My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Hmmm...... Ashlyn Montgomery’s debut (and only) historical romance, Lord Beast, quite baffled me. I had enjoyed quite a bit of it, while wanted to stomp my feet in frustration in some other. There were plot holes, dialogues that sounded too modern to be called Regency and unbelievable situations that should’ve irritated me. However, it didn’t. One thing I’d give that even after everything, this had some hilarious moments and dialogues, specifically between the H, Rhys and the h, Danielle.
Lord Beast isn’t your typical take into the beauty and the beast theme. Danielle is not a classical beauty. In fact, she has never been considered a beauty, which is why at the age of 23 she’s still a spinster after 6 seasons, never having even one proposal of marriage. Danielle, or Dani as her closest people call her, is short, rather plump and all in all plain to look at. She’s also one of those people who have accepted how she is and doesn’t make a lot of fuss about it. Dani’s childhood hadn’t been nice and cozy either. Her father died early and then her mother had bouts of depression. Dani, being the only child, was left to take care of her mother who was never much of a mother to begin with. If that wasn’t enough, some years ago, she took a fall from a horse which almost took her life. Even though she survived but barely as her back was injured. She isn’t bedridden but is plagued with bouts of bad pain from time and again… it seemed if she was active during the day, it was a struggle for her to get some sleep at night, which happened quite frequently. After reading all these I could only wonder at how she herself didn’t become depressed herself! But it seems Dani is made of sterner stuff and (a wee bit) on the fluffy side, so it seems nothing ever weighs her down. At least not that much.
Dani has been living her quite elderly, distant relatives ever since her mother committed suicide. She’s not even out of mourning yet. Life has no prospect apart living with the Smiths as long as she can... expect for occasional letters from her best buddy Victoria who married a dashing duke of her own some months ago. It was one of those nights when she was having trouble falling asleep that Dani saw light on a faraway castle called Falmouth. Dani’s aunt’s cottage is on top of a small hill so she could see the Falmouth castle from her window. They say it’s abandoned as the heir died in an accident some years back. No one has since laid claim on it. However, when she notices the light, instantly Dani decides she needs to investigate the matter. I mean seriously girl?! You have this excruciating back pain that won’t let you sleep and you decide to go out, ALONE, in the middle of the night, hike MILES to an abandoned castle to see if anyone is trespassing? It’s not even your business! :-s I have to say that wasn’t one of Dani’s brightest moments, which she acknowledges later on and because this is a novel, she was safe until she reached there. This is what I mentioned about being unbelievable... and a wee bit TSTL. However, the following scenes were quite funny so I instantly forgot about it. :p
It seems the castle is, indeed, occupied... by none other than the heir who is rumored to have died! *gasp* Who is also now the current Earl. *double gasp* And he wears a........ cloak on his face. Always. (eh, what? :-s) I couldn’t even imagine how the man looked and how could he manage to wear a cloak all day long! It was an image that I couldn’t envision well enough. When Dani asks to see his face but he won’t let her. He’s rude, a complete a$$ to her and wants to throw her out (which would be totally alright seeing she was the one trespassing). But Dani’s guileless words, honesty and unconcerned innocence caught him completely by off-guard. She’d match him word for word in her own way and he’d go “adorbs!!!!” inside his head. It was like a small puppy trying to nip at a big dog. :p
Now Rhys Ashcroft is no stranger to women. At least he wasn’t 5 yrs. ago before the accident had scarred his face. He was once gorgeous and women fell at his feet. He was a bastard (er, literally) and came into his title quite unexpectedly. That made him titled and rich too. The perfect combination for both hot widows and actresses and the mamas with marriageable daughters to hound him wherever he went. But Rhys was also a BIG JERK to everyone, especially to people who didn’t meet his so-called aesthetic standards. Women he’d crush with his words just because someone was too pale or had freckles. All in all, to anyone who had the bad luck of possessing things he didn’t like. He chose extremely beautiful women as his mistresses, and no less. With his good-looks it wasn’t a big deal for him either. He was arrogant, vain and one thing about him was always true; Rhys didn’t mince words as you’ll find out in the beginning. It was his big mouth that got him into trouble with an unfortunate debutante possessing an overweight body and vindictive nature. Who knew what happened to the curricle he was driving but it still went down the day after the ‘scene’ he made with that girl, leaving him scarred, scurrying away rapidly to hide from the pity and judgment of the society.
Oh how the mighty had fallen! Rhys is still bitter about it but 5 yrs have mellowed his temper. At least regarding that incident. He has deliberately let the gossip loose on his fictional demise. He wanted to just fade away so that no one from his previous circle could find him, only a few trustworthy people knowing the truth. It’s how Rhys has been conducting all his businesses from Falmouth, the castle that his a$$hole of a father didn’t want. Simply because of that he was now living in it. He despised that piece of junk who ruined his mother, never married her and left them in utter poverty. He hated that outwardly he resembled the man to a fault and maybe even inherited a certain amount of his vile temperament. Needless to say, Rhys didn’t miss his demise but still he hated to be known as that man’s son. As he doesn’t have the opportunity to be with women that he previously preferred anymore, Rhys is forced to go out occasionally to find a whore here and there to meet his urges. But he’s been largely cooped up in his castle all these years; big change from the man about town, jaded wild rake he once used to be.
Now what is this little trouble doing at his doorstep in the middle of the night? Danielle is nothing at all like the women he was used to but her honesty and innocence caught him so completely that Rhys had no idea what to do about it. And it’s not like anyone can offend the little miss (she’s quite short and he, very tall) into not returning to his castle ever again. Nah-uh! Even though he’d been an utter a$$ and continued to be one when Dani returns the next day wanting to ‘make friends’ with the wounded beast (or so I felt her reasoning was) with offerings of food, she doesn’t go away. It was downright funny to watch those two biker and nip at each-other. One total a$$, another fluffy and guileless. I was quite entertained. :D
The story begins building up as Dani keeps visiting Rhys, who gradually begins softening up to her. After so many years alone, she made him feel things that he hasn’t felt in a long while... maybe even in his entire life. He’s still sometimes an a$$, but Dani seems to see through his grumpy growls. On their second day of meeting, when Dani took food with her, her injured back took another thump as Rhys tried to push her away. He was being his grumpy self, but the whole thing was completely unintentional. He didn’t even know Dani had any problem of any sort. But when it kept her abed the next day and night, hence her absence, he begins to grow impatient and concerned. And OMG, he was maybe missing her too! His ever-sarcastic, bolder-than-he-should-be butler certainly found it entertaining. :p And that night Rhys makes a sweet gesture inspite of himself and Dani becomes confirmed in her conviction that he’s not as bad as he seems. If only he’d take off that blasted cloak and let her see his face! Nevertheless, she’s now dedicated to become Rhys’ friend no matter what he does and how grumpy he becomes in the process. LOL
Dani’s ‘dedication’ (or so to speak) begins paying off when Rhys softens up even more. Then there were those looks (well she felt those since she couldn’t see his face), touch and kisses that told her Rhys didn’t find her as unappealing as she thought of herself over the years. Oh how wonderful! Rhys on the other hand was trying to justify his yearning for Dani with loneliness, forced celibacy etc. etc. etc. But he knew deep inside that this was more than that. He actually REALLY liked Dani and craved her companionship. But he was also pretty convinced that this won’t end well; that their relationship can’t go anywhere. They’re both attracted to each-other despite him wearing a cloak always in human company (which, again, I found a bit unbelievable, especially the couple of times he climbed Dani’s window, in the middle of the night, to show his ‘gesture’!). Making platonic friendship was the last thing on Rhys’ mind where Dani was concerned. And because he was so convinced, he was also pushing Dani away a lot, hurting her in the process.
The first part of the story was quite fun but the second part had those feet stomping moments. Then Dani’s friend Victoria comes for a visit with an invitation to a masked ball. I was looking for a story between her and her now-husband Gabriel but there was none. Could’ve been interesting from the little snippets of their backstory that was told here. Victoria could be annoying at times but largely tolerable. Gabriel was more interesting and completely besotted with his wife. Dani is a bit hurt because very recently, again, Rhys has kissed her like a madman, then became rude, cold and distant… again. Victoria had no idea that the Earl of Falmouth was even alive, though it seemed Gabriel knew as he was Rhys’ closest friend when they used to move together in social gatherings. After hearing Dani’s heartaches and ‘whines’ (women in this story seem to *whine* a lot :-s) Victoria is determined to help her friend get her man of dreams.
After a few of incidents, a kiss in the picture gallery of Falmouth, somehow Dani and Rhys find themselves engaged to be married. Even though Rhys thought it was a bad idea, he had then had the time to mull things over. He wanted her with himself always so marriage could be the only solution to this dilemma. Dani would’ve never said ‘no’ to him as she’d already made her attraction in him clear in her own innocent ways. When it seemed things were looking up for them, the vindictive debutante, whom Rhys cut all those years ago, returns to make trouble. I was surprised to find that he’d believe in any of her drivel and hurt Dani again before their wedding. It was such a downer for the otherwise fun, even-if-a-bit-unbelievable-at-times story. I was already a bit frustrated of how Rhys was always blowing so hot and cold despite Dani’s devoted efforts to gain his trust, and if possible, love. Then this happens! *tsk tsk tsk*
He hears something when Victoria and Dani were talking together and immediately interprets that Dani had mastermind a plot to ‘snare him’ into matrimony. *big f*cking eyeroll* After all the months she’s been with him, barely able to contain her yearning, which if I might mention Rhys had always noticed.......? How could he trust that woman I have NO idea! The rest of the story was rather ruined for me because of it. He was cold, cutting and a veritable jacka$$ for weeks into their marriage. It took an accident for our numbnuts to come to his senses. Gee. I was this close to kicking his own nuts! *sigh*
But, the epilogue was adorable. Loved it! However, as I finished, I couldn’t help thinking that if that last bit of dumb “misunderstanding” didn’t happen, it could’ve been a really good book overall. Also a bit of editing; not to weed out typos (I can’t recall anything drastic) but just to tighten up the writing, to make it more Regency-like in dialogue and diction and this could’ve easily been a 4.5 stars read. I saw potentials in the author in her Julia Quinn-esque (fun and fluffy) style. Not sure why there hasn’t been any more from her in the past 3+ yrs. I hope she’d be back and write some more stories for us. 3.5 stars.