I decided to review the #COYER book club reads together in one post. These are our May 2021 picks – Retellings month. Interestingly, both our picks ended up also being somewhat Beauty and the Beast retellings. I say somewhat because one was never marketed that way and it’s a stretch (though I can see it) and the other is a combination of other fairy tales as well. I enjoyed both quite a bit!Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: Castles Ever After #1
Published by Avon on January 28, 2014
Genres: Historical, Retelling, Romance
An alternate cover edition of this ASIN can be found here.
In the first in Tessa Dare's captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .
As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.
And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.
Ugly duckling turned swan? Abducted by handsome highwayman? Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?
No, no, and… Heh.
Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?
I haven’t read a lot of Tessa Dare, but everything I have read I have thoroughly enjoyed. Romancing the Duke was no exception. I suppose it’s meant to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and while I can see it, it’s a little bit of a stretch.
Despite not quite living up to my expectations on the Beauty and the Beast front, the story and characters absolutely did. Izzy was fantastic. She’s strong willed and determined; I loved the way she stood up to Ransom. She’s resourceful and funny (I mean there were times where I burst out laughing and had to share her one-liners because they were that good). Then there’s Ransom. A scarred, grumpy, blind hero – the perfect opposite to Izzy’s optimistic determination, he’s been hit hard by life recently and is out for the count. It was wonderful watching her get under his skin and transform him from “the beast.”
Their romance may have made me a little misty eyed at the end and most certainly had me fanning myself (read: sizzling hot!). The side story of Izzy’s father’s stories and massive fan following was entertaining and produced a surprise I wasn’t expecting (though I really should have). Turns out I’ve read one of the other books in this series (#3) and I don’t believe there’s any connection, so perhaps they’re entirely unrelated? I’ll see, as I’d like to continue with the series.
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Recorded Books on May 5, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Retelling
Length: 16 hours 7 minutes
Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from stories, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin, a High Lord of the faeries. As her feelings toward him transform from hostility to a firey passion, the threats against the faerie lands grow. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose Tamlin forever.
I read this back in 2015, but since that review was on Fantasy is More Fun, I’m copying it here with an updated note at the bottom.
Original review (October 2015):
I knew that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a twist of Beauty and the Beast and the fae. But that was pretty much all I knew and as a result, I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. But A Court of Thorns and Roses was most definitely not what I expected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, I really enjoyed it.
I think there were only two big negative in terms of what I was expecting. First was the fairytale retelling aspect. Typically when I read a retelling, I expect it to be a twist on the original fairytale… but this felt like it was just a twist on the Disney version. And isn’t that already it’s own retelling? But I LOVE the Disney version, so I’m not complaining exactly… but it is disappointing that it felt so familiar (though there were significant differences – particularly in the last quarter). The other thing that really bugged me – and this is something I can only allude to if I’m going to avoid spoilers – but there’s this riddle towards the end and I found it so incredibly easy to solve after hearing it just one time. Feyre is supposed to dwell on it for MONTHS and she finds it difficult. I don’t know, it just really bugged me.
But those are really my only criticisms for A Court of Thorns and Roses. I absolutely loved the world and I felt like Sarah J. Maas’s use of the fae was very well done. The characters were addicting and I had no trouble falling for Tamlin along with Feyre. Every character was pretty complex, even her family, who seem pretty simple at first glance end up surprising you as the story progresses. Every character seemed to have layers upon layers – at times I had a hard time because those I had decided I hated I was starting to seriously LIKE. I love complexity like that, it’s more real.
I had the privilege of listening to A Court of Thorns and Roses and the narration definitely helped bring these characters to life. Jennifer Ikeda did a great job with the voices – they were varied and helped me keep all the characters straight. I listened at 2x speed too, so her pacing worked well – I’m not able to speed up all narrators and still have a nice listen. So I’ll definitely be continuing this series on audio.
I’ll be interested to see how things continue – since it started as a fairytale retelling but the fairytale bit is done but there are future books planned. There’s no cliff hanger, but there are elements left enough in the air that you can see plenty of potential. I look forward to seeing how it will develop. Definitely worth a read – though I should note that while it’s selling as YA it has sex scenes that are more explicit than I would expect in a YA book. Just FYI.
Updated review (May 2021):
I think I agree with most my initial thoughts. I now know that it’s not based solely on Beauty and the Beast, but also East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Tam Lin. I’m not actually familiar with the later two fairy tales, but I’m guessing that they are responsible for the unfamiliar later half of the book (along with future books).
My other thing is that some of the characterizations of the Fae that I overlooked last time, kind of bothered me this time. One is kind of a spoiler but I won’t say it, but it breaks one of the cardinal rules of the fae. In addition, Feyre thanks the Fae constantly. That’s not commented on, but you’re not supposed to thank the Fae. Put together, those two characterizations were kind of like when you make Vampires that don’t drink blood (even the sparkly Cullens drank blood).
Finally, maybe I’ve grown up a bit more but I was bugged by Feyre’s willingness to blame herself so harshly, meanwhile being so forgiving of Tamlin. I think my own personal experiences have FINALLY taught me to be kinder to myself so I didn’t like seeing her be so unkind to herself.
My rating stays the same and I’m really glad I reread the book – as I’m moving along in the series and I had forgotten so much!