Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

July 2, 2014 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund HodgeCruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 28, 2014
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
three-stars
The romance of Beauty and the Beast meets the adventure of Graceling in a dazzling fantasy novel about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny.

But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom's mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband.

Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can't resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who's gotten in her way by stealing her heart.

This was a book of mixed feelings.  I love the original Beauty and the Beast story as well as the Disney adaptation, so I was a little leery of picking up this retelling on Audible (audiobook format).  Right from the beginning, Hodge’s version is heavily steeped in Greek mythology which can be a little distracting when you’re paying more attention to figuring out the mythological reference than what’s happening in the story.  Much of the first half of the book is full of info-dumping without a whole lot of anything going on.  I picked the book up and put it down too many times to count and very nearly gave up on it completely.

That said, I’m actually glad I didn’t put the book aside permanently.  Where Beauty was kind and loving, Nyx is angry and resentful.  Where the Beast was selfish and petulant, Ignifex is perceptive and, at times, almost self-sacrificing.  It made for an interesting dynamic once things actually got started (about half way through the book).  The second half of the story almost made up for the dragging tediousness of the beginning.  Hodge’s use of imagery and language border on literary and I am completely in love with her style of prose.  I think it was this talent that kept me listening to the audio.  I am so glad too because the entire story is dark, twisted, and utterly satisfying.  As soon as the audiobook was complete, I wanted to pick it back up and start it all over again (and very likely will when I get a break in my to-read list).

All-in-all, a solid book.  Borderline gothic, phenomenal world-building, and refreshing characters.  I suggest picking up the audiobook version rather than a hardcopy.  The narrator does a great job and really helps draw you into the story.

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Beautiful Distraction by Jess Michaels (The Pleasure Wars book 4)

June 30, 2014 Historical Romance, Reviews 0 ★★★½

Beautiful Distraction by Jess Michaels (The Pleasure Wars book 4)Beautiful Distraction by Jess Michaels
Series: The Pleasure Wars #4
Published by Samhain Publishing on June 24, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 126
Format: eBook
Goodreads
three-half-stars
It has been a particularly trying day for Olivia Cranfield. Despite her impeccable manners, stylish clothing and posh accent, another protector has detected her lowborn status and rejected her out of hand.When fellow courtesan Violet invites her to come to Bath to help with the wicked seduction of the scarred, reclusive Earl of Windbury, Olivia jumps at the offer, eager for some excitement and a change of scenery.The moment Malcolm Graham lays eyes on the delectable woman lurking in the bathhouse alley, he knows she’s a decoy to keep him busy while her friend seduces the earl inside. For a moment, he allows her to play her game…but one touch, and all he can think about is ending the two years of self-denial he’s endured in the name of friendship.Instant attraction quickly turns into a decidedly erotic affair that makes Olivia question all she’s ever known about passion. But when the truth behind Violet’s assignment comes to light, betrayal threatens to bring everything they’ve built crashing down around Olivia’s broken heart.

A fun, quick read, Beautiful Distraction is the fourth installment of the Pleasure Wars series by Jess Michaels.  Unlike the other books in this series, this installment is a short novella – only 126 pages.  It overlaps with the third book in the series, Beauty and the Earl, however you do not need to read that book to enjoy this one!  Though, of course, reading the whole series is recommended, if only to get a complete look at the full cast of characters.

I really enjoy a good series that showcases different characters in each book and Beautiful Distraction is no exception.  In this book, the hero (Malcolm) and heroine (Olivia) are the close friends of the previous book’s hero and heroine.  Malcolm and Olivia are both steadfastly loyal to their friends, Liam and Violet.  This loyalty informs the choices both Malcolm and Olivia make later in the novella and you can’t help but root for both of them at the same time – despite the characters having two different goals!  Malcolm and Olivia’s attraction to one another is instant and passionate, quickly turning lust into love.   The story draws you in quickly and keeps you wondering what will happen next.  As with almost all of Jess Michaels’ books, when I got to the end I said, “That’s it!?”  But in a good way!  I liked these characters and wanted to see more of them beyond what happened at “The End.”  I was not ready to let them go.

One of the trickiest things above writing a novella is that an author must introduce characters, build a story, and wrap it up in a satisfying conclusion, all without the reader feeling rushed or left with lingering questions.  This may sound easy, but I personally think the novella is one of the hardest writing forms, simply because an author must do all those things just as well as would be expected from a full-length novel.  That’s a tall order!  Jess Michaels comes very close to delivering that order in Beautiful Distraction, but ultimately falls just a little short.  I though the characters’ declarations of love and Malcolm’s forgiveness came too quickly and there was a lingering plot point that was never resolved.  But I think that is merely a limitation of the novella format, not a writing flaw.

I still recommend checking out this short piece.  It’s only 99 cents on Amazon (at the time of this post) and is a fun introduction to Jess Michaels’ characters and writing style.  For anyone who has read Beauty and the Earl, it’s also a great filler explaining what was happening between Malcolm and Olivia while Liam and Violet were busy elsewhere.

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