Book Review

Beauty and the Duke by Melody Thomas, a Guest Review by RedHeadedGirl

B-

Title: Beauty and the Duke
Author: Melody Thomas
Publication Info: Avon 2009
ISBN: 978-0061472671
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

There is nothing but purple and some major eyebrow furrows going on here.

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.

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.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jenyfer says:

    Since I don’t often read a book just for the WTF-ery of it (don’t have the time!) I usually just enjoy your reviews of such books. This particular book sounds like it might be fun (fooking!)

    Also, I’m getting a little spooked – first comment on Argh and on SB???

  2. 2

    dinosaur bones and fooking? This is one of the books that I think won’t be making it to the TBR pile.

  3. 3

    Totally going to read this, just so I can giggle at the word “fooking.”  (Also, every time RedHeadedGirl does a review I become more convinced that I am actually a twin separated at birth.)

  4. 4
    MarieC says:

    Hm…sadly, this book just doesn’t sound interesting enough, even with all the fooking. 

    For a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ type of story, you might be better off with Elizabeth Hoyt’s ‘To Beguile a Beast’ or Robin McKinley’s “Beauty: a retelling of Beauty and the Beast”.

  5. 5

    It would have been a straight B grade except for the fooking.  Maybe even higher if I hadn’t been expecting one ending and then it didn’t happen that way.

  6. 6
    Mayweed says:

    I read this a few months ago.  I admit to totally skipping the village fair chapter, anything to do with the plot moppet and most of the ‘fooking’.  What really ruined the book for me was the epilogue.  Four children but still going at it like rabbits I can live with, but the author references someone making ‘smiley faces’, which just led to total WTF!!!

  7. 7
    R.Savage says:

    Ugh, I’m leary of anything involving paleo or geology because it’s always done just awful. And I hope they actually looked at the strata and picked something that could actually have been discovered in the area they were in … that’s one of the big ones for me.

    Tremors type “science” I can ignore. You know it wasn’t there to be taken seriously (and they put Kevin Bacon in to distract me). But don’t just toss in some bones and rocks cause it looks good. Very few people end up as Bakker or (heaven forbid /shudder) Horner … but I’m getting off track I think.

    Maybe I’ll have to pick this one up and see how badly they fooked up the fooking geology. =P

  8. 8
    Jenyfer says:

    I like most books much better if I skip the epilogues.

  9. 9
    Laura Wilson says:

    YES! As a paleontologist I’m ALWAYS on the look out for new romances with paleontologists!  This just move to the TOP of my TBR list!!

  10. 10
    Laura Wilson says:

    Whoa – what’s your problem with Horner? The “heaven forbid/shudder” should be for Bakker; he’s not even really considered a scientist in the field any more.

  11. 11
    CarrieS says:

    You had me at “paleontologist”.

  12. 12

    Erik and Christine? Some author’s been reading a little too much Phantom Of The Opera.

  13. 13
    kkw says:

    I think I read this.  I don’t know how I’m not sure, because it’s so crazy, surely there can’t be two books with the same set up?  I definitely remember the beginning, with finding out that the dude she liked eloped with her friend and her job, and the hero having slept with her but then married her cousin and then some other woman who died who he didn’t really murder, and them eventually finding her bones along with some big discovery…But I can’t recall a single thing that happens in the ridiculous amount of ridiculous plot paragraph.  So.  It has to be the same book, right?  If this is the book I (don’t) remember, I forget 99% of what I read and if I don’t find something memorable it’s not meant to be a warning.  I don’t remember exactly why I didn’t like the hero, if he went around talking about fooking that would have done it.  I definitely didn’t care about him, and didn’t believe the heroine was as smart as she was supposed to be.  She was kind of like an overwound wind-up toy.  I thought of it as a poor Amanda Quick homage, and there are worse things to rip-off.

  14. 14
    Laura Wilson says:

    @kkw: Ravished by Amanda Quick is another historical where the heroine is a paleontologist.  It’s pure awesome, and I’m hoping this one isn’t far behind!

  15. 15

    Tessa Dare’s next release A WEEK TO BE WICKED features a paleontologist heroine, Minerva, and it is very well done! (It must be noted that I’m not a fossil expert, though)

  16. 16

    Sometimes, in very specific circumstances, you must spell out the word “fooking”.  There is no way around it. And if you ever heard a Celt say it, it wouldn’t bother you at all.

  17. 17
    henofthewoods says:

    Seconding Robin McKinley’s Beauty – he doesn’t just give her a library, he gives her a library with books that haven’t been written yet. That is the ultimate library – maybe there are books in it that will not end up being written, those sequels that you want that never happen.
    R.M. rewrote the story again as Rose Daughter. I like this version because the hero doesn’t morph out of being a Beast. He is already tamed enough for the heroine to love, why should he still be changing. (The Disney version has the hero turn into Barry Manilow, I would be really upset to have the love of my life morph into Barry Manilow.)

  18. 18
    Reneesance says:

    There are sequels that I’ve read that I’m really sort of sorry about.  But I still want that damn library.

  19. 19

    And I would love it if the love of my life morphed into Barry Manilow because he’s awesome, talented, sexy, and can be a bad boy. Especially when a well endowed woman is wearing something low cut.

    Besides, the Disney B&B sucked. They took out all the good characters like Beauty’s evil sisters and put in a bunch that blew chunks.

  20. 20
    Kristen A. says:

    The Erik and Christine POTO reference was annoying me from the moment he appeared in this review, so I don’t think I’d get very far in this book even though I do like B&B.

  21. 21

    “She’s thinking dinosaurs and sex, that’s what.”

    Personally, that makes utter sense to me.
    But “fooking”? Is there a great distinction between that and the seemingly more profane Irish “Feckin’”? Because we heard that alot while over there and it utterly charmed me. “Fookin,” not so much.

    Fabulous review, though. :) Lots of lolz over here.

  22. 22
    Livi says:

    Jenyfer, I wish I’d done that with Harry Potter.

    And I’m afraid I have to politely disagree with Virginia (sorry!) about ‘fookin’. As a born and bred Celt myself, living and working amongst my fellow Celts (Irish and Scottish) in Celtlandia (just to be utterly non-specific), I’ve never heard any of us pronounce it that way, not even the Scots! But perhaps, that’s just because I’m so used to the accents on a daily basis? (Sidenote: I can’t remember the last time I had need of the word Celt, yet I’ve just used it four times. Winning.)

    My main problem with ‘fookin’ if I read the book though (and many British and Irish people will know to what I’m referring) would be that there is a comedian called Leigh Francis who has several different comic personas, one of which is Mel B (yes, the Spice Girl) who is basically just Leigh in a leopard-print catsuit and a rubber mask based on a white elderly man with a prominent chin and nose, ranting. This character actually has a nothern English accent, but the way ‘she’ says ‘f*ckin’ is exactly as spelt in this review and it is a catchphrase now. eg “Fook off, you!” or “It’s fookin’ boiling here, yeh ba*t*rds, yeh!” So I would just immediately imagine the Duke as fake Mel B. Google or youtube it… you’ll get why I would be so disturbed.

  23. 23
    Livi says:

    Brooke – feck is actually not technically a swear word, though they don’t realise that in Britain and America and bleep it out on tv shows pre-watershed! It derives from the Irish word for ‘to steal’ (as far as I know) and it’s very casually used the way you might say ‘bloody’ or ‘damn’ eg. “That’s bloody ridiculous” or “That damn bird is annoying”. In other words, it’s not offensive, but you wouldn’t necessarily say it in formal company.

  24. 24
    Livi says:

    Oh, and you would also refer to someone as a ‘fecker’ if they annoy you or tease you, and you would say ‘feck off’ as a less harsh way of say ‘f**k off’.

  25. 25
    cbackson says:

    I recent read a PNR involving a Scottish hero (maybe Karen Marie Moning?) in which he constantly talked about “tooping.”  It took me a significant amount of time to figure out that this was a bizarre phonetic spelling of “tupping.”  It was actually a pretty decent book aside from that bit, which always made me laugh.

  26. 26
    Turtlegirl says:

    My sister once went out with a Scotsman called Eric. There are a good few links between the Scandinavians & the Scots – the Norwegians used to rule Scotland for a while. So the Erik thing is plausible imo. Fun review – thanks.

  27. 27
    R.Savage says:

    I just wasn’t impressed with Horner when I met him when I was still in the Paleo circle. This was years ago, so maybe he’s not as bad now (I can always admit I’m wrong), but I just didn’t end up liking him. I had co-workers at the time who would start foaming at the mouth over him about the same as if you said “Jurassic Park” (or Land Before Time in some cases) and sat back to watch the show.

    I remember the lecture I got one day from Bakker on how to treat my text books because I was using a post-it note to mark a page – and that the previous owner’s highlighter markings were my fault somehow and I should never ever treat my books that way. I believe that’s when I started to work on the smile and nod routine that has served me well over the years.

  28. 28
    Donna says:

    I had to check back, and yes, from the cover this appears to be a historical romance. I wondered because a) she expect to lead a scientific expedition, and b) they were fooking like bunnies before he married her cousin. When, exactly does this take place? Both those things sound historically… unlikely…
    And poor girl, she must be the least intuitive person on the planet! Dumped for her cousin, and then her next marital prospect elopes with her bff. Somehow this portrayal does not jibe with my experience of a bff. Mine would tell me if I’d set my sites on marriage with a man she was snogging silly.  I think I may be skipping this, if for no other reason than a four page epilogue – no matter how much the term fooking makes me giggle.

  29. 29

    According to the first page, it’s 1840.  There’s some justification about why he married the cousin (he wasn’t thrilled with the idea) instead of Christine, but I forget what it was.  Either way, it’s not explained well to HER and she’s pretty pissed. 

    As for the leading the expedition goes, she’s just hoping ehr credentials (she learned paleontology at her father’s knee- at one point she and Erik are havign a conversation and she mentions, off hand, camping in Egypt or something and he’s like “…is there any place you haven’t been?”  She’s like, “well, no, not really…”

  30. 30
    cyclops8 says:

    I adore plot moppets and fooking.  I might have to borrow this from the library.

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