Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: To Beguile A Beast

Title: To Beguile A Beast
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance (1765)
Series: Legend of the Four Soldiers/Book 3
Published: May 2009


Reclusive Sir Alistair Munroe has hidden in his castle ever since returning from the Colonies, scarred inside and out. But when a mysterious beauty arrives at his door, the passions he's kept suppressed for years begin to awaken.


Running from past mistakes has taken legendary beauty Helen Fitzwilliam from the luxury of the ton to a crumbling Scottish castle . . . and a job as a housekeeper. Yet Helen is determined to start a new life and she won't let dust-or a beast of a man-scare her away.


Beneath Helen's beautiful fa├žade, Alistair finds a courageous and sensual woman. A woman who doesn't back away from his surliness-or his scars. But just as he begins to believe in true love, Helen's secret past threatens to tear them apart. Now both Beast and Beauty must fight for the one thing neither believed they could ever find--a happy ever after.

The third book in Elizabeth Hoyt's Four Soldiers series is about the reclusive Sir Alistair and Helen Fitzwilliam, the former mistress of a duke. If you haven't given Hoyt's books a try I would definitely recommend them. She doesn't write your typical historical heroes and heroines but instead writes of the odd couples that don't always seems to fit.

We first met Helen Fitzwilliam in the previous book, To Seduce a Sinner. Helen became friends with the heroine of TSaS, Melisande Fleming a.k.a. Viscountess Vale. Helen is the mistress of the Duke of Lister but he hasn't shown any interest in her for some years. He has in fact taken other mistresses but still keeps Helen and her two children under his control. It was Melisande that had the idea of sending Helen to Scotland to be the housekeeper for Alistair. Helen had tried to leave the duke before but he is very powerful and threaten to take the children from her if she tried to leave him. She's become afraid of the duke and what he may do to the children. So out of desperation she agrees to go to Scotland in the hopes it's far enough away that the duke won't look for her there. So Helen and her children, Abigail and Jamie, arrive on Alistair's doorstep without any warning and receive a less than warm welcome.

Alistair was not what I was expecting. I expected him to be more moody, broody and just plain grumpier. He seemed as if he was waiting for someone to force themselves into his life. While he put up a bit of a fight, in the end he gave in fairly quickly IMO. Alistair was full of a lot of bluster but what he really needed someone to care for and in return care about him. Once Helen and the children were installed in the castle, Alistair insisted they dine with him even though she was his housekeeper and should take her meals with the rest of the staff. He also took them fishing and even got a puppy for the children. Not really the actions of a recluse but more that of a man who doesn't know how to go about in life after what had been done to him. So he chose to stay in his dreary, old castle rather than face his demons.

I did like Alistair and totally got why he had no desire to go out in public. He had been taken prisoner and tortured while in the colonies and bore terribly scares on his face. In additions to that his eye had been removed causing him to wear an eye patch. This was back in the time when women swooned and children screamed if they saw someone disfigured. So knowing what waited for him in society it's no wonder he stayed away. Helen and the children helped Alistair grown accustomed to being around people again and learning to enjoy their company.

Helen and her relationship with her children was interesting and odd at times. While under the patronage of the duke the children were taken care of by a governess and basically Helen saw them at scheduled times during the day. If there was a problem with either child the governess was there to take care of the problem. Helen's time spent with her children was to be pleasant and problem free. In Scotland it's just Helen and the kids. And Helen does well taking care of them and stepping into the full-time role of mother and caregiver. Realistic, maybe not but I do think she had no choice in the matter so she did what needed to be done. It was interesting to see how her role in her children's lives change along with greater responsibility for them.

The love story of Alistair and Helen progressed at a fairly decent pace but did stall a bit in the middle. Sort of a lull in the midst of the chaos. Alistair never thought Helen would stay with him so he took the attitude of simply enjoying his time with her while he could. Helen was still worried about the duke finding her and forcing her back to London or worse, taking the children from her. When fate did intervene Alistair had to make tough decisions and face his demons head on.

One problem I did have was Helen's relationship with the duke. I really didn't understand why Helen and the children still lived in London under the protection of the duke. Helen and Lister hadn't been intimate in years, most likely since her son was conceived, so why did he continue to keep her as his mistress? Why not pay her off her send her to wherever former mistresses go? Some cottage by the seaside perhaps? Maybe continue paying her because of the children but not keeping her in a house in London. I can understand Lister wanting to be responsible for the children even if he didn't acknowledge them publicly. They were his and he held on to what was his. But I don't understand why Helen and kids were still in London with her acting the part of mistress but not actually playing the role.

I did like To Beguile a Beast and will certainly read the next/last book in the series but it wasn't my favorite of the series and did have a few problems with it. Ms. Hoyt has a lovely website with excerpts from all her books as well as a free novella.

Rating: B+


  1. I pretty much agree with everything you stated, especially about Lister's role in the story.

    I didn't love this book but I liked it enough to keep with the series.

  2. After reading the excerpt for the next book I have to read it to find out what happens.

    I forgot to mention in the review that there didn't seem to be much progress on finding the traitor. Hmmm...

  3. Hi Leslie, great review. I did understand why he kept her around, but I agree with you and really wish he had been better developed. The lack of insight into his character was the one thing that bothered me in this book. A little more info would have gone a long way, IMO.

    The traitor part of the story was really minor. I'm thinking she's going to go for it in the last book after reading that revelation.

  4. While I enjoyed this one, I didn't find it the same calibre as her first series. And I didn't get the whole mistress of the duke thing either. I couldn't figure out why, but after reading your review I 'got' it. Why indeed did he keep her as his mistress when he had nothing to do with her any longer. To me that just seemed like a slightly lazy way to add conflict. And I didn't anything that interesting about Helen. And her harebell coloured eyes were described WAY to much.

  5. Thanks Hils :) I'm thinking because so much of it took place in Scotland, the traitor subplot was minimal.

    Kristie ~ I always thought the lords gave the mistresses some jewels and sent them on their way. lol

    And the harebell eyes - OMG. I can't tell you how hard I tried to forget that. Harebells I guess are flowers, I'm too lazy to look it up but still the name just doesn't equate to pretty/beautiful...