Avon True Romance, $4.99, ISBN 0-06-447342-2
Historical Romance, 2002
In a genre increasingly saturated with PG-rated Sex in the City clones, I wonder how Beverly Jenkins’s addition to the young adult genre will fare. Apart from the legion of adult fans rushing to purchase this books, will the kiddies care? But that, I leave it to the Avon True Romance people to sort out. I’m a reader, far older than this book’s target audience – yes, Belle and the Beau is a young adult book, and the author’s biography at the back cover lists all of Ms Jenkin’s more “adult” romances so that your 12-year old will know what to steal from Momma’s book shelf to read late at night – so how does it fare with me?
Well, it’s okay. Sixteen-year old Belle is a sweet, feisty ex-slave who, on her escape trek towards the North, is separated from her beloved father. She finds sanctuary in the household of the Bests, where she learns to start life anew, learns to be a Liberated and Independent lady, and uses her inner purity to win over 18-year old Daniel Best – the most boring guy ever – from that Unworthy Other Lady.
Along the way, history is liberally peppered all over the pages, often intrusive but always educational and entertaining, so much so that it seems that the story is only secondary to the history lesson. The Bests aren’t characters as much as they are mere puppets in Ms Jenkins’s history lesson show. Every scene, every action has a historical trivia to be digested. I like it, but I wish Ms Jenkins has compiled a trivia book instead of throwing one of the most boring G-rated romance to my face ever.
I mean, Daniel here… well, he’s the “my best friend’s older brother” plot device. He’s boring, he’s nice, he’s all tall and mysterious because he just happens to be the only guy around. Belle is boring too – this is one young lady who, after surviving days living on dirt, insists on doing her share in the household even after the Bests ordered her to rest.
This is not a bad book – it’s a quick and breezy read. But at the same time, the hero is bland, the heroine is one-dimensionally virtuous, and everyone’s so virtuous and nice that I would love to have the kids in the family read this instead of listening to Eminem. But at the same time, I have a sneaky suspicion that were I their age, I’d rather read VC Andrews and dream about Christopher Dollanganger rather than the starchy, nice, and perfect dullards in Belle and the Beau. Hmm.