Title: Fairest Beauty
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Genre: YA Fantasy
Received for review from NetGalley
Summary (from Goodreads)
Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother’s jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie’s one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl’s inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.
When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.
I love a good fairytale and I’m a sucker for a good romance, so in most respects this was right up my street. I very much enjoyed the ‘realistic’ twist on the classic Snow White fairytale, and though re-imaginings always have the downside of you knowing where the story is going, I always find it kind of fun to guess what connection each of the characters has and exactly how events are going to unfold. Fairest Beauty certainly wasn’t a disappointment here – from twisted step-mother Ermengard to the seven (not dwarfs, with one exception, but outcasts with physical or other difficulties that render them different – a clever reflection of the time) the mythology was woven in a clever and satisfying way.
And as characters Gabe and Sophie were likeable. Roguish charmers are my particular favourite and Gabe with his grinning and flirting but ultimately heroic heart was a perfect romantic interest in my book. And though Sophie was inevitably a little helpless – not in an irritating way, but as an accurate reflection of what her life would have been like at the time - she had enough gumption about her to make her sympathetic rather than simpering.
That said, there was a little too much of Sophie worrying about her feelings for Gabe and whether it was the right thing - it just started to get a little on the tiresome side after a while, but not so much as to be a detriment to the story in a big way. It was just a bit padded out, like a few more chapters were needed to make the book publishable so they were filled with Sophie and Gabe’s indecision. I do like the whole ‘will-they-won’t-they’ thing, especially when it’s clear they ultimately will, but it’s a fine line between making it tantalising and page-turning, or becoming annoying.
But, the thing that bugged me most were the references to Jesus and the Bible. It’s not my cup of tea – I just find it a bit preachy. I didn’t realise when I picked it up that it would have Christian themes, and if you like that sort of thing, I’m sure it’s done very well, but it’s just not for me.
So, a nice little romance that’s a bit drawn out and perhaps not best suited for me, but overall I enjoyed it and did find myself dipping into it as often as possible in the hope that on the next page there would be some romantic scene between the two leads, so on that front it was very successful!