Guillory, Jasmine. By The Book (Meant To Be #2). Hyperion Avenue, 2022. ISBN 978-1368053389 320 pp. $ 15.99
In this modern-day Beauty and the Beast retelling, editorial assistant Izzy (Isabella) takes on a client who has promised but not delivered his manuscript when, after a year of emails, she offers to literally stop by his home and knock on his door to ask what’s up with that memoir under contract. Celebrity bad-boy Beau Towers has a reputation for causing scenes wherever he goes, and everyone wants the backstory to why he was yelling at his mother at his famous father’s funeral. Izzy has been in line for an overdue promotion at her publishing house, Tale As Old as Time, so when the opportunity presents itself, she shows up. Grumpy Beau refuses to see her, but his housekeeper/cook enlists Izzy’s help when she sprains her ankle. A conversation ensues, Beau invites Izzy to stay and give him pep talks to help get his book written. She agrees to stay for a day, then the weekend, and before you know it, they’re living together, writing in the library, sharing snacks and binge-watching period television series, remaining carefully boundaried.
The story contains many elements from the Disney version of Perrault’s tale: a smart and fiesty bookish woman who loves her parent(s) dearly; a grouchy beast of a man; a palace with beautiful gardens and off-limits rooms; a smarmy, undermining villain; a slow falling in love. Both Izzy and Beau have their demons to confront, and do so in real, vulnerable ways. Both are people of color, as is the author, so there is wonderful contemporary commentary on the struggles of young Black professionals and tokenism. One of the standout parts of the novel was the details about the writing process and Izzy’s strategies to get Beau producing. I also loved that she was a reader and writer, herself.
Generally, I like my romance novels with a little more heat; love scenes start chastely and then jump to the snuggling after (or waking up together the next morning), giving a sanitized (Disney?) feeling to the story. Still, you’ll be rooting for the characters to get together, even if we don’t get all the down and dirty details.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #ByTheBook from #NetGalley.