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Rosie Thorne is a small-town girl (Livin’ in a lonely world?) who is mourning the loss of her mother and trying to navigate the last year of high school with the help of her father and her best friends, Anna and Quinn. When she finds a lost dog as she’s driving home from work one evening, she stumbles into the local “castle.”
Vance Reigns is a young “bad boy” actor. After one too many tabloid headlines, his stepfather, a movie producer, exiles him to the castle that Natalia Ford, the director of Vance’s latest movie, owns. He and Rosie meet when Rosie is trying to make sure his dog gets home. Sparks fly between them but Vance believes Rosie could never be interested in someone like him.
These books! I keep saying this but I grin until my face hurts while I’m reading them! Even when the story takes a troubled turn, I smile in anticipation of the eventual Happily Ever After.
First things first though. I’m knocking this one back to 4.5 stars. One of the things that Ashley Poston does so freaking well, and that I love her for, is inclusion and representation. People are people! Quinn, one of Rosie’s best friends, is non-binary and chooses the pronouns they/them. No big deal! There are gay and bisexual characters and it makes my heart so happy! But then she takes these casual swipes at the band geeks! What?!? It’s a small thing, really, but when one of the things I love best is that all the characters are accepted for who they are in all their esoteric enthusiasms, writing that “there’s a weird smell that I can only assume is coming from the marching band” just hurts my feelings and disappoints me. There were one or two other instances. I was obviously a band geek in high school. I have lifelong friendships from my time in the band. Band members are generally good kids making good grades who probably make up a significant portion of any fandom. We get a lot of grief in high school and pop culture; we don’t need it in a book that otherwise empowers geeks too.
There were also some continuity errors and typos, but the book is so charming and magical that I just don’t care.
On to the great things!
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is my favorite animated movie so this was almost guaranteed to be a five-star read for me–if it was done well. There’s potential for huge disappointment based on that movie love too. Poston knocked it out of the park. All of the fairy tale elements were present in this book in ways that largely made sense in the modern world. The library, the “beast,” Mrs. Potts, the library…. Did I mention the library? Rosie’s descriptions of the library made my bookish heart glow with recognition.
“But there is so much more in those words than just loving books. I love the smell of them. I love the way their bindings look pressed together on a shelf. I love the feel of pages buzzing through my fingers. I love big books and small books. I love words and how they’re strung together, and most of all, I love the stories. I love how books are not really just books at all, but doorways. They are portals into places I’ve never been and people I’ll never be, and in them I have lived a thousand lives and seen a thousand different worlds. In them I can be a princess or a knight of valor or a villain—I can be coveted, I can conquer on evils, I can defeat Dark Lords and destroy the One Ring and unite a Federation on the brink of collapse.”
“Nothing quite takes my breath away like the library every time I walk in. It’s the slant of the sun coming through the two large windows. It’s the way the light flickers off the motes of dust that drift through the room. It’s the smell of old paperbacks, filling every shelf like hundreds of secret stories from a galaxy far, far away, beckoning me to settle into every page, explore every planet, fall in love over and over again with Carmindor and Amara and Euci and Zorine and, yes, even Ambrose Sond.”
She has described the feelings of every reader in any bookish space so well!
Another thing that I loved is that Rosie’s friendships are so important to her. In romantic books, it’s easy to focus only on the couple. But Annie and Quinn are Rosie’s ride-or-dies. She tells them all her hopes and dreams and secrets. They actually keep her secrets! Annie and Rosie fully support Quinn’s efforts to be a non-binary Homecoming King. When Rosie is upset, they cheer her up in a scene that feels vaguely Romeo-and-Juliet-ish as they boom her favorite song at her balcony. They change their own plans when she needs them. Rosie says, “[The] best memories I’ve ever had are with my best friends. Like a good bra, they lift me up to stand tall.”
But the point of Beauty and the Beast is the romance and that feels well done too. Vance’s “friends” in LA have sold him out and used him so many times that he has major trust issues, causing him to lash out at anyone who gets too close. Rosie sees who he is under all the bluster but he frustrates her when he continually pushes her away. Their constant push and pull felt real enough to me, allowing that this is a fairy tale retelling. Vance gets a line that makes my heart flutter, “I want to tell her that she is the kind of story I have been looking for, and I want to be a part of it. So, so badly.” What a perfect pickup line to use on a bibliophile!
Readers who believe in fairy tales and happily ever after should absolutely read this loose series and this book in particular. It will leave you beaming with happiness.
If you liked Bookish and the Beast, you might also like my reviews of
- Geekerella (Once Upon a Con #1) by Ashley Poston
- The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston
- Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Soler
Buy Bookish and the Beast from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.