by Nicole Jordan, historical (2008)
Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-49460-3
To Bed A Beauty is a familiar story, too familiar for its own good in my opinion, and this is a big pity because the characters are a little bit more than mere stereotypes here. They deserve a better story than the tired and uninspiring one Ms Jordan has stuck them in.
Roslyn Loring decides to attend a ball full of women of dubious virtue and the deep-pocketed men who want to procure their services because she's so adventurous like that. Her friend happens to be a genteel woman who has turned herself into a popular courtesan so it's easy for Roslyn to get herself invited to her friend's latest party. Don't ask me how a woman of good, if currently shaky, social standing and a courtesan get to be the best of friends though. If you want a more historically accurate story, I suggest you give this book a pass or your blood pressure may hit the roof at that scene where the courtesan shows up to attend the grand wedding of Roslyn's sister (attended by other folks of the Ton and all). At any rate, Roslyn happens to catch the eye of our hero Drew Moncrief - something to do with her allure of innocence in a ball full of harlots, according to the story, whatever that means.
Despite the fact that it was a costumed ball, Drew recognizes Roslyn two weeks later at the wedding of Roslyn's elder sister Arabella to their guardian Marcus (To Pleasure A Lady) and decides that it's time to play. Roslyn wants to get married to a man who is capable of loving her back, however, so she definitely doesn't want to play with him despite the way her body experiences a meltdown every time he's near. She has her eyes set on who seems like a stable fellow. What else can a sensible woman do other than to ask Drew how to make herself hot and attractive to that fellow, right?
The story is pretty tedious in how familiar it is. However, at first glance, the characters have the potential to be something more than standard romance novel nincompoops going through the motions of reenacting various clichéd scenes. I like the scene where Roslyn tells Drew what she is looking for in a husband. Roslyn comes off very well there like a sensible woman who wants a man who will love, respect, and cherish her like a friend as well as lover. Drew is also a pretty nice fellow underneath the manslut trapping that the author gives all her romance heroes. I think Ms Jordan does a pretty good job depicting Drew's gradual realization that Roslyn has begun to mean more to him than he initially realized.
However, there are many things about the story that are flat-out clichéd and reading them is like having to force myself to eat a meal that I have become absolutely fed up with. Drew's manslut behavior is depicted to have stemmed from a whole suitcase of clichéd mother issues, for example, and there are many ridiculous moments during the "teach me to be sexy" storyline that have me rolling up my eyes because the heroine is really playing fast and loose with her reputation. Her antics do not make sense if I take into account her future plans.
Also, Roslyn becomes increasingly irritating as the story progresses because for all her talk about wanting a husband who respects her and loves her, Roslyn sure doesn't act like she should perhaps give back a measure of the respect and devotion that she demands. But no, everything is and should be about her. By the end of the book, I have no idea why Drew will want anything to do with this irritating self-absorbed wretch, but I suppose that one can never presume to understand the workings of a man with mother issues.
The characters could have been well-developed memorable types but unfortunately, the author has stuck them in a plot that sometimes doesn't make sense and is more often than not ridiculous. She also has the characters behaving increasingly daft as the story progresses. But who am I kidding? You probably want to read this book for the sex scenes, right? Do yourself a favor: skip the banal psychobabble and clumsy storytelling and go straight to page 280.
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