Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Year: 2020
Page count: 384
Rating: 2.5 stars
Rep: Indian MCs, queer character
Blurb (From Goodreads):
For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?
His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…
As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.
Shockingly enough, I think this is my first time reading a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Retellings are usually hit or miss for me, and unfortunately this was a bit of a miss.
This story is told in dual perspective, and I hate to say that the characters were both hard to connect to. Jaya is an Indian princess who is sent to an American boarding school after rumors leak about her younger sister. Jaya is very stuck up the first part of the novel, and just not extremely interesting. She is very complacent and lets her family walk all over her. I think the author gave her these traits to show character development, but it didn’t happen until the last 50 pages or so, which was frustrating to read about. Grey, on the other hand, is apart of a family that Jaya’s would never approve of. He is very melancholy, and we honestly don’t see much characterization out of him until about halfway through the book. I found myself frustrated with him as well, and just overall a bit forgettable.
I think the biggest miss for me was the plot. I was just not engaged in it. I think a big part of this is because there was so much miscommunication, which is by far my least favorite trope. If Jaya and Grey would just sit down and have a nice heart to heart, so many problems could have been solved. At one point, Jaya even tells the reader she should probably talk to him about something she’s done, but decides its unnecessary (when of course, it is). It just felt like a whole lot of nothing, and I was bored. The magical realism in this book didn’t add much to the story either, and I found it distracting from the plot.
The other part of the plot I didn’t enjoy was all the boarding school drama. It just felt a bit unnecessary to me, and I didn’t really care about any of the supporting characters involved. It felt a bit like Loveboat, Taipei, in the way that it just felt very young. The supporting characters were all acting very immature and it just wasn’t interesting to me.
As for the retelling aspect, this definitely felt more like a Romeo & Juliet retelling than Beauty and the Beast. Jaya and Grey are from opposing families who would never let them be together. I didn’t really buy the hate to love aspect of their romance, and the whole thing just felt a bit superficial. The author definitely included some Beauty and the Beast aspects (like the necklace), but if I wouldn’t have known this was a retelling I would not have connected the dots.
I did enjoy the relationship Jaya had with her sister (whose name I am forgetting). They did have some good heart to hearts an the author did use her to address the double standards against women in Indian culture (and in general).
All in all, I’m really sad I didn’t love this book more because I really enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi, but I guess this series may not be for me. I still want to read There’s Something About Sweetie, although I will admit I am a bit skeptical now.
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