Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: The Beast of Ravenston by Kelly Martin

When I said the sequel to Betraying Ever After was even better than the first book, I was being honest. It's a better book thematically, stylistically, and technically. But, I was also being a bit biased. See, it's based (loosely) on Beauty and the Beast. Which is my absolute favorite movie of all time. I don't care if it's a kid story. I don't care if the notion of Stockholm syndrome is the one thing everyone cites as a reason for the romance. I just flipping love it. The message that it's who you are not what you look like that matters is important to me because...well...I'm kinda homely. And I figure, if there's hope for the beast...there's hope for me. I guess I was right. I mean, I've been happily married for nearly a decade.

Besides. Who doesn't want that library, amiright?

But that's another review for another time. Today, we're all about the beast of a man living at Ravenston Castle in a book that's part Beauty and the Beast, part Phantom of the Opera, and part...The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton?
Master blackmailer Mr. Dodsworth makes good on his threat to send Elizabeth to serve Nicholas Wellington, the Beast...erm...Duke of Ravenston. In exchange for making Miss Beth's life a living hell, Dodsworth will reveal to Nicholas the identity of the man who set the fire that left his face permanently scarred. Nicholas is more than happy to agree since a) he wants revenge and 2) he always took a bit of pleasure in manipulating and intimidating people. It's why he was known as the Beast LONG before the fire.

But Ravenston Castle is full of secrets. The Duke is full of secrets. The servants (well, servant) is full of secrets. And Miss Beth? Well, as terrified as she is of the Duke, she's got some secrets of her own. When all of the secrets threaten to collide head on, pasts are revealed and futures are compromised. Will Beth survive a week with the Beast? Will Nicholas get revenge? And will Dodsworth be able to to deal with his plan backfiring in his face?

I. Flipping. Love. This. Book.

I want to see a movie of this.

Maybe it's my bias talking. But I didn't want to put this sucker down.

Beth is an amazing character. I kinda disliked her in BEA because I felt like she was a bit too delicate. I understand her situation. But even Emma had more of a spine than she did. Whatever happened between that book and this one, she grew a spine and then plated it with armor. True, she starts out the first couple of pages terrified of Nicholas. But that does not last long. Once she's settled in, her determination gets the better of her and she strives to make lemons into lemonade. Which is something Nicholas won't stand for.

His attempts at making her life miserable do succeed, to a point. They break her body. But not her spirit. Even in a fit of fever, while she's freakin' hallucinating and talking to people who aren't there, she's determined to do her job or die trying. And she very nearly does. Call it madness. Call it stupidity. I call it defiance in the face of the devil himself. And that takes tremendous courage.

It isn't long before the duke's more tender side comes out (and yes, there apparently is one in there somewhere) and he begins to care for the woman who is essentially his slave. Granted, it didn't start that way. It was all lust and anger and frustration. In some ways, a bit more risque than I like my romances, but expected considering the nature of the story.

Nicholas, for his part, reminded me very strongly of the Phantom of the Opera...if the Phantom had an even more tragic backstory than he already does. I've no idea what possessed him to do what he did to his first wife. Maybe it was his misguided attempt to spare her from pain. But regardless, it was a big, life altering, universe shattering mistake. He has no one to blame but himself for the aftermath. And blame himself he does. But then, that self-loathing projects on to everyone else until no one can stand to be around him. It just makes you want to reach into the book and give him a hug. And, uh...

Once again, Dodsworth is the villain you love to hate. Only this time, there was no satisfaction of cold cocking him near the end of the book. Instead, the obsequious weasel gets everything he wants and more, for the most part. True, he can't stop them from falling in love. But he can destroy their happiness by appealing to Nicholas's thirst for vengeance, something he knows Beth would most certainly hate. Things may not go exactly as he planned, but hey. As long as he gets his way in the end, who cares how he gets there?

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I'm salivating while awaiting book 3, which is due out later this month (by the grace of God).

If you haven't started this series yet, for goodness' sake, what are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy and get to reading.

Oh, and keep a fan around for chapter 16. You're gonna need it.

For more of Kelly Martin's books, check out her website at www.kellymartinbooks.com. You'll find info on her, her books, links to all her social media (which you should subscribe to all of them, just so you can bask in her epicness in every possible forum), and all that other fun stuff.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: Betraying Ever After by Kelly Martin

I wasn't sure if I wanted to review the whole trilogy all at once on this one, or if it would make more sense to do each one individually. But since a) the third book isn't out yet and 2) I didn't have time to write a movie review this week (we're busy planning a trip out of town for a friend's wedding and we've all got the stomach bug, to boot) I decided to just take the books one at a time. So, without further ado...
When baron's-daughter-turned-charwoman Emma is dolled up and sent on a mission to a ball to make excuses for an ailing debutante, it's supposed to be a simple task. Get in, deliver the message, get out. She had no intention of drawing any attention to herself, least of all the attention of the city's most notorious playboy. Vaughan is a ladies' man, man's man...honestly, he's anything BUT a man. He's an immature man-child who now suddenly has his late father's title to live up to. And that includes selecting a wife of title and propriety. He doesn't know the first thing about Emma. He just knows she's caught his eye. Neither one of them knows that their mutual infatuation is all part of a carefully planned means to an end, and that a dark master is pulling all the strings for his own nefarious purposes.

If Cinderella had been a true-to-life story, I imagine it might have gone something like this. Gone are the fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches and animal friends of the story you grew up with. What remains is a twisted tale that's almost as equally about the antagonist as it is our heroine. And, I gotta say...as far as antagonists go, Mr. Dodsworth is an incredibly complex and multi-faceted one. A singular man who forges a reputation as a master blackmailer and refuses to let go of a long-held grudge, he'll make you want to knock every one of his teeth out before the book is over. Like Loki in the Marvel universe, he's the villain you love to hate. And I can't get enough of him.

But this is Emma's story, obviously. Emma may not be as deep as Dodsworth, but she's still a likeable character with quite a bit of personality. Content to make the best of a bad situation, her optimistic outlook is a refreshing contrast to Dodsworth's own personal darkness. Of course, little does she know how directly that darkness will influence her...and how much she influences it. While her pluck got a little *too* altruistic at times, it wasn't enough to make her unbelievable. She's a grounded girl with hopes and dreams, and she'll be darned if she doesn't indulge in a selfish desire or two along the way. She is, after all, only human.

Vaughan...What can I say about him? I like him...ish. It's not that he's a bad character. He's pretty well-rounded, too. Kinda. But, as this is a "Cinderella story", he falls in love at first sight and, frankly...I've never been much a fan of the idea. It's just a personal preference. He's a shallow, callous playboy who takes to the straight and narrow, not for noble motives, but because his position basically forces him to. And while he does show some scruples before the book is over...I feel like his transformation needed a bit...more. More time. More detail. More...something. Can't quite place my finger on it. It just kind of happened so fast, and I'm not entirely convinced that a beautiful girl is enough to make a guy do a 180. But then, I suppose I've known too many jerky guys to think such a major change could happen, quite literally, overnight.

That being said, it's still a cute book. Well written. Well planned out. And a great start to a trilogy. Which is saying a lot because the second book is even better. :)
For more of Kelly Martin's books, check out her website at www.kellymartinbooks.com. You'll find info on her, her books, links to all her social media (which you should subscribe to all of them, just so you can bask in her epicness in every possible forum), and all that other fun stuff.

Stick around for more book reviews. They'll be coming less frequently than my movie reviews just because it takes longer to read a book than watch a movie (duh). But I'll try to do at least one a month (God willing and the crick don't rise).