4-star,  F/M,  Romance

The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary

Release Date: April 23rd

This is an extremely well-written and contemplative story. And, exactly as was the case with Canterbary’s previous book, the somewhat whimsical title doesn’t actually reflect the heaviness of the read. Because this is heavy reading even if it is a romance too.

I’ve always admired Canterbary’s ability to precisely describe, with just a sentence or two, my own familiar yet unarticulated feelings. I guess that’s what many talented authors are about, but with her books it never fails, here and there I’d always had to pause at a few particularly insightful sentences just to take it all in. And I’m equally impressed each time. However, The Belle and the Beard makes me feel very conflicted. Because I honestly feel that the introspection has been taken too far.

On the surface, this is your regular romance. The gruff, sort of lumberjack, who falls for the whirlwind of a woman who turns up to, sort of, demolish the cabin next door. Jasper (yes, that’s the belle in this scenario) and Linden (the bearded piece of man-meat who obviously has hippies for parents) are as different that can be, but oh so right together.

But those are just the bare bones that supports the excessive soul searching that is the body of this read.

The story has dual point of views, so both Jasper and Linden get their own chapters. But the book is also told in first person, meaning that all the perceptive insights, all the on-point reflections about life and love, all the deeply philosphical ruminations are portrayed as concious thought by the main characters. That, paired with the sheer amount of all those things, makes them both appear super human and quite unapproachable. No one is that insightful. No one analyzes and questions their life choices with such astuteness. No one is that wise. Nevermind they don’t act on it. Not right away.

But this way of depicting Jasper and Linden gave me real trouble in connecting with them. The first third of the book I even outright disliked Linden for being such an arrogant chauvinist when justifying to himself why he knew what Jasper needed better than she did herself.

They did grow on me though, and the story is also sweet and – classic Canterbary – steamy. And I guess it’s possible to read this book as nothing more than a lovestory. However, I can’t do that seeing as I was too distracted by the heaviness and the philosophical overload.

Reading back what I’ve written so far, it might sound like I think this book isn’t very good. Which isn’t true at all. This is a brilliant book.

However – and it pains me to admit this – it seems that Canterbary’s writing has developed in a way that doesn’t appeal to me personally the way her earlier writing did. Heavy and thought provoking isn’t my jam. At least not in the over abundance that characterizes her two latest books.

I read for laughs and love. Life is hard enough without adding fictional seriousness to the mix.

* A free copy of this book was kindly provided by the author *

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I'm a Swedish book nerd reading mostly steamy English romance novels. And since there is so much good stuff out there, and so much shitty stuff too. I just want to give credit where it's due (and diss the rest).