Finally, my digging up books from the bottomless pit that is my TBR pile has yielded me a good read. Light and fluffy - but still a good read.
The Bride And The Beast by Teresa Medeiros is very much the retelling of a fairy tale. In fact the whole thing screams "make believe" and "fantasy." And Medeiros knows this - therefore it works. I mean, it's not like she's trying to pass off this Beauty And The Beast tale as The Great American Novel. Plus, Medeiros is funny. I actually laughed out loud while reading several passages.
Gwendolyn Wilder is the plain, plump, sensible sister in a family of beauties. She's also the only one (outside of the good reverand) in her tiny Scottish village that has a lick of common sense. See, the townspeople think there's a dragon living in the ruins of Castle Weycraig - where years earlier the English army bombarded it with cannonballs and slaughtered the laird's family. The "dragon" is essentially punishing the townspeople for their betrayal of the Clan MacCullough - which someone gave up as a supporter to Bonnie Prince Charlie.
So the "dragon" keeps making demands on the village - and the villagers, being dirt poor, are looking for a way to appease him. Why not offer up a virgin sacrifice? That should take care of matters for a while. And poor Gwen draws the straw.
The Dragon in question is merely a man, and when he sees poor Gwen tied to a stake in the castle courtyard (in the pouring rain no less) he decides to take her in. Then the silly girl wakes up and challenges him at every turn. Worse, she's not a superstituous Scottish lass. If he wants to keep his secret he's going to have to keep the girl hostage.
Now the plot here is nothing that's going to bend your brain. I knew where this whole thing was going by the end of the prologue, but it still is very enjoyable. Gwen is an admirable heroine - a bit of an ugly duckling - but with some book sense to go along with her common sense. She does fall for the mysterious "dragon" - and who can blame her. He lavishes her with gifts, openly admires her unappreciated beauty, and actually has some brains in his head. The girl certainly hasn't had suitors banging on her cottage door back in the village.
This story is also very history-lite - which is fine by me since Scottish settings are not my personal favorite. Again, Medeiros writes this story very much as a fairy tale - so there's not a lot of gruesome violence and poverty to break the spell.
The story does lose some momentum with the beginning of Part II in the story. By that time the "dragon"'s secret is revealed, and some contrived separations/conflict appears to give the couple more to work through. Frankly, it seemed unnecessary in my eyes - but there you go.
Still, this was an enjoyable read. And I can't beat what I paid for it - essentially nothing. I picked this book up for free at a conference back in 2002.