Book Review: The Rose Kiss by Esme Rome

Publisher: Parako Press
Format: ebook
Release Date: May 1st, 2021
Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Rating: 2/5 Stars


I admit I was really looking forward to finally reading this one after it’s sat on my virtual shelf for so long. Romance? Beauty and the Beast? A curse in a Historical Fantasy setting? All things very much right up my street. Unfortunately, this didn’t really live up to expectations.

On a technical level, Rome isn’t a bad writer. The writing itself wasn’t bad, but the characters, plot and general execution were not handled well. This is marketed as Romance, yet we didn’t meet the love interest until almost halfway through the book. The book is set in ‘Provincial France, 1700s’ but doesn’t lean enough towards Historical or Fantasy, and the general worldbuilding felt really lax.

The prologue felt so disconnected to the rest of the story, I forgot about it until it was signposted that it had happened, but it caused such a big gap in time where I scrambled to remember what happened, it felt more like a chunk was missing rather than it was just at the beginning. The magic used doesn’t make much sense, and it became really muddled about the curse, specifically what elements of the castle were due to the curse and what was because of the fairy magic.

Basic plot rundown: Lana Moreau is the daughter of a nobleman, and because she cannot stop buying books, he is almost bankrupt, despite the fact she keeps reading the same book over and over. Haha, relatable, right? I mean, sure, but they’re literally at risk of losing their home and their dwindling finances puts her father at risk of being taken advantage of by unsavoury characters, but Lana just has to have her books. It feels almost too forced into being ‘Belle’, but without the elements that make Belle such a wonderful character. In a meeting with a not-bright suitor, Lana keeps dropping in topics she wants to ‘discuss’ with him, while the actual internal POV points out she doesn’t actually know much about the people she’s mentioning. Okay, this guy doesn’t know who Socrates is, but it feels so much like it’s shoving the ‘stupid noble’ idea it doesn’t really work.

Lana overhears her father being told she is “the Belmorta”, who fell in love with a beast and spread famine and destruction. So Lana makes the assumption her father has come to kill her, and she escapes. Yep. She doesn’t even talk to him. Just goes straight to “he’s going to kill me”. Because…she needed a reason to flee? Anyway, there were more things here that annoyed me than didn’t. Some scenes were sweet, but so much of it just felt like things were crammed in for the sake of it. And part of what makes the Beauty and the Beast narrative appealing is the beauty falling for the beast, but when she and the beast start looking for ways to break the curse, it just feels a bit…off? Like both lament their current states, but neither even remotely approaches “well, you’re still beautiful to me” territory. Also, it kind of dragged on for a while.

The book Lana repeatedly reads is a book of fairy tales, of course containing the story of “Belmorta”, yet it never feels like it’s really used that much, and Lana, despite knowing the story ridiculously well, never seems able to draw her own conclusions or see the obvious parallels until it’s beyond a certain point.

Beauty and the Beast retellings are hard to pull off partly because of how prevalent they are now, but also because you have to really tap into what makes these characters and this plot so endearing to readers. Unfortunately The Rose Kiss doesn’t match up to that; the prince is a little bland, and Lana is supposed to be an intelligent bookworm, but isn’t quite smart enough for the role of Belle.

A bit of a disappointing read, but it doesn’t quite put me off possibly checking out more from this author in the future.

I received this book via BooksGoSocial on NetGalley. Views remain my own.


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