A lighthearted frothy fantasy/romance. The book ostensibly takes place during the Victorian period and has many of the components of a Regency romance (I use “Regency romance” broadly and not at all accurately when it comes to time periods). The author then added elements of magic, several cups of irreverence, and a dash of humor, stirred it, and turned it into a fun, quick, and enjoyable read. It’s a great spring break/summer vacation beach read (or something to read while taking a break from studying). No great secrets of life imparted–just an easy read if you want to give your mind some rest and relaxation and escape.
I am generally not a fan of contemporary romances, preferring historical ones. I picked this one up because (i) it was a Christmas romance (and I am a sucker for those); (ii) it’s a novella so I knew I could get through it quickly; and (iii) the author is the wife of the owner of the surfing school we use when we visit Hawaii (no joke). I was quite pleasantly surprised by the book. Novellas are difficult because you don’t have the page length to fully develop the characters. But the characters were all likeable, the author has a deft touch for setting and a gift for depicting a scenario that fleshes out minor characters and gives insight into the main characters, and the Christmas setting gave off warm and fuzzy holiday vibes. I will definitely pick out another one of her books when I am in the mood for a contemporary romance. The author has a lovely writing style that is warm, gracious, and friendly.
To say that this book is the retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale does the author an injustice. So, yes, “Masque” is a retelling of the traditional fairy tale, but it is one of the most fun and original retellings I’ve ever read. To begin with, the story is set in a setting where both magic and technology exist. But, more interestingly, a murder happens, and the heroine decides she wants to solve the murder. The heroine (who is the narrator of the story) is, in turn, sarcastic, irreverent, funny, and perceptive. I love her. The hero is also a strong character in his own right, but it is the heroine whose story it is and who tells it as she wishes. The secondary characters are fully formed and engaging in their own right, and the love story is reluctant and adorable. The only minor flaw in the book is that the mystery is not that complicated–I figured it out shortly after the first murder (and I hate figuring out the murderer before the end). But this book is so much more than the murder mystery and well worth the read. Note: this is the first book I’ve read by this author, and it looks like this is not a sequential part of but tangential to the Two Monarchies series. I am excited that I have 3 more books (and fairy tale retellings) to investigate! I highly recommend this book!
There has been a lot of hate in the reviews for this book because of the (huge) deception the hero of the novel played on the heroine. However, one reviewer in particular nailed the issue on the head by describing this book as being about forgiveness.
I love Julia Quinn books–I love her witty dialogue, I love how her characters are fully fleshed out characters with (mostly endearing) flaws, and I love that despite the obstacles, the hero and heroine will end up together happily ever after.
But what I particularly love about her books is that they go beyond the typical Regency romance. She writes with more depth than the typical romance writer. And this book is perhaps the poster child of that principle.
Yes, the hero acted like a world-class jerk. But that’s not what the book is about. The book is about whether one (admittedly colossal) mistake is worth jettisoning a lifetime of love. The book is about the meaning of forgiveness. And the book is about the sacrifices you make for love.
Did the hero do something horrendous? Yes. Does that define who he is for the rest of his life? The heroine makes a decision about that. The reader may disagree with that decision, but that question is the crux of the book.
If what you want is a light and frothy romance (and I often do), this book is not for you. But the genius of the author’s writing is that her books (and in this one, particularly), you get the frothy romance, but you also get heroes and heroines that act like normal human beings, with all of their quirks and flaws. Life doesn’t always work out the way you think, and it’s how you deal with that fact that makes you the person that you are. Kudos for the author in making that point in another deftly written Regency romance.
The ultimate in mind candy reading! But this book is surprisingly solid for a straight up historical romance. The plot is clever and well-paced. The main characters are well developed, human, and likable. And the romance, while predictable, has convincing conflicts and obstacles that, ultimately, are overcome so that everyone lives happily ever after. (I don’t consider that a spoiler, as this is a romance, after all.) The writing style is light-hearted, highly readable, and never takes itself too seriously.
I look forward to reading more in the series.