Sunday, May 22, 2022

‘By the Book’ Review: A Tale As Old As Time Gets a Contemporary Reimagining

By the Book by New York Times Best-Selling Author Jasmine Guillory marks the sophomore edition to the new Disney series Meant To Be. This new series gives a modern, contemporary retelling to the well-known classic Disney princesses. Book one found Cinderella’s tale in plus-sized fashion designer Cindy who meets her “prince charming” on a live reality dating show. Continuing that modern spin, By the Book brings Beauty and the Beast to the 21st century as Isabelle Marlowe, a young black editorial assistant at a publishing company. She started her career pursuing her dream of becoming a book editor and successful author, but now just feels lost in her daily grind.

Izzy’s boss is complaining about a beastly high profile author who has yet to turn in a single word of his long overdue manuscript, so she makes a rash decision. She volunteers to drive over to Beau Towers’ home in the hopes of getting down to the bottom of why he’s ignoring them and in turn prove her worth to her boss. With a few pep talks, surely she can get him on his way. Of course, this is not the case and Izzy finds herself suddenly living in Beau’s house, coaching him daily in the hopes of helping him finally write his memoir. He’s withdrawn, angry, standoffish, and the two butt heads more times in the course of the novel than I can count.

The biggest and best twist from Guillory in this tale is the choice to stay with “the beast”, aka Beau, is put in Izzy’s hands. Though the home feels enchanted in a way to her, it’s always her choice, something that is very much not the case in the original fairytale. By the Book is definitely a light enemies-to-lovers novel, with Izzy and Beau at odds over getting him to finally write his book. He won’t open up and she isn’t about to put up with his attitude. I found the power dynamic between the two utterly captivating — the give and take as they slowly open up to on another kept me up reading long after I should have turned out the lights.

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Guillory also modernizes the behaviors of both characters. Izzy might be lost in her career, but she’s a strong, young black woman who stands up to Beau’s beastly attitude whenever he snaps at her. Likewise, when Izzy agrees to stay and help him write, Beau promises her the entire second floor of his home and keeps it. It’d be easy for her to feel threatened or stifled in a space that isn’t hers, but Izzy is given this element of privacy that begins building trust and respect between the characters. While the characters personalities are pulled from the original tale, Izzy loves books and Beau is an isolated celebrity, the remainder of the story is fresh and new. Guillory does gives nods to the fairytale in clever ways that feel like a wink from author to reader.

If you are an adult who still loves fairytales and are in the market for a fun, Disney-esque love story I highly recommend picking up By the Book. The story and characters feel relatable and Guillory gives backstories so seamlessly it felt like I’ve known these characters for years. I found myself laughing and smiling at the quick-witted remarks between Izzy and Beau, and my chest ached at more than one point in the story (I’ll let you discover those moments for yourself!). By the Book is available everywhere now, so make sure to grab a copy from your local bookstore.

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