Bella and the Beast
My reaction to the RITA nominated Bella and the Beast just goes to show just how subjective readers’ tastes can be. Obviously the book was highly regarded by the RWA and I suppose some people are comfortable ignoring the triggers that I thought slightly distasteful. Unfortunately I found myself seeing red too often by a dull premise and horribly one-dimensional characters.
When a story is patterned after Beauty and the Beast there needs to be someone who either looks or acts in a completely “beastly” manner and Miles Grayson fits the bill. He is a brooding recluse who is more interested in studying Egyptian artifacts than socializing or even concerning himself with his dukedom. Into his lair walks Bella Jones, a woman raised around the ruins in Egypt by her archaeologist father and recently returned to England to fulfil a promise she made at her father’s deathbed to find the Duke of Aylwin. Years before. the two older men found a map to a Pharaoh’s treasure but the elder Aylwin was murdered before they could uncover the tomb. His son Miles believes that Bella’s father may have been responsible for his father’s death so he hires her on as a curator so that he can question her about the past.
To say that both Miles and Bella have daddy issues would be an understatement. Bella and her younger siblings always came in second to their father’s obsession with Egyptian relics. Miles feels it’s his burden to bring his father’s murderer to justice while fulfilling that man’s dream to find the Pharaoh’s treasure. Unconsciously they have both assumed the same obsessions that destroyed their parents; however working together to solve the map’s mystery lets them both slowly let go of the past and begin living life for themselves.
If the storyline had just focused on the Egyptology and solving the Pharaoh’s mystery (with a little romance on the side) the book might have worked better, sort of like the Regency version of The Mummy. Instead it concentrates on the fairy tale retelling and making Miles as beastly as possible. His behavior towards Bella is inexcusable, bordering on sexual harassment, and then crossed a line when he attempted to seduce her while still smelling like the perfume of the prostitute he’d just slept with. I was only excited by their relationship when Bella stood up for herself and showed she was an intellectual equal to Miles, and yet those moments began to dwindle to better serve the romance. That, along with several other story choices that pricked at my sensibilities, made this an incredibly frustrating read.