I know I liked this book once.
It was the first Medeiros I ever picked up, and I certainly liked it well enough to become a regular reader of her novels. But this really may just be one of those places where age and awareness have ruined something for me. And there are clever things about this book. It’s an interesting spin on Beauty and the Beast, set in Scotland following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. It’s an unusual period for a history, so that attracted me, and the hero has an interesting backstory. There are some good comic bits with his manservant and his cat, and the plot clips along at a reasonable pace (for a romance). As for that plot — the villagers of Ballybliss live in terror of “the Dragon” who lives in the abandoned castle that belonged to their laird before
But what’s really spoiled it for me now is the entire attitude of the heroine. She’s just so Special Snowflake because she reads and has held onto her virginity, and the amount of slut-shaming she heaps upon every other woman in the village, including her sisters, is actually just disgusting. It’s no wonder, really, that they were willing to feed her to the dragon, since she so clearly goes through life actively disdaining everyone around her. Apparently we’re meant to forgive her for this since she feels insecure about her weight and because she likes reading. I can tell, through the way she narrates her feelings about those traits, that she’s clearly meant to be a Reader Avatar, which is perhaps why this book appealed to me when I was a self-absorbed teenager who was convinced the entire world was out to get her because I was so ~tragically misunderstood~. Reading it again as a well-adjusted adult, though, the heroine just comes off as snotty and self-righteous.
Add to that the fact that Medeiros throws every Scottish stereotype in existence at this book, including thorough abuse of accented spelling, and it’s just gotten to be a rather painful read. These are all things I either didn’t notice or that didn’t bother me when I was younger. I hadn’t returned to this book in several years, and I don’t believe I’ll be returning to it in the future.