I’ve been growing more and more interested in Jasmine Guillory in the past year, and while I hadn’t yet read any of her books, I was eagerly awaiting her 2022 novel, By the Book. It’s the second in a multi-authored series called Meant to Be, published by Hyperion Avenue, an imprint of Disney Publishing Worldwide. Each book is a retelling of a beloved fairytale. Following Julie Murphy’s Cinderella retelling, If the Shoe Fits, Jasmine Guillory’s new contribution reimagines one of my personal favorites: Beauty and the Beast. I was thrilled to get an advance copy of this book from NetGalley – it is just as magical as I’d hoped it would be!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Hyperion Avenue for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
By the Book immerses readers in the world of writing and publishing. Isabelle (Izzy) has worked at her publishing firm for two years and is desperate to either get a promotion or a new job. She sees her chance to prove herself by getting a reluctant writer to turn in his manuscript. Beau is a celebrity contracted to write a memoir, but he hasn’t turned in anything – or even responded to a single email – in the past year. While Izzy spends time with the reclusive Beau in his mansion, they might end up with more than just a finished manuscript.
Part of what drew me to By the Book is that it’s a retelling of one of my favorite childhood stories, Beauty and the Beast. As such, I was constantly charmed by the numerous nods to Beauty and the Beast, especially the Disney movie I grew up watching. While Jasmine Guillory made plenty of significant changes to the fairytale (which I’ll dive into in a moment), I do love the elements she chose to retain. Of course, the major themes are there: forced proximity in the man’s sizable home; the man seeming beastly despite his deeply buried good qualities; the gradual evolution from enemies to tentative friends to lovers. But the details made me giddy, and if you know the Disney movie as well as I do, you’ll catch them all: The spelling of Isabelle’s name is unconventional but perfect; Izzy’s publishing firm is called Tale as Old as Time; she and Beau watch a period drama called This Provincial Life; Beau’s WiFi password references a certain French-accented candlestick; I could go on, but there are so many little connections to the original that simply brought me joy the whole time I was reading.
There are differences from the original tale, updating it for a modern setting and removing the more problematic elements. Most notably, Izzy is not a literal prisoner in Beau’s mansion; there will be no Stockholm Syndrome between these two! Izzy’s father plays a minimal role here, the dishes don’t dance and sing, the characters aren’t even in France. But in spite of the big changes, By the Book still retains the magic that makes Beauty and the Beast so beloved.
I’m the kind of bookworm who loves to read about anything related to books, and in this novel, I enjoyed reading about the different sides to the industry. Izzy works in publishing and spends her days coordinating with authors, reading and editing manuscripts, and getting books ready for publication. She’s also a writer herself, though she has doubts about her own (unfinished) novel and her talent. Beau has never written a book before, and he’s faced with intense writer’s block over this memoir he owes Tale as Old as Time. It takes all Izzy has to get him to finally start writing, from pep talks to forced writing sessions. It is inspiring to watch these two work through their different roles with books and writing.
Beyond their professional relationship, Izzy and Beau must slowly work on their personal relationship, too. Like the Beast we know so well, Beau isn’t exactly forthcoming, and he has a temper, especially when it comes to his writing. He’s cagey and defensive and prone to lashing out. It’s no wonder he and Izzy are rather like enemies when she first arrives in his mansion. But like the original story, these two slowly inch closer to friendship and understanding… and then maybe something else that wasn’t there before. (Cue Mrs. Potts singing “Something There.”)
Theirs is a slow-build romance with some setbacks along the way. They bond professionally, over their shared love of food (especially snacks), and even over surfing lessons. Izzy helps Beau come to terms with some family trauma and his fraught relationship with his mom. Beau, in turn, helps Izzy become more confident in herself. Even as their relationship blossoms, things are kept G-rated, allowing all ages to enjoy their love story.
I appreciated the attention on mental health and burnout here. Lately I’ve been seeing both more and more in books, and I am completely here for it. Izzy and Beau have some progress to make on those fronts, and readers can gain some perspective from their journey.
If you love food, By the Book will be extra delightful: There are a lot of mentions of eating and cooking. It may make you hungry! I’ve heard that Jasmine Guillory’s romances are known for their depictions of food, and that trend has extended to this novel. It got to be a bit much for me as time wore on; I just wanted them to stop eating all the time! But perhaps food really is the way to their hearts.
By the Book is a sweet novel perfect for anyone who loves Beauty and the Beast, books about books, and slow-burn romances. It has touches of magic that make it a delightful yet wholly original take on a beloved classic.
I will need to go back and read the first book in the Meant to Be series, a Cinderella retelling called If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy. And I’m very excited for the next book, Kiss the Girl, by one of my favorite authors, Zoraida Córdova; it will reimagine The Little Mermaid. It’s due out in summer 2023.
Jasmine Guillory fully engrossed me in By the Book. It’s her first novel that I’ve read, and I look forward to reading more from her. I already have While We Were Dating on my shelf (the sixth and final in her The Wedding Date series, but when has the series order ever stopped me?!) and I am looking forward to her next book, Drunk on Love, due out this September. Expect more review of her books here soon!
Get the Book
You can pre-order By the Book here – it will be available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook on May 3, 2022. You can also get its Meant to Be predecessor, If the Shoe Fits, right here.
Please note that the above links are Amazon affiliate links and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|By the Book by Jasmine Guillory|
|Series||Meant to Be (#2)|
|Retelling Of…||Beauty and the Beast|
|Setting||New York; California|
|Number of Pages||320|
|Format I Read||eBook (NetGalley)|
|Original Publication Date||May 3, 2022|
A tale as old as time—for a new generation…
Isabelle is completely lost. When she first began her career in publishing right out of college, she did not expect to be twenty-five, living at home, still an editorial assistant, and the only Black employee at her publishing house. Overworked and underpaid, constantly torn between speaking up or stifling herself, Izzy thinks there must be more to this publishing life. So when she overhears her boss complaining about a beastly high-profile author who has failed to deliver his long-awaited manuscript, Isabelle sees an opportunity to finally get the promotion she deserves.
All she has to do is go to the author’s Santa Barbara mansion and give him a quick pep talk or three. How hard could it be?
But Izzy quickly finds out she is in over her head. Beau Towers is not some celebrity lightweight writing a tell-all memoir. He is jaded and withdrawn and—it turns out—just as lost as Izzy. But despite his standoffishness, Izzy needs Beau to deliver, and with her encouragement, his story begins to spill onto the page. They soon discover they have more in common than either of them expected, and as their deadline nears, Izzy and Beau begin to realize there may be something there that wasn’t there before.
Best-selling author Jasmine Guillory’s reimagining of a beloved fairy tale is a romantic triumph of love and acceptance and learning that sometimes to truly know a person you have to read between the lines.
About the Author
Credit: Andrea Scher
Jasmine Guillory is the New York Times bestselling author of six romance novels, including The Wedding Date, The Proposal, and While We Were Dating. Her work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Bon Appetit, and Time. She lives in Oakland, California.
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