My Rating: 4 stars: Enjoyed - strongly recommend (A-)
What a wonderful, refreshing, happy story! Right from the start I was in love with the hero, Todd Best. A lonely, depressed man who lost his wife two years ago, he has all but given up on life and the will to continue his work (a famous artist) and even to feed himself. His concerned family has hired different personal chefs to help him over the past two years, and now Jolie is starting the task. On her first morning, Todd stumbles into the kitchen, hungover and naked. Instead of being arrogant and cocky as we would expect a famous man to be, we learn from Todd’s inner monologue that he is embarrassed by his actions.
Jolie has had a tough life - alcoholic mom, never knew her dad, in and out of foster homes. She’s seen it all, but she has managed to make the most of her life and to rise above the circumstances. Yet there is a price to her success - she has shut out almost everyone, scare to be hurt and let down again. She won’t let her emotions get hold and allow herself to hope.
Early on we learn of Jolie’s plans to author a romance novel. She hopes to use Todd as inspiration for her hero, Tom. I was on edge and cringing knowing that a fictional exposé of Todd's life--a man who loves and protects his privacy--will not end well. I just hated knowing that Jolie is going to get hurt for her innocent book aspirations. From the first mention of the book in this story, I could see the misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc. that were to come. And while I knew a confrontation would come, I understood the couple would have to go through it to move beyond their pasts.
Todd and Jolie have some help when it comes to the romance department. Family friend, Jasmine Gray has sought out the help of Guardian Angel-in-training, Jonathan Griff, to help Todd have a happily-ever-after. Mr. Griff enters into their lives in different forms - one as a book store owner, another as a cat. Jonathan tends to be a bit nervous as he tries to earn his wings, and sometimes can be a bit goofy. In my opinion, he seemed to know too much about Jolie and Todd, but they never questioned it. I kept waiting for the lightbulb to go on in Jolie’s head, but things continued to move forward, and Jonathan did his job.
Jolie is full of cliche comebacks and cracks about life "I always say do or die" kind of things. While it can (and did) get tiresome at times, it is a great reflection of her desire to hide away the pain of her childhood and pretend it doesn't bother her. Ms. Fennell developed this annoying, but honest character flaw to Jolie which works well.
As Todd and Jolie grow closer and quickly fall for one another, I fell in love too. Their romance is honest, simple and refreshing. Their first kiss put flutters in my belly. Even though we know from almost the beginning Jolie’s desires for Todd, it took time for the reader to learn more from Todd’s point-of-view. But once he realized it was okay to love again, the emotions flowed forth.
The pair have a few bumps and minor misunderstandings. And the big conflict did happen just as I knew it would. But Ms. Fennell is able to write a solid path away from the conflict and into a satisfying resolution. There was a point when Todd confronted Jolie and asked if she felt anything. Jolie’s response was poignant and moving, bringing tears to my eyes. I thought to myself, “Haven’t we all felt that way at some point?”
In the end I had a smile on my face and a sigh of contentment. Beauty and the Best is a happy-go-lucky, sweet, simple romance. The tale is light-hearted but full of emotion. The story stirred in me feelings of falling in love all over again. It was just downright enjoyable to read!