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When She Said I Do
by Celeste Bradley
(St. Martins, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1250-01612-6
Beauty and the Beast is a story where the heroine transforms the Beast into a handsome Prince and breaks the magic spell around him. In this story, the Beast is a man who was injured and left for dead, only to be "resurrected" by doctors, leaving him with scars both inside and out. In fact, they do not give him much hope for living a long life. He hides away in his estate, acting the recluse.

The Beauty in this case is Calliope Worthington, of the weird Worthingtons. There are more children than one can keep track of - all named for Roman gods or goddesses. Calliope is the oldest daughter and she is on the shelf because she had to care for her siblings while her mother recuperated from childbirth. She is the heart of the family and has kept them from being pariahs from the ton, despite their eccentricity.

The story opens when Callie and her parents, along with her brother Dade are traveling and get thrown in the river. The nearest estate belongs to Ren Porter, the recluse. Thinking no one is home, the Worthingtons barge in to warm themselves and find shelter from the storm. Callie meets Ren and he compromises her, tearing her pearl necklace with his groping. They agree to marry after agreeing that the marriage will last only until Callie earns one pearl per night and her pearl necklace is whole again.

Their relationship is an odd one. They meet by night but Ren is so emotionally scarred that he touches Callie but refuses to consummate the marriage, thinking that he will get her so hot and bothered that eventually she will not mind the monster he is taking her virginity. Callie on the other hand is hot and bothered, but also fully aware that Ren is being kind to her and she slowly falls in love. Callie is determined to draw Ren out. She wants him to start living again. Meanwhile, someone appears to be trying to kill her.There is an incident when the ladder is knocked down and Ren has to save her. She is locked in the basement with deadly snakes, and Ren has to save her.

Ren starts to care for Callie but is convinced she is lying about the attempts on her life. There are a lot of other plotlines, including the village lady who is jealous and the past betrayal that Ren felt from his spy friends. And there are other attempts by Callie's sister that just seemed silly. But the story moves on the strength of the relationship between Ren and Callie and it is this that let this reader down.

Ren refuses to take his hood off unless Callie keeps her eyes closed. And at times he is a so aroused he fears he will hurt her, so he leaves her unfulfilled. I had a hard time picturing this lack of interaction "love." They didn't talk and they didn't really interact unless it was with anger, uncertainty or with lust that was never assuaged. I was bored for a good portion of the first half of the book and the second half wanted readers to believe that they had fallen in love. When She Said I Do expected the reader to believe in this love story and I just couldn't buy the tale.

--Shirley Lyons

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