The Bride and The Beast
We all know the current trend: romance author hits the big time and scores a hardcover deal. Of course we’re thrilled that our favorite writer is finally garnering the attention she deserves, but secretly we cringe because we fear we’ve lost yet “another one” to mainstream fiction or gritty suspense. I’m sure most of you have heard that Teresa Medeiros has taken the big leap lots of us dread. Fear not! She may have jumped to hardcover but she’s taken with her everything that we love about her writing, and the result is a witty, sensual story that is pure romance.
Gwendolyn Wilder is the only person in her village with a lick of sense. Always a little chubby, and teased mercilessly for it, Gwen’s always preferred a good book to frolicking with cruel boys. Her fellow villagers, on the other hand, are a superstitious lot afraid of their own shadows, and particularly of “The Dragon of Weyrcraigh,” a creature who makes demands on the villagers, taking the best of their crops, frocks, and whisky – and who, it’s rumored, has recently acquired a taste for human flesh. The villagers in all their infinite wisdom decide to offer up a virgin sacrifice, hoping to appease the Dragon enough to make him go away permanently. Because Gwendolyn is “plump” and the only virgin around, the villagers decide that she’s the perfect choice for a sacrifice. They tie her to a post and leave her in the Dragon’s courtyard.
The Dragon is actually a man who becomes very dismayed when he witnesses the result of the villagers’ latest act of stupidity. He saves the cold, wet woman from the elements and brings her inside his crumbling castle to find shelter and warmth. He treats her with kindness and provides her with lavish garments. Because of his need to keep his identity a secret he will not reveal his face to Gwen, nor will he let her leave his Dragon’s lair until he exacts his revenge on the villagers.
Gwen is perturbed when she realizes that the Dragon intends to keep her prisoner, and she doesn’t hesitate to share her feelings on the subject. The Dragon is a man seeking vengeance but he is also very lonely, and he relishes his time with Gwen, who brings warmth and humor into his dark world. For the first time Gwen feels desired and begins to blossom under the Dragon’s lavish attention. He sees her for the true beauty she is and she in turn begins to fall in love with her kind, secretive captor. But until he reveals his identity she refuses to give into that love.
Ooooh – charming, truly romantic writing, a crumbling castle, a dark and mysterious (but not humorless) hero and a very smart heroine all in one book? Yep, I was well and truly hooked!
The first third of the book focuses intently on the feelings and daily interactions between Gwen, the Dragon, and his amusing best friend Tupper. The interplay between the characters is written with wit and compassion and there are countless “sigh-worthy” moments for us romantics to savor, as well as some very funny scenes. And the sexual tension between Gwen and the Dragon is not to be missed! Great, great stuff.
But, alas, this intimacy comes to an abrupt end when the Dragon is forced to reveal his identity. His need for revenge and his stubborn pride tear the couple apart time and again. Luckily, Gwen is more than his match in the “stubborn” department and unexpectedly turns the tables on him. Still, this section bogs down with some contrived separations that a bit of the charm is sapped out of the story.
Despite that quibble, The Bride and The Beast is still highly recommended because everything else about it was so enjoyable. Gwen is not a svelte heroine. She takes great pleasure in eating and has a terrific sense of humor and outlook about her weight. And she doesn’t miraculously slim down to win the hero’s love either. Before the book comes to an end she has even managed to put on a few extra pounds and Dragon, that wonderful fictional man, loves her all the more for it. There is also a lovely secondary relationship that develops between a most unlikely couple: Tupper, a balding, paunchy Englishman and Gwen’s gorgeous younger sister. This fits well into the “love is in the eye of the beholder” theme of the story. This book has some refreshing and unique aspects. I’d rather spend $15.95 hardback on a story like this than on two mediocre paperbacks!