I’ve been re-reading my all-time favorite romance novel, BEAST by Judith Ivory, and I just have to wax rhapsodic about it. I’ve enjoyed many romance novels, but this is, by far, the best I’ve ever read. It’s the Grand Opera, the Taj Mahal, the Ritz of romance novels.
A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” the story is set around the turn of the 20th century, a time when young American heiresses were married off to aristocratic European gentlemen–even ones who might seem, at first glance, to be rather beastly. The first half of the book takes place on the ocean liner Concordia; the second half takes place in Provence, France.
Two things make it so special–the marvelous writing with luscious descriptions (I swear you can smell the scent of ambergris!), and the deep point of view that makes Charles and Louise come alive as real people. You feel you know these characters. You are these characters, and you experience every thought, every chuckle, every sigh, right along with them.
Oh! There’s a third aspect that makes this book so charming, and that is the character of Louise. Yes, she’s beautiful and intelligent, but we expect that of romance heroines. Louise has something more, a trait that is admirable: She knows how to take care of herself. She knows her own worth. While kind-hearted, she never denigrates herself or turns herself inside out, trying to please others. She pleases herself–a refreshing lesson for all modern women.
The book came out in 1997, but you can still find it on Amazon.
Highly recommended! If I could ever write a novel half as good as this one, I’d die happy. :)