After years of turmoil, Roderick Cherbon has left the Crusades to return to the home he loves. But the wars have changed him, and the heir who thought to heal his father’s injustices has become a vicious beast of a man, scarred inside and out. He will speak to no one, see no one; he leaves the shadows of his ruined keep only under the darkness of night. And even in death his father mocks him: to retain his land and title, Roderick, the Beast, must marry.
Lady Michaela Fortune is reviled for her poverty, ridiculed for her dreams, and preyed on for her soft heart. Humiliation and want dog her beloved family, and her pride is an indulgence she can ill afford. Cherbon and its shattered lord offer a solution. But to court a man who has fallen so low, Michaela will need all her grace and beauty to harbor any hopes of taming the beast…
Roderick Cherbon returns home after escaping the clutches of death on the battlefield to the home were he was never wanted and an inheritance laced with the condition he marry before he turns 30. A condition made by his deceased father as a last spite to show Roderick he is not worthy. Finding a wife when scarred physically and mentally proves very hard though as all candidates flee the moment they lay eyes on Roderick and his gloomy castle. Even the offer of money doesn’t entice the ladies.
Roderick’s quest for a wife comes to the ears of Michaela Fortune who is devastated when the man she thinks she’s in love with, and he in love with her, marries another. That man happens to be Roderick’s cousin, Alan Thornfield, the man who inherits everything if Roderick doesn’t succeed. For Michaela there’s no better revenge than to marry Roderick and make sure Alan doesn’t become the heir by default. The money Roderick offers will also help her family who is scraping by. But soon money or revenge is the last thing on Michaela’s mind as the scarred man, who beneath the ornery and harsh exterior is a man of honor longing to be loved, enthralls her.
TAMING THE BEAST was my first encounter with Heather Grothaus’ writing and I must say I enjoyed it very much. Her strength definitely lies in her characters that are far from flawless but very likeable at the same time. Michaela grew with every page. She is smart and outspoken from the beginning but she is also a bit musing. Even though I liked her a lot because of her clumsiness, the way she holds her own and her caring nature and love for children I didn’t like the parts where her blind adoration and crush on Alan took an almost childlike form. Luckily this changed when she went to Cherbon and fell in love with Roderick.
I loved Roderick. He is the epitome of the scarred beast hero but often enough his outer shell of rudeness cracked and showed the man beneath who is tender and yearning for love and acceptance. Like Michaela, he too grows in the story. Things around him are subtly and gradually exposed to the reader and some were pleasantly surprising and unexpected.
Next to the well fleshed out, three-dimensional hero and heroine, Grothaus also delivers on the secondary characters. Alan is manipulative and greedy and even though I started out not liking him at all, he was caring towards his daughter and he redeemed himself a bit at the end of the book. Harliss, Roderick’s childhood nurse plays a very important role in the plot and she reminded me of the typical mean old witch we all know from the fairytales. As much as I liked Michaela and Roderick, I despised Harliss and, to some degree, Alan.
And then there’s Hugh, Roderick’s best friend. His character puzzled me several times in the story. One moment, I would like him, the other moment not so much and it wasn’t until I got a surprising bit of information about him that it all clicked for me. I really didn’t see that twist in his characterization coming at all and it had a nice twist to it and the story in general.
I know there are plenty romance readers who dislike having children play a part in romance novels but I really like it and in this book it was Leo who stole my heart, he is such an adorable 3 year-old. He’s the kind of child you want to take out of the book to cuddle with. He is also crucial to plot and characterization and I really loved how Heather Grothaus wrote his character into the story.
The plot TAMING THE BEAST is a layered and rich one but at times also a little bit predictable. This could have been a problem for me but because of some very surprising twists, especially from the second half onwards, I totally forgot about the predictable stuff in the beginning. The last part of the book was very emotional and included some paranormal elements that were unexpected despite the hints to them given prior in the story. Many things that arose questions with me in the beginning, fell into place to my relief and satisfaction.
With TAMING THE BEAST Heather Grothaus tackles the age old trope of “the beauty and the beast” and she does it with original and refreshing writing, wonderful characters and a plot with a dash of paranormal, that goes from a little predictable to completely unexpected twists. If you love medieval historical romance with engaging characters and an interesting plot, this is not to be missed on the reading pile.
Rating: 8.0 out of 10
(ROOB-rating: 4 stars)