what happens at all.
What really happens is first, the idiot Christine was going to propose to (before he ran off with her BFF) loses his expedition to Perth, and comes to Scotland (with the BFF) to consult on the stuff Christine has been finding, and they put their heads together to figure out the logistics of the dig. The ending (which was in a random epilogue format) says that Christine did not become a world-famous paleontologist, but she and Arthur still made some significant discoveries and found some link between one kind of dinosaurs and ostriches. So… that really doesn’t sounds like she “Gave up her discovery.” She didn’t. She has both the man she loves, someone to help her dig up dinosaurs, dinosaurs to dig up, and four kids. It sounds like a nice, fulfilling life.
Look, I can see the argument that because she didn’t become “World-famous” like she planned being a cop-out, except for this: Most of the people who want to become world-famous in whatever just…. Don’t. They don’t. I waned to be an award-winning actress by the age I am now. I did not factor in the fact that I wasn’t very good at it, and not hot enough to make up for that deficiency. It’s good to have goals, but the flip side is sometimes it just doesn’t happen. As the philosopher Jagger once said, you can’t always get what you want, by if you try, you can get what you need. Counterfactual: Want what you get.
It felt real, is what I’m saying. In book of nonsense, at least this one thing made sense.
I went into this book expecting one thing and prepared to pissed off when the ending got around to where I was assured my head would explode, and then it didn’t. I think I would have had a somewhat different reaction if I hadn’t been working myself up to a good head of steam.
But still. Fooking. I can’t forgive that.