Title: Bookish and the Beast
Series: Once Upon A Con #3
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Retellings
Published: August 4th, 2020 (Quirk Books)
Synopsis: Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.
On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.
When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.
But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.
Thank you to the publisher, Quirk Books, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The third installment in the Once Upon A Con series brings us a geekish retelling of Beauty and the Beast following Vance Reigns, who plays the villainous General Sond in the Starfield movie, and small town girl Rosie Thorn, a high school senior and Starfield fan who is trying to work her way through the aftermath of her mother’s death. Vance has been basically Hollywood royalty since birth, but that also comes with a lot of scrutiny, and he isn’t exactly the golden boy, so when his latest misadventure hits the tabloids, he is shipped off to a small town in North Caroline where the director of Starfield has a secluded house to lay low until things settle down. When Vance and Rosie’s paths cross, resulting in a priceless book being damaged, Rosie agrees to work in the house’s library to pay off the debt. They take an instant dislike to each other, and things only get more complicated when they realize that they’ve met before while cosplaying at the last ExcelsiCon and have been thinking about it since.
Though this was a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, the allusions are pretty subtle. There is the library of course, full of rare books, and the descriptions made me want to be there. The modern mansion built in a castle style was also really cool. I was kind of disappointed that this story didn’t happen at ExcelsiCon like the first two and change of backdrop took a lot of the Geekerella magic away in my opinion, but more on that later. Vance and Rosie were great characters and really fun to follow throughout this story.
Vance was about the last character I expected to get his own book, but he turned out to be a pretty great central figure. This book gives us a glimpse into the life and people behind the glamour and how growing up in the spotlight isn’t all it is made out to be. Vance’s POV illustrates how celebrity life too, has its downsides, and how he feels the need to keep a mask up all the time. Rosie on the other hand – well, I always support a character who loves books, but she just felt really…generic? I liked the strong support group she had in her friends though and especially her dad who is also going through the same stuff but is doing his best to be supportive. What was really well portrayed though was the emotional turmoil both characters were going through, and it felt very real.
This is the most conflicted 4 star rating I’ve ever given. On one hand, this was such a cute read and I loved the cameos from familiar characters and seeing where they are in life now, but on the other, there’s only so much that can be squeezed out of the world of Geekerella, and I think that with Bookish and the Beast, the limit of adding new characters to the mix and expanding this world has really been reached. If there are any further books in the series, it just won’t feel right anymore – that original magic has been stretched to the extent that even if you take away the entire plot of Geekerella and the Starfield characters and fandom, this can be its own story. For me, the main draw about this series has been the representation of fandom, how different people see it and what it means to them. With this book, fandom seems to be a convenient backdrop for the story to get on track, but that’s about it.
Overall, Bookish and the Beast was another cute addition to this series, and fans of contemporary novels and rom-coms are sure to enjoy it. It was much shorter than I expected, but it was well-written and light-hearted, a perfect summer read.
Bookish and the Beast releases on August 4th, 2020.