Thursday, May 5, 2022

Book Review: "By the Book" by Jasmine Guillory

In By the Book, an editorial assistant wanting to get ahead in the publishing world goes toe to toe with a reluctant author.

So…let’s talk retellings. I feel like the word is getting really overused and not always accurately. To me, a retelling needs to have some actual elements of the original story, not just a character name or a sprinkling of references. Maybe I’m wrong, but those tend to be the ones I’ve enjoyed.

And that is probably why By the Book dissatisfied me, especially surprising given that Guillory is a favorite author. This book is being marketed as a (very) loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast…only I don’t agree. Sure, the two publishing companies are called Tale As Old As Time and Maurice (crazy old Maurice, eh?), and the protagonist is named IsaBELLE. (There’s another reference or two in blink-or-you’ll-miss-them moments, but that’s it.)

Is the grumpy/sunshine romance enjoyable if you take away the undelivered promise of a Beauty and the Beast retelling? It was sweet and emotional, but it took longer for the characters to act on their shared chemistry. And I just felt like these characters didn’t sizzle like they do in other Guillory books.

Maybe my expectations were just too high. Others have really enjoyed it and been charmed by it. (Julie Murphy’s If the Shoe Fits, the first book in the Meant to Be series, was a much more faithful retelling than this was.) I guess you just can’t love everything, even books by your favorite authors sometimes.

Thanks to NetGalley and Hyperion for the complimentary advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review!

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