My second Teresa Medeiros novel THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST follows a thoroughly entertaining find, CHARMING THE PRINCE. Unlike CHARMING THE PRINCE however, I didn't enjoy THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST at all; in fact, I hated it, and its admirable attempts at humor and vivid settings missed the mark by a wide margin. I found THE BRIDE AND THE BEAST a rather annoying look at outward appearances, highlighting a woman's insecurities about her plump, chubby bearing, something the townsfolk view as fat, and yet predictably, something our well-muscled, handsome hero views as generously curved.
When I wasn't annoyed by the novel, I was bored by the rest of it. The bulk of the middle portions, a good 150-200 pages, was insanely boring, especially after the town folk offer the heroine to the Dragon. There's nothing going on there. Nothing at all.
The ending crosses its t's and dots its i's in an out-and-out heroine-taming-the-beast routine. In fact, the title of the book should be: TAMING THE BEAST, would have helped me save my time. Fifteen years of biding his time for revenge dissipates like it never existed, watching his parents murdered, now an entirely forgettable experience in the face of the heroine's uncompromising wishes. The taming in question involves more of an emasculation than anything else. When an old woman (Izzy) holds an ax to him towards the end threatening he marry the heroine before taking her, like a gentleman he happily consents. In all matters, there's no real male character here, he bequeathes everything about him, and I mean everything to the wishes and whims of others. Among books I've read, BRIDE AND THE BEAST's hero Bernard now ties PRICE OF PLEASURE's Grant in the dubious honor as the weakest and most annoying feminine "hero" I've ever read.
Although we can't see our hero's face in the beginning, it's clear he's muscled, and I found his lusting over our heroine's ample and plump assets very annoying. Whether it's town folk ridiculing her corpulence or her own self-deprecating referrals to her portliness, we're reminded again and again of the insecurities of our heroine's appearance.
These reminders about our heroine's insecurities I don't have so much of a problem with.
I do have a problem with a chiseled, handsome guy instantly and incessantly lusting after a rather plump woman, while bearing the brunt of her rather "witty" and condemning expletives, and enjoying it. There's no natural progression to this unfathomable lust on the hero's part at all, it's instant. And he gaily accepts her barbs all the while! I understand the book reads more as a fairy tale than anything else, but I just couldn't get past this intense and immediate lusting on the hero's part. It required too much of a suspension of disbelief.
As much we like to deny it, appearance forms the foundation of an attraction and cements it, but you'd never know from this novel. There's a reason why a vast majority of romance heroes are tall, dark and handsome, right? Our hero certainly fits the requisite appearance stereotype in romance novels: tall, broad-shouldered, chiseled, dark and handsome. Appearances matter!
When our plump heroine mistakes our hero's friend Theodore Tuppingham (Tupper) as the Dragon, she scoffs at Tupper's wide girth, heavy belly and balding hairline, finding him unworthy. So it's disparaging and insulting when the heroine is viewed as such, but perfectly okay when the heroine views another guy as such? Nothing better than the pot calling the kettle black.
After our hero's friend Theodore Tuppingham chances on the disheveled dishabille of our heroine's younger sister Kitty, Tupper instantly lusts after Kitty as well. Again, this secondary and meaningless pairing represents another play on appearances, just switch the genders. I should have known only a secondary pairing would allow a plump man paired with a beautiful woman. In this case, our under-average looking Tupper finds Kitty irresistible, even though Kitty's disheveled clothes clearly betrays a recent tryst. Any normal guy -- even one ample-girthed - would find such an compromising condition on a woman a huge turn-off considering another man's scent and marks in obvious display on the woman. Not Tupper though, he's flattered Kitty mistakes him as the Dragon as well, and he delicately kisses Kitty's hand. Yuck, don't want to know where that hand has just been! At least let her wash first ha!
As much I enjoyed Medeiros' twist on a classic fairy tale in CHARMING THE PRINCE, I'm loathe to try her other two books I've blindly checked out from the library. Especially after reading this horrible novel. Certainly, CHARMING THE PRINCE's hero was altogether forgettable, but at least he wasn't so bad, so annoying, so emasculated.. as BRIDE AND THE BEAST's Bernard.
The Story, SPOILERS.
Town folk offer portly but virginal Gwendolyn Wilder to a dragon beast preying on them in hopes of appeasing him and lifting a curse which alludes to innocence offered in blood. The town folk, infinitely too smart for their own good, presume the virginal blood of our plump heroine Gwendolyn will lift the curse. The Dragon Bernard MacCullough didn't ask for a human sacrifice though, he was looking for someone to come forward with the gold they earned as repayment for betraying the MacCullough laird 15 years ago and causing the deaths of his mother and father. He wanted revenge.
Our tall, dark and handsome Bernard is instantly smitten with lust for Gwendolyn's plump body. How? Why? Huh? Whatever, you got me. The book devolves at this point into a series of boring encounters between our leading pair as Bernard holds Gwendolyn as his prisoner in his decrepit castle. Bernard is very noble for a beastly dragon though, never taking advantage of her and then just letting her be, giving her the opportunity to escape.
After the town folk discover that the dragon preying on them isn't really a true dragon, they arrive with torches and weapons ready to kill. Then they discover the true identity of the mysterious Dragon, and Gwendolyn deeply resents Bernard for it. She acts like a spoiled brat just because he didn't tell her who he really was from the beginning and pouts for 3 months over it, gaining some more weight in the process. I didn't understand the behavior and the explanation for it seemed nonsensical.
But such is the story focused on taming the hero. When will authors realize that revenge plots are much more interesting than the weak saving-the-hero's-tortured-soul routine? I'd like to see a romance novel heroine actually help a hero's revenge plot for once. Just once. Would make for an interesting twist in and of itself, and would be so nice to see the leading pair working with each other for a change.
The end quickly turns into a desiccation of the hero's will and personality. He submits, cowers (against Izzy), and hops, skips and jumps into the arms of our heroine. Nothing is left of the hero even remotely worth mentioning or admiring. And I mean nothing. This isn't saving a soul so much as it is stripping the soul from our hero. I didn't feel the heroine does or says a single thing which warrants this emasculation on the hero's part for her. She was completely undeserving, from beginning to end.
I need to read Madeline Hunter after this crap.