Is beauty only skin deep?
Chemist Dr. Robert “Belle” Belleterre loves flowers, green trees, his best friend Judy, and “his baby”: the new face cream he developed to help put his father’s small cosmetics company on the map. Sadly he gets no help from his alcoholic, gambling-addicted father who loses Belle in a poker game to Magnus Strong, the CEO of Beauty, Inc. the largest American cosmetics company—a man infamous for his scarred ugliness.
Belle finds himself uprooted from his home, living in a wildly crazy apartment in New York owned by Mr. Pennymaker, and completely unprepared for his mad attraction to the charismatic Strong. Feeling like a traitor, Belle fights his passion only to see more and more of the goodness and humility hidden by Strong’s ugly face. But when Belle’s family starts manipulating his life again, the odds turn against happiness for beautiful Belle and his beloved beast.
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This latest reworked fairy tale from Tara Lain gives us a Beauty and the Beast with sweet, manipulated “Belle” and a wounded but goodhearted “Beast.” Tara Lain treats some heavy subjects in here, but with a light enough hand that the read doesn’t bog down in moralizing.
You know from the blurb that Belle’s family is screwed up beyond belief if his father can use a son as a wager and expect to pay off. Belle himself has a very strong sense of right and wrong, which he must have learned from his late mother, because the rest of the family certainly doesn’t have any. Fortunately, Magnus isn’t expecting favors, just the brilliance of a prodigy of a cosmetic chemist.
We’ve all known how this story ends since we were six, so here it’s the getting there that’s the fun. The author calls in Mr. Pennymaker, a cheerful meddler of a landlord and confidant, who shows up in other books in the series to help matters along, a la fairy godfather. Here his sage advice comes as probing questions to make the other characters think more deeply, and we should all have such a kind and level headed friend.
While we would all love to believe that we can see beyond the surface, the truth is so many people don’t look. Magnus, with his craggy, scarred features, doesn’t fare well in the gay dating market, and being in the cosmetics industry he stands out even more. Strength of personality he has in spades though, and the kind of heart that sees what needs doing plus the resources to make it happen. Even so, he is his own harshest critic.
The road to the happy ending is strewn with the speedbumps that come of this setup, plus the issues that arise with other secondary characters, some sweet, some snakes. It’s all woven together with one of the funniest, oddest sex scenes I’ve ever read.
A major subplot involves the health of someone dear to Belle, and while this was in the main done well, a few aspects of it pinned my personal rage-meter. I actually had to put the book down for a bit because of this, and many readers won’t have all the issues I did. However, it did fling me out of the story for a while, and I had to remind myself this was a fluffy read, not a serious read, before I could finish the book. I would say this is all on me except that the primary issue touches the lives of so many women and some of the details are important to me but not necessarily to others.
The Pennymaker Tales Series
Sinders and Ash
(The Pennymaker Tales Series, #1)
by Tara Lain
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(The Pennymaker Tales, #2)
by Tara Lain
Available for purchase at
About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her bestselling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soulmate husband and her soulmate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!
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