LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52476-7
Historical Romance, 2002
I shudder to imagine the circumstances that brought about the title of this book. The scene is probably a gruesome one involving too much alcohol, brassiere on the chandelier, and white powder all over the bed. Or maybe it’s a more mundane scene: Linda Jones and her editor just believe that DeButy & the Beast is a smart attempt at being funny. But I still believe that at least two jugs of Guinness are involved in that scene.
As far as the Beauty & the Beast-style fantasy goes, however, this one is actually a brilliant tongue-in-cheek premise. Only when Ms Jones utilize the insulting plot clichés of female martyrdom that her story falls down the cliff to meet a watery death.
Julian DeButy believes that sex should solely be for procreative purposes. Without a firm control of our libido, he maintains, we are nothing more than beasts. It’s a good thing he’s not a Roman Catholic priest. Oh, I can see the flames coming my way already. Seriously, a man who could barely control his hard-on for that sexy harlot even as he insists that she curb her sexuality and behave? Sounds like one of those twisted men of cloth to me.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Anya Sedley, a woman who was once the concubine of a pirate prince and was worshiped as a very sexual love goddess in that island. She was shipwrecked in that lovely island of pagan bacchanalia, you see, and damn, I want a one-way ticket to that place too. Anyway, now she is found and brought back to Victorian England, where she runs straight into a brick wall regarding her sensual nature. Her concerned grandmother brings in Julian to play her Professor Higgins, marry her, and hopefully make her a respectable Victorian genteel lady.
It is often painful to see Julian ruthlessly attempts to bludgeon his wife into being an asexual china ornament even as he all but wanks himself off in his lust. It’s a gruesome form of hypocrisy, and a bit too close to female victimization for my liking.
At first Anya is more than enough to stand up to him, often throwing her lusty nature in his face and pointing out his hypocritical ways. But the author then attempts to subdue Anya – no doubt she probably believes that readers find a sensual woman off-putting – and look! Anya is actually sad because she believes herself to be barren! She just wants love and a home! And even better, when she finally leaves Julian, she realizes that she is pregnant and… and… oh, she loves Julian! Even if he doesn’t love her, et cetera. Oh boy.
His grand apology to her has a smug, condescending male superiority ring to it, as if he is making a grand concession to screw a sexy wife. A dramatic resolution to clear up the emotional conflict is swept aside for external conflicts.
In the end, I feel cheated. DeButy & the Beast pretends to be a daring tale of sexual women finding love, but in the end it’s just another Victorian morality tale of the ever-popular “Men Know Best; Cover Up Your Legs, Women!” theme.
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