Format Read: mass-market paperback, self-purchased
Length: 281 pages
Genre: historical romance
Series: Fitzhugh Trilogy, #1
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Formats Available: mass-market paperback, e-book
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Author’s Website
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…
I’ve gotta say that it’s not often that I’ll go out and immediately buy a book solely based on the book description. Yet, that’s what happened in the case of Beguiling the Beauty. The dynamic between the two main characters seemed likely to be wrought with plenty of dramatic tension. Moreover, the female lead sounded like a highly intelligent yet beautiful heroine—and I love myself an Elizabeth Bennett-type. I foresaw plenty of emotional fireworks, and lots of situational hijinks.
After finishing the book though, I realized that the book description needs to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not that it’s inaccurate, per say–technically, what it describes does happen–but it absolutely does not wholly reflect the structure and tenor of the book. Over a third of the book transpires over the course of several years prior to the meeting of the two main characters. It moves at a much more slow pace, and some of it takes a more detached, observational approach to the narrative.
So it perhaps is appropriate that I start with the plot progression. The book begins with what is essentially one very, very long prologue (and, as a matter of fact, that figurative prologue is prefaced by a literal prologue, as well). If one comes to read the book expecting it to begin and end with what the book description provides, they’ll be very much thrown off (perhaps even put off?) by the first section (or first act, if you will). But one must be patient, because…
…the middle section of the book, the part that followed romantic leads Venetia and Lexington, was *AWESOME*. With the background laid out in the previous section, a deep connection is established between the reader and each of the two main characters. As such, one feels for each of their individual points of view and motivations, even though at that time, their objectives–and their assumptions about their respective situations–are in such opposition (more on the main characters in a bit). Because the setting of this “second act” takes place in close quarters, every emotion and small relationship development is magnified to great importance. It’s a wild, glorious ride of emotion.
The end of the book, for me, didn’t seem to have the same storytelling and narrative finesse as the rest of the book. Particularly after such a strong, razor sharp section like the one that preceded it.
Moreover, at various points of the book the main characters’ narrative was broken up by a separate storyline for some supporting characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of this, because it sometimes resulted in what felt like an overall uneven flow of storytelling…especially when the narrative breaks clearly added nothing to the development of the main storyline.
But enough about plot flow; back to my favorite aspect of this book, the characters. I happened to love both Venetia and Lexington from the start. They are such intelligent, playful, sympathetic figures. It was so much fun watching the development of Venetia’s character, in particular. The book description was correct in its subtle assertions about Venetia–she’s smart, fiercely loyal, intriguing, and of course, epically beautiful. I appreciated the author’s focus on the assumptions that are often made about beauty–and that many assume that great beauty is always a privilege, rather than the intense burden it can sometimes be. Because all of this is established early on, Venetia’s impetus for carrying out what could have seemed like a malicious, off-putting stunt becomes more reasonable, even justified. Venetia is the real draw to this book, as far as this reader is concerned.
Some of the other characters in the cast were less likeable to me, but all were interesting. As mentioned above, there were separate plot threads involving characters Helena and Millie, who will most certainly each be lead characters in the remaining two books in this trilogy. It’s perhaps because their storylines interrupted this book that I found them less interesting, and found myself wanting to skip their narratives.
If I could give ratings to individual section of a book, I’d give four stars to the first and third acts, and 5+ stars to the second. Altogether, this is a fun historical romance with varied narrative tones and a range of character types. It makes some very interesting assertions about the nature of beauty. If you love strong, intelligent heroines, this should be on your To Read list, for sure.
I give Beguiling the Beauty 4 Stars
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