This Week, I Read… (2021 #22)

#61 – Beauty and the Mustache, by Penny Reid

  • Mount TBR: 58/100
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 16%. You know how I always say humor is personal? I did not jive with this style of humor at all, I found the characters uniformly juvenile, crude, and irritating. Obviously tons of other readers think this is the bee’s knees, though, so just as obviously, this is a complaint only relevant to me.

There were plenty of problems I had that didn’t involve the humor at all, however.

First, I was not expecting the inciting incident for a rom-com to be the heroine’s mother dying. Way to bring the room down, and to make the humor (whether I liked it or not) seem wildly off tone.

Second, the narrative style is overwritten. Not every line has to be a joke or a snappy remark. Not every noun needs an adjective. Not every thought that passes through the heroine’s head needs to be put on the page. Not every character needs to be a stereotype.

Third, the characters–there are too many. While this is the fourth book in one romance series (of which I haven’t read the first three, this is my first and likely only Reid novel attempt) it’s also the 0.5 intro to the Winston Brothers series, and boy, does the story spend a lot of time on the six of them, to the point where I stopped at 16%, there’s no real hint of a romance starting between the leads aside from the heroine flip-flopping mentally between admiring his looks or voice, and hating him for being around as a part of the family when she wasn’t (essentially, as far as I can tell with what I read.) Because I found the brothers all irritating, I’m not interested in setting up their future romances or even getting to know them, and their constant invasive presence is getting in the way of the romance plot, which is the reason I wanted to read the book at all.

Fourth–yeah, we’re still going on the list of issues–what plot there is so far makes no sense. Heroine peaces out of her family for eight years. Why? Dunno. Comes back because her mom has a medical emergency and refuses to see anyone else in the family. Why? Dunno, and she doesn’t say when the heroine meets with her at the hospital. The hero is apparently dear momma’s go-to guy for everything, since it’s quickly revealed that he gets to make all the decisions because he’s got her power of attorney and is also the executor of her will. Why? Because they’re friends, apparently. But why are they friends? Dunno, and that’s a really big set of responsibilities to set on a non-family member’s shoulders, not to mention the potential for abusing that power. There are other, smaller things about the story that also don’t make sense–like the running gag about six grown men living in the same house having a schedule for using the bathroom for masturbation purposes: do they not have bedrooms? Because if had been established that there wasn’t enough space and they were sharing rooms, okay, maybe, but that’s simply never addressed.

Fifth, I don’t care for everything in the story combining to make the hero a mysterious weird loner whose place in the story relies on all the nonsensical things I just listed. Also, his first title, so to speak, in the story is actually nothing I’ve mentioned so far–he’s also the oldest brother’s boss! Because being Mom’s bestie and having all her decision-making power wasn’t enough. But instead of that defining him better, it just muddies the waters and keeps him hanging around in this situation of creepy enforced intimacy with the heroine. Not long before I stopped, he kisses her on the forehead for some not-obvious-to-me reason and I honestly shuddered, it made me so uncomfortable. And this is the hero! I’m supposed to swoon over him, not wish he’d leave the heroine alone!

Sixth, I put the book down where I did because one of the brothers made a racist joke. Last straw.

#62 – Dragon Rose, by Christine Pope

  • Mount TBR: 59/100
  • Rating: 2/5 stars

An okay start that eventually muddled its way along to a weak ending. I mean, this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so we knew the heroine was going to break the curse and get her happily ever after, of course we did.

But the twist in this one, if you can even call it that, is that the curse has farther-reaching effects than just having turned the hero into an immortal dragon. The heroine is affected by it too, after a time, as are the castle’s staff, too, under certain circumstances that we’re told about when everything is eventually revealed. The problem with this is, it’s not apparent until far too late in the story that that’s what’s happening, so Rhianne’s extended period of sickness in the middle doesn’t seem magical, mystical, or cursed–she just seems depressed, and given her situation, fair enough. But a lot of page space was devoted to it, and since it wasn’t obvious it was plot relevant, it felt like a lot of treading water without going anywhere, just when things should have been building to the climax of the story. Then at the end, hindsight and the hero’s knowledge explain everything and it’s all just so perfectly arranged.

I also think that we spend so much time with Rhianne alone–she is the sole POV narrator–that we don’t spend enough time with the hero in order for her to “see who he really is.” The magical plot workaround for that feels cheap, honestly, and gets in the way of actually developing the hero as a character.

It’s not a terrible reimagining–I’ve certainly read worse–but the new elements it tried to incorporate don’t really work for the story, so it’s certainly not good, either.

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