The Leopard Prince

The Raven Prince

The Serpent Prince
To Seduce a Sinner

To Beguile a Beast
by Elizabeth Hoyt
(Grand Central, $6.99, R)  ISBN 978-0-446-40693-2
To Beguile a Beast is the third in the series called “Legend of the Four Soldiers”, following the exploits of four men who were captured by Indians after a bloody battle in New England.  It stands well on its own, and readers who haven’t enjoyed the first two books, To Taste Temptation and To Seduce a Sinner, will find it won’t matter.  Except, like me, they may want to go find copies and enjoy the rest of the series.

As a “Beauty and the Beast” story, To Beguile a Beast has a lot going for it: inventive plot, heroine who is brave without being foolhardy, and interesting, scarred hero.  Elizabeth Hoyt took a few risks with this story, and they paid off.

In 1765 England, Helen Fitzwilliam is on the run with her two young children, Abigail and Jamie.  Helen spent a number of years as the mistress of the Duke of Lister, who is the children’s father.  Cold and possessive, Lister views Helen as his property, and though it’s been years since he came to her bed, he won’t let her go.  Through the aid of a friend (Melisande from To Seduce a Sinner),Helen heads for Scotland and the castle of Sir Alistair Munroe, a renowned naturalist.  Helen has been informed that Sir Alistair needs a housekeeper, and she intends to install herself as such.

Alistair lost an eye and two fingers in a French and Indian attack while traveling with a British regiment in New England in order to catalogue the flora and fauna of the area. He returned to his native Scotland and holed up in his family’s ancestral home to work on a book cataloging the flora and fauna of Britain.  The castle is a dusty, shabby mess, but Alistair won’t let anyone near, wanting only to hide away and keep his scarred face out of the public.  Then Helen Fitzwilliam knocks on his door, insisting that she has been sent to take the position of housekeeper, and no matter how he tries, Alistair can’t seem to make her leave.  Soon a small staff is in place, and Alistair finds himself with a case of raging lust for the pretty “widow.”

Helen is just as drawn to the lean Scot with the quirky intellect, and his scars aren’t the part of his body that she’s focusing on.  Alistair has a hard time believing that Helen won’t eventually leave him, and Helen knows that once her past is revealed, Alistair won’t want anything to do with her.  But they can’t deny the spark between them, which eventually bursts into flame.  As for Abigail and Jamie, they are well-drawn, realistic children who are endearing without being precocious.  As Alistair gets to know Helen, he also comes to know her children, and his wounded spirit starts to heal as he reaches out to help them.

I really enjoyed this book.  Alistair and Helen are imperfect people who find that they are exactly right for one another, and the author stays true to her premise.  Alistair is scarred, and Helen was the mistress of a Duke; there are no last-minute machinations to sugarcoat any of that.  But it makes the story stronger, in a way, because the characters are realistic.  And because these two are flawed, when they do eventually fall into bed, readers will be rooting for them to find joy in each other, which they do.

The sex is hot, and the R rating on this review is for some rather explicit language. It fits; Helen and Alistair aren’t youngsters, and they’ve both had an experienced past.  The only small disappointment was the evil duke.  His part in the plot could be seen a mile away, and there were no surprises there.  Alistair’s solution to the duke’s actions, however, is a bit inventive.  Kudos to the author for making good use of it.

To Beguile a Beast is a deliciously steamy story, and it’s easy to feel great affection for Helen and Alistair.  The final installment looks to be just as clever.  Historical romance is in good hands with Elizabeth Hoyt, and I for one can’t wait to see what she has in store next.  

--Cathy Sova

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