Before I start my review, I just want to say that Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee is a beautiful person. She is kind, fun, humble, gracious, and thoughtful. Most of the time when we read books we know nothing about the author, so I just wanted to tell you a little about what I know of her from a distance. I have never met her, but I consider her a friend, and I greatly admire the gift God has given her to write books with great meaning – books that you will want to read over and over again.
I first was introduced to Jessilyn’s work when I had the great privilege to read her first novel, Ella, which is a masterpiece. Then, I had the honor of reading a late draft of Ella’s Will, offering my feedback, and then thoroughly loving this other perspective of Ella’s story. I had perhaps an even greater honor of reading an early draft of Finding Beauty in the Beast before it was called that. I gave 150 comments, and knew that there was a lot of work to be done. As I read the published piece over the last few days, I saw where she intricately followed my advice, and the advice of others, where things I hadn’t even though about truly blossomed, making the novel one I will never forget.
I have always felt that the key to a great novel is learning to love the characters. There must be characters who you relate to, characters who you cheer for, and characters who you experience joy and sadness with. One of my favorite kinds of characters are those who are seen as villains, but who are also sympathetic. Villains rarely are so 2-dimensional that there is no reason for their cruelty, nor no possible way for them to change.
In this novel, the person who everyone sees as a villain, as a beast, is Princess Rose of Laurel. What Prince Kenton saw, what the people of her kingdom saw, was a woman full of wrath with a fiery temper, who cared nothing about her kingdom or her subjects. They hated her and feared her. At first glance, you would never be able to see anything endearing about her. But, Jessilyn expertly helps us see and feel why Rose became such a beast, and we want nothing more than for her to be the lovely person she once was before her life tragically changed 10 years before.
Corbin, who we are introduced to in Ella’s Will, will enter Rose’s life through a series of quick, seemingly unfortunate events, becoming her husband and the prince. He will be the one who tries to find the beauty in this beast, and with help from his friends, Will and Ella, and his own search for truth, he will help set Rose free from her internal enemy which has held her captive for so long.
Rose and Corbin, from their skin color to their social status to their personalities, seem so different, yet they are more alike then they could ever know on the surface, needing each other more than they could ever imagine.
Through their journeys, individually and together, and through the experiences and help from others in the story, such as dear Mrs. Whiting, you will laugh, you will smile warmly, and you will wipe away tears many times. Towards the end of the book, I cried like a baby. I was literally weeping. Only a brilliant author with authentic characters could do that.
This is not just any book. It is not simply a retelling of Beauty in the Beast. It is actually quite different. For one, the female is the beast, but it isn’t because of how she looks. She is quite lovely, actually, when she isn’t angry or cruel. I love how the central messages of the original fairy tale are the same: that when you see beyond the ugliness of one’s face or character, you can find their true potential and value, that there is hope in dismal situations, and that the monsters within us can be tamed and defeated. I am glad, though, that the story is one we have never heard before, even if we know the ending will be happy.
All stories should have an antagonist, and in this novel, it isn’t as obvious as you may think. There are many mysteries and puzzles to solve, many holes to fill, but I can say with triumph that they are all indeed filled, and in ways that will touch your heart more than you thought possible.
Do I love this book? Well, isn’t it obvious? I hope you will read it and love it as I do. My son couldn’t wait until I was done with it so he could start gulping down the pages. He loves it already.
Thank you, dear Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee, for another masterpiece that brings tears of joy from Heaven.
About the book:
Corbin’s simple rose was supposed to drive the princess away. He never wanted her to choose his gift—or him. After all, no one would choose to marry a beast. With her fiery temper, though, Princess Rose isn’t so perfect herself. Corbin and Rose might be stuck living with each other, but no one can force them to fall in love.
About the author:
Jessilyn Stewart Peaslee was born the fourth of seven children into a family of avid readers, music lovers, movie quoters, and sports fans. Jessilyn graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English. She loves going on dates with her husband and playing with her five adorable, rambunctious boys. Jessilyn grew up in the beautiful high desert of Southern California and now resides in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. As you read this, she is probably folding laundry . . . or should be. Current Residence: Saratoga Springs, UT