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Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas
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Beguiling the Beauty

by Sherry Thomas

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Fitzhugh Trilogy (1)

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One of the best historical romances I've read this year so far. Now I only have to wait for new Loretta Chase to come out and my life will be complete :)) review soon! ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
Beguiling the Beauty appears to be Thomas' twist on Judith Ivory's "Beast" story. Or at least according to the reviews and blurbs that I've read. Ivory's "Beast" is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast - with a beautiful young girl's notoriously ugly but roguish fiancee - deciding to seduce unawares on a cruise ship before she meets him. They don't see each others faces. But it back-fires on him, he falls in love with her - and she falls for well, the alias or the person he is on the cruise ship. Thomas does something similar, except it's the heroine who fools the hero, and instead ugliness being her curse, it's her stunning beauty.

What Thomas does, and I haven't seen this done before - is the heroine has an overwhelmingly beautiful face. So beautiful that when the hero first glimpses her from afar he is "overcome" and each time he sees her, again from afar, he becomes more and more obsessed. Then he hears a malicious rumor about her from her husband - that her beauty is only skin deep, and how horrible she is. (It's not true - her husband was a jealous, insecure man and horrid to her. And never saw beneath the surface.) The hero doesn't believe it at first - that is until he reads about her husband's death, and how the husband was driven bankrupt buying her jewels. Then he reads even more malicious gossip about her remarriage, and the subsequent death of her second husband, who died when she was allegedly having an affair with his best friend. So the hero concludes that she's a beast and dismisses her beauty as a physical lure.

The hero is a naturalist - and is giving a lecture on naturalism at Harvard, which the heroine decides to attend with her sister and sister-inlaw - in the hopes of setting her sister up with him. During the lecture - he is asked a question about whether "beauty" is an inherited trait and its effects on evolution. For his response, he provides an example of how feminine beauty can be the downfall of most men, and how beautiful women are often "beastly" and shallow. The example he uses is the heroine, leaving her name out of it of course, but providing enough information - that she recognizes who he is talking about and is deeply wounded.

Her sister, Helena, suggests that when the opportunity arises the heroine should seek vengeance against him. Make the hero fall for her, then cut him. It does, the heroine wears a veiled hat...and takes on the identity of a German Baroness...he is not permitted to see her face. He falls in love with her, but never sees her face, and she with him. The only problem is that she is lying to him about who she is. And when he finds out - he will think the worst of her. Which of course he does.
The conflict is that the hero has to get past his own prejudices and the heroine past her pride, so that they can be honest with each other.

See the gender flip? Thomas not only grabs the concept from Ivory, she flips it. And instead of doing yet another take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Thomas sort of references the Greek myth - Cupid and Psyche, except the woman is cupid, and the male is psyche. Rather clever that.

My only quibble - which is why this is three stars and not four - is it took too long for the hero to come to his senses. By the time he did, I was ready to throttle him. This is a problem that I've had with a lot of Thomas' novels, the hero (sometimes its the heroine) becomes after a certain point not likable and it detracts from the romance - ie. I stop rooting quite so hard for them to end up together and just want to see the hero (sometimes the heroine) get a swift kick in the rumpus. The angst takes up most of the book. Also, as if the hero/heroine angst wasn't enough - we have to add in two other relationships, which are clearly being set up for the next two books in the series. But unfortunately, and unlike Courtney Milan's novels, don't quite sync with the main story as well. They distracted from the main plot and often felt quite jarring. I'd have edited them out.
( )
  cmlloyd67 | Jun 7, 2015 |
Reading my first Sherry Thomas book in twelve months brought home to me her astonishingly consistent excellence. Numerous authors are able to churn out consistently mediocre pulp fiction (and sometimes make a fortune in so doing), but truly original and inventive writers seem unable to avoid the occasional sour lemon among the juicy peaches.

The narrative of Beguiling the Beauty is deceptively complex, which is perhaps why the Goodreads summary is so unsatisfactory, leaving out so many essential elements.

Christian, Duke of Lexington and the most eligible bachelor in Britain, is in no hurry to marry. Part of the reason is his scientific objectivity and passion for natural science. He's more interested in fossils than debutantes. But the main reason is a life-changing glimpse, when he was still in his teens, of a stunningly beautiful woman across the verdant pitch of the Eton-Harrow cricket match. He's completely entranced, even when he discovers she's married. Neither does his infatuation diminish when Venetia, the transcendental beauty, rips through marriage after marriage, leaving a trail of malicious and highly unflattering gossip in her wake.

While giving a lecture at Harvard, Christian is asked about the role of beauty in natural selection. Instead of his usual succinct answer, he finds himself describing, third-hand, the uncontrollable damaging effect of human beauty, using his cricket pitch experience as an example. Unfortunately for Christian, Venetia is sitting in the audience and promptly deduces that Christian is talking about her.

Her original plan of charming Christian and introducing him to Helena, her unmarried sister, turns into a plot of vengeance for outing her in public, even though most of the Harvard audience would not be able to make the connection.

She pursues him on his transatlantic voyage back to England and attempts to seduce him -- not an easy feat, as this requires maintaining her anonymity through the use of veils, darkened rooms, and blindfolds.

The gentle seduction works too well, leaving both Christian and Venetia in a limbo of frustrated passion.

After Christian realises that the mysteriously veiled shipboard siren is Venetia in disguise, the tension and stress between them escalates further.

At one point in the book, I found myself completely absorbed in the psychological tension generated by the stormy interaction of the pair and experienced intense discomfort -- an indication of the skill with which Ms Thomas handles the emotions of the characters and draws the sympathy of the reader.

The romantic episode on the transatlantic liner requires some suspension of disbelief, especially concerning the effectiveness of a veil or the darkness of an unlit room. But by this point in the story I was completely hooked and more than willing to give Ms Thomas the benefit of the doubt.

( )
  skirret | Jan 2, 2015 |
3.75

Review to come. ( )
  ames | Sep 30, 2013 |
It's official. As long as it's done right, historical romance is for me!

I loved this book.

I doubt there's anything truly groundbreaking to the story, and even a bit of the cliché but the storytelling is so fun and the characters extremely lovable even when you're yelling at them: "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

Venetia Fitzhugh Townsend Easterbrook's biggest concern was for the welfare of her sister's reputation, which is how she found herself in America attending a lecture at Harvard by the Duke of Lexington. Christian de Montfort had a secret obsession for ten years and his very public personal rebuke results in consequences he could have never foreseen. Venetia sets herself on a path of revenge, but she may lose herself in the process.

Both characters do side-eye worthy things to each other but they're so sweet individually and together I couldn't help but not care. I loved their interaction with each other. Christian was adorable, and so respectful (well, mostly) and caring. And I just adored how he called his stepmother "stepmama". Venetia though described as the most beautiful woman in all the land was incredibly smart even when she was doing stupid things (not to mention the only reason why her plan didn't blow up in her face was because Christian was so agreeable and trustworthy). And even though I got to the point of wanting to smack her around a little bit I still loved her, especially for what she did for her late husband, Mr. Easterbrook.

The only real problems I had with this book were:
-Not so much a problem, but it was jarring to me how fast they fell into bed together. It would have been if this had been a contemporary romance, but for historical fiction it was definitely super fast to me. (Also, this part of Venetia's plan gave me a little bit of the willies.)
-Venetia continuing to lie when, in my opinion, it was just making things worse. Of course, doesn't lying do that most of the time?
-The fade to black in the last sex scene. I really wanted the emotions of them coming together at that point.
-But, by far, my biggest complaint was Venetia's sister Helena's storyline. It's gross. And there's no indication that the marriage in her storyline was like the marriage Fitz (Venetia and Helena's brother) entered into with Millie.

The writing was lovely and I never once had to stop and ask if what was written makes sense for the time period. That's typically my biggest complaint about historical romances – the exposition and/or dialogue sounds more like a contemporary and that pulls me out of the story.

I cannot wait to read the next book in the series: Millie and Fitz's story. Though I'm not sure I'll be reading the third book, which is Helena's story. I'm truly distraught that this series is under Penguin's Berkley imprint. I found this book at Target on a clearance rack, which never fails to get me so excited I kind of go into this happy dimension where nothing matters but a deal on a book I'm willing to read. Unfortunately, after I bought it I saw that it was a Berkley book and I refuse to buy from them/Penguin for the fact they paid seven figures for fan fiction. It's bad enough that there are so many authors on that imprint that I absolutely love, and now this book has just added another and I'm sure that none of these amazing, real authors, who write original, ethical fiction were paid seven figures for their fantastic (not misogynistic, by the way) books. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to read the next book, so let us all pray to the Book Gods that Penguin's library pilot gets off the ground and goes nationwide or something. ( )
  OstensiblyA1 | Sep 20, 2013 |
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added by AoifeT | editDear Author, Jane (May 4, 2012)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sherry Thomasprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sterlin, JennyReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Busnel, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gulbronson, GreggCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my agent, Kristin Nelson,
who makes everything possible
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PROLOGUE
It happened one sunlit day in the summer of 1886.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She's exactly what he's been searching for -- a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast -- and soon proposes marriage.

And then she disappears without a trace...

For in reality, the "baroness" is Venetia Easterbrook -- a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised -- and there's no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked...

-Back Cover
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"When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg on a transatlantic liner, he is fascinated. She's exactly what he has been searching for--a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast--and soon proposes marriage. And then she disappears without a trace-- For in reality, the "baroness" is Venetia Easterbrook--a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised--and there's no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked"--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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