Jasper-Anne Cleary’s guide to salvaging your life when you find yourself publicly humiliated, out of work, and unemployable at 35—not to mention newly single:
1. Run away. Seriously, there’s no shame in disappearing. Go to that rustic old cottage your aunt left you. Look out for the colony of bats and the leaky roof. Oh, and the barrel-chested neighbor with shoulders like the broad side of a barn. Definitely look out for him.
2. Stop wallowing and stay busy. It doesn’t matter whether you know how to bake or fix things around the house. Do it anyway. Dust off your southern hospitality and feed that burly, bearded neighbor some pecan pie.
3. Meet new people. Chat up the grumpy man-bear, pretend to be his girlfriend when his mother puts you two on the spot, agree to go as his date to a big family party. Don’t worry—it’s only temporary.
4. Cry it out. Screwing up your life entitles you to wine, broody-moody music, and uninterrupted sobbing.
5. Get over it all by getting under someone. Count on your fake boyfriend to deliver some very real action between the sheets.
6. Move on. The disappearing act, the cottage, the faux beau—none of it can last forever.
Linden Santillian’s guide to surviving the invasion when a hell-in-heels campaign strategist moves in next door:
1. Do not engage. There is no good reason you should chop her wood, haul her boxes, or pick her apples.
2. Do not accept gifts, especially not the homemade ones. Disconnect the doorbell, toss your phone over a bridge, hide in the basement if you must, but do not eat her pie.
3. Do not introduce her to your friends and family. They’ll favor her over you and never let you forget it.
4. Do not intervene when she’s crying on the back porch. Ignore every desire to fix the entire world for her. By no means should you take her into your arms and memorize her peach-sweet curves.
5. Do not take her to bed, even if it’s just to get her out of your system.
6. Do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with her.
Warning: This hot, modern take on Beauty and the Beast includes a meet-burglary, an immortal cat, a biohazard of a banana bread, a meddling mother, fancy toast, and a temporary fling that starts feeling a little too permanent.
The Belle and the Beard was a great introduction for me to Kate Canterbary’s writing and featured so many of the tropes I absolutely adore. There was a neighboring feud/enemies to lovers situation with the heroine starting her life over and the hero being a big, burly, grumpy, lumberjack-type of man. Between the premise and the title, I was sold.
For the most part, I really enjoyed the tension between both characters and loved watching their relationship develop. I thought Linden was a great grump. He hilariously walked the live between grouchy “old man” and overly curious neighbour intent on knowing everything happening next door. Jasper, on the other hand, took me a little longer to warm up to. She was very independent (which I loved) and was working on finding herself (which I loved even more) but there was a quality about her that just didn’t sit right with me at first. I’m not entirely sure how to properly explain it, other than it took me a while to warm up to her; but, that’s exactly what happened – as the book progressed, I found Jasper easier to understand and I truly loved watching her character further develop from strength to strength.
Canterbary’s writing style was new to me. I didn’t realise this book is actually the third in a series but it was written so wonderfully as a standalone that I didn’t feel as though I missed anything from the first two books at all. Overall, the plot kept my attention throughout and I loved the steamy push-pull between Linden and Jasper.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Grey’s Promotions for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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