“You’ll have more luck if you ask a question of it.”
The number of positive reviews for Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault has honestly left me wondering if I read the same book as everyone else. This is largely due to two characters, the two that I would in fact name the main characters of this novel, and the glaring problems with them. Ironically, when I speak of the two main characters of Rebel Rose I do not, in fact, mean Belle and Adam (Beast). Rather, I mean Belle and Bastien, Prince Adam’s cousin.
Let’s Put It All In the Open
I’m not going to beat around anything here: I honestly kind of hated Rebel Rose. It’s not necessarily a terrible book. There’s a lot of merit to the story that Theriault was trying to tell by weaving in the actual history of France into her rendition of Belle and Adam’s happily ever after. In all honesty, though, I think she really failed in her goal.
In that sense, I find it rather baffling that the book has received the amount of praise it has.
Belle (and Adam)
To put it very simply, if you pick this book up because you love Beauty and the Beast, you should probably put it right back down. These are not the characters you know and love. In fact, Theriault does an absolutely disastrous job of bringing them to life. And this isn’t even relegated to the lead two, but extends out to literally everyone. Barring the fact that they share the same names, it’s near impossible to see the original characters in Theriault’s renditions. This is true from Belle to Adam to the supporting characters of Lumière, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.
There is precious little of Prince Adam in this story. At nearly every turn he is running off on some venture to deal with the politics of his station. In each circumstance, he leaves Belle behind. If you wanted to read a story about their relationship, you’re not going to get it here. In fact, the only interesting thing about their relationship is the fact that Adam has some severe PTSD that’s never addressed beyond the fact that it exists and they both have to work through it.
Which is such a shame because this was a genuinely intriguing plot point I would have loved to explore.
The story primarily features Belle.
The unfortunate truth of Theriault’s Belle is that she is a shell of her former self. Instead of the wonderful, courageous, stubborn, and intelligent woman we’ve all come to know and love Belle is reduced to a meek and self-doubting girl who keeps all her opinions to herself. I don’t know about you, but this is not a Belle I recognize. And it bugged the hell out of me.
In fact, the entire plot of the novel centers around Belle’s refusal and inability to see herself as a leader. She cows to others at the slightest push, Despite her original character portraying precisely the opposite spirit and drive, Belle is eager to let others take care of things and wants very little to do with the responsibility of being a Queen.
Theriault’s main goal with this character is to develop her into someone who is eager and ready to take on that role. And it makes me wonder why she bothered using Belle in the first place because this is not something she, as a character, needed to be developed to. The Belle we already had was fully ready to be the leader she needed to be. There’s not a single moment where I believe for a second that Belle wouldn’t have been up for the challenge, especially when the wellbeing of the kingdom was a topic of discussion.
Ironically, Bastien was my favorite character.
A long lost cousin, having forgotten entirely about Adam during the curse, Bastien is introduced very early on. In a way, you kind of fall in love with him at first. And, if I’m being honest, he has more chemistry with Belle in those introductory chapters than even Adam does. If that’s not a red flag for you, I don’t know what is. Add in the fact that he spends more time with Belle throughout the course of the novel than Adam ever does and it just gets worse.
Despite all of this, Belle is suspicious of Bastien from the start. And she has literally no reason to be. There is nothing, other than Belle’s strange intuition, to suggest that he is anyone to be wary of. So, why is Belle suspicious of him, then? Is it because he’s part of the French aristocracy and in direct conflict with the good of the common people? Well…
I’d be perfectly fine with that being the case, I suppose. Unfortunately, Theriault completely eviscerates not only his character but any chance of having a decent plot in one fell swoop.
Unfortunately, I cannot explain this further without spoilers.
[spoiler]I already had my issues with Rebel Rose, but the moment Bastien’s “true colors” were revealed sealed it for me. You can kind of see the book headed in this direction with his actions throughout the course of the novel. And it was fine, really, when he was being portrayed as a spoiled rich man trying to gain political power. However the second he turned into a voice of the resistance, his arc lost all credibility.
What purpose was there behind this plot thread other than to put Adam’s life at risk? What motivations did Bastien have for acting in this way? I’ll be honest, I can’t find any. It was just patently ridiculous. The lack of any genuine and visible motivation behind his actions was quite literally the worst thing about this entire book. And I hated it.
I’m not even going to get into how utterly stupid and annoying that nonsense with LeFou was. That was some of the most idiotic flip-flopping I have ever seen. And it was all for the purpose of pushing the plot along, so deus ex machina rears its ugly head. [/spoiler]
The only good thing about this book–barring the opportunity to explore Adam’s PTSD–was the incorporation of historical events. And even that was a little contrived in the end, being as surrounded by idiotic side-plots and pointless new characters as it was. And it’s not that I think this book was terrible, exactly. Eliminate that stupid plot with Bastien and replace it with something actually rooted in French history and this might have been a superb novel with only the issue of Theriault’s inability to capture the true essence of the Beauty and the Beast characters for me to complain about.
I don’t know what book everyone else read and seemed to love so much, but this was just not it for me.
I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.