To Beguile a Beast

By: Elizabeth Hoyt

Series: Legend of the Four Soldiers

Book Number: 3

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Spoiler Disclaimer


Wanting to study the flora and fauna of the New World, Sir Alistair Munroe decided the safest way to accomplish that was to travel with a military regiment that was fighting in the French and Indian War. After the regiment was betrayed by someone close to them, many of them were captured and tortured by the Indians. Alistair returned home deeply scarred both inside and out, and not wanting his appearance to frighten women and small children, he's become a recluse, holed up alone in his dusty castle in Scotland. Then one night, a woman named Helen shows up on his doorstep with two kids in tow, asking for work as his housekeeper. Alistair wants nothing to do with her, but since it's raining, he grudgingly allows her to stay the night. Come morning, though, she's trying her level best to make herself useful, cleaning his long-neglected home, and eventually he no longer has the will to make her go. Both she and the children begin to get under his skin, melting his icy heart. But when the children's father kidnaps them and Alistair learns the truth of why Helen is really there, he might not be able to forgive the deception. Not to mention, he fears that a beauty like her would never want to spend the rest of her life with a scarred recluse like him.

The daughter of a physician, Helen Fitzwilliam was seduced by the powerful Duke of Lister at the tender age of seventeen and became his mistress. She bore him two children before he finally tired of her and she realized that he'd never truly loved her at all. Now she just wants a life of her own to do as she pleases, but Lister is a jealous and obsessive man who holds tightly to anything he deems his, which includes Helen and the kids. So with the help of a friend, she decides to run away. Thinking that Scotland will be far enough away to be outside of Lister's reach, she goes to Alistair, seeking employment as his housekeeper. He tries to send her away more than once, but she persists in getting him to allow them all to stay and sets to work cleaning his dirty castle and setting it to rights. When Helen sees how kind and fatherly Alistair is with her children--far more than Lister ever was--she can't help falling for him. But when Lister shows up and kidnaps the children, necessitating Helen revealing all to Alistair, it could damage their tenuous relationship.


To Beguile a Beast is the third book in Elizabeth Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers series. In this one, we have Alistair and Helen, two characters who were introduced in the previous book, To Seduce a Sinner. Alistair is a naturalist who traveled to the New World to study the flora and fauna. While doing so, he was attached to a military regiment fighting in the French and Indian War that was betrayed and massacred at Spinner's Falls. The survivors, including Alistair, were taken captive and tortured by the Indians, which left him missing two fingers and an eye, and with significant facial disfigurement. As a result, he's become a recluse in his castle in Scotland. Helen is the former mistress of a duke, who fled her protector with their children in tow. Looking for a place to hide that was far from London, she offers to become Alistair's housekeeper. At first, the surly Alistair refuses to let her stay, but equally stubborn, she refuses to take no for an answer and makes herself invaluable to him by hiring staff and cleaning and brightening up his dirty, dreary castle. Slowly both Helen and her children worm their way into Alistair's battered heart, and the housekeeper and her employer begin a love affair that leads to them falling in love. But Helen hasn't been entirely honest about her reasons for coming to Alistair in the first place, so when the duke kidnaps her children, she has to convince Alistair to help her get them back. And even if trust can be restored between them, Alistair is all but certain that Helen wouldn't want to spend the rest of her life with a scarred recluse like him.

Alistair is a scientist and lover of all things in nature. Wanting to document new species of flora and fauna in the New World, he thought that the best and safest way to accomplish that would be by embedding himself with a military regiment. Unfortunately that didn't turn out to be safe at all when someone within their own regiment (or at least this is what the investigation that's been taking place throughout the first two books revealed) betrayed them all by passing along their location to the Indians, allowing them to create an ambush. The few survivors, including Alistair, were captured and tortured, and some were even murdered by the Indians. Alistair returned disfigured, and since his appearance typically causes children to scream in terror and women to swoon, he's locked himself away in his castle with only one (dishonest) manservant to help tend things. When Helen and her children show up on his doorstep uninvited, he wants nothing to do with them, but since it's raining, he takes pity on them, allowing them to stay for one night. Although she tries to prove herself useful, he still sends her away, but the irritating woman shows up again, this time with an entire crew of servants who start cleaning his long-neglected castle. This time, he reluctantly allows her to stay on a trial basis, if she and her children will grace him with their presence at his dinner table each evening. Soon, both she and the children are getting under his skin and breaking down the walls around his frozen heart. But when the children's father kidnaps them and Alistair finally learns the full truth of why Helen came to him in the first place, he's understandably upset. Still he sets aside his feelings to help her for the sake of the children, but even though he can't stop wanting and loving Helen, he isn't sure she'll want to spend her life with someone like him.

I'm normally a huge fan of scarred, reclusive heroes like Alistair and I did like him, but I felt like there were some weaknesses in his characterization. I loved his persona as a scientist and naturalist, and we do get to see him at his work to some extent, but because I love geeky, scientifically-minded characters, I would have liked seeing more of that side of him. Also I don't recall much backstory being given regarding how he came to love nature so much. I think it was mentioned that his father instilled this interest in both him and his sister as children, but not much more than that. Alistair is involved in the Spinner's Falls investigation, but not as much as the heroes of the first two books, although perhaps that's because he's farther away in Scotland. Given that Alistair was literally tortured and left with deep physical scars, I would have expected him to be a little more emotionally tortured as well. He is haunted by the experience, not only the things that were done to him, but also bearing witness to things that were done to others. However, he doesn't show any of the classic signs of PTSD. Because the first two heroes did shows these signs, maybe the author didn't want to be redundant, but I felt it left his character a little less interesting than he could have been. Also, when Alistair pushes Helen away at the end because he doesn't think she'll stay with him for the long-term, I couldn't help being a bit frustrated with him. First of all, he was essentially taking away her choice by not even asking her to stay, which I partially understood because he was simply afraid. But that brings me to my second issue, which is that I couldn't quite figure out why he was so sure she'd either turn him down cold or leave after a time. If someone in his past had left him because of his scars this would have made sense, but the only woman he'd had a relationship with died rather than rejecting him. So while I liked Alistair for the way he treated Helen and her children and for going up against a powerful duke to help her get her children back, I still thought he could have been even more interesting than what he was.

As a girl, Helen would often go on house calls alongside her physician father, which is how she met the Duke of Lister who seduced her into becoming his mistress at the young age of seventeen. Even though a part of her felt guilty for having an affair with a married man, she fancied herself in love with him and had two children with him, Abigail, who is now nine, and Jamie, who is five. It wasn't until after Jamie was born and rumors started to circulate that the duke had other mistresses that she came to the realization that he never truly loved her. However, now that she wants a life of her own, he won't allow her to leave either, holding custody of the children over her head. Helen formed a friendship with Lady Vale in the previous book, so when Helen decided to run away from Lister, Lady Vale helped her come up with the plan to present herself at Alistair's castle as a potential housekeeper. She arrives with her children in tow in the rain to find that Alistair strikes a frightening figure in the dark of night. Once she gets over her initial shock at his appearance, she presses him until he agrees to allow her to stay just for the night. Helen is determined to make herself indispensable to him, though, so that he'll let her stay longer, but his castle is such a mess, her task proves to be far too much for one person and two small children. Helen accedes to Alistair's wish for her leave, but then comes up with the idea to get more help instead and brings back an army of servants to assist her, at which point Alistair acquiesces. He ends up being very kind to Abigail and Jamie, acting far more fatherly with them then their own father ever has, so that Helen can't help falling for him. But when Lister comes for her children, and she has to fess up to the real reason why she's there, it could ruin their tenuous relationship.

Helen may have gotten the wool pulled over her eyes as a seventeen-year-old ingenue who became seduced by Lister's power and flirtations, but she's grown into a woman who now knows her own worth. She refuses to settle any longer as a mere kept woman and wants more out of life for both herself and her children. Even though she falls in love with Alistair, she realizes that loving a man isn't enough to make a relationship, and she won't stay with him unless he can love her in return. I like that she's sometimes the one initiating their sexual encounters and that she isn't afraid of her own sexuality, which I thought showed her confidence and femininity. Although as the mistress of a powerful man she had a nanny and servants, I admired Helen for not being averse to the hard work of putting Alistair's castle to rights and that she was a wonderfully loving mother to Abigail and Jamie, always wanting what was best for them. I also liked her assertive nature in not allowing the reclusive Alistair to send her away so easily. The only thing that maybe could have been a little better is if her reasons for leaving Lister had been a bit stronger. Yes, he was toxically possessive and throwing his weight around just to show that he thought he owned her, but there was a little something missing for me, perhaps because his threat seems rather distant until he actually shows up to take the children from her. Otherwise, though I really liked Helen and thought she was a great heroine. Her easy acceptance of Alistair, scars and all, was enough to make me love her.

As I mentioned before, I'm a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast type tales, and To Beguile a Beast is definitely such a story. Alistair is the consummate loner, hiding his scarred face from the world in his dusty old castle with no one to really keep him company. Helen is not unlike Belle, swooping in and brightening up his world, both with her sunny personality and her insistence upon cleaning his castle until it sparkles. The two fall into an easy relationship, built around mutual respect for, and acceptance of, each other. Neither of them has had a lover for a very long time, so their love scenes are steamy and passionate, as well as giving and loving. Overall, I thought they were well-matched and their personalities fit together nicely. However, despite my love for the fairy tale trope, this wasn't a perfect read for me. Throughout reading it, I couldn't help feeling like something was missing. In addition to my critique of the characterizations, I thought that the plot was a little too predictable. Also, we don't really get much forward momentum in this book on the Spinner's Falls mystery. Alistair is supposed to meet with a French friend who might have sensitive information but who is only going to be in London for a brief window of time. Alistair ends up missing him due to other circumstances, and he merely gets a small teaser from another character regarding the possible identity of the betrayer. Even the signature original fairy tale that's told in snippets at the beginning of each chapter wasn't quite up to par for me. It was nice to see Jasper and Melisande (To Seduce a Sinner), which was expected since they're acquainted with Alistair and Helen, and I also enjoyed Helen's children who were portrayed very age-appropriately. So all in all, To Beguile a Beast might not have been flawless for me but it was still an enjoyable read.


 Elizabeth Hoyt @ GoodReads


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