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By the Book: A Meant to Be Novel


By the Book: A Meant to Be Novel

I’m really enjoying Disney Publishing’s Meant to Be series, which commissions popular romance writers to pen grown-up, contemporary fairy tales based on classic Disney princesses. The project started in 2021 with Julie Murphy’s IF THE SHOE FITS, adapted (of course) from "Cinderella." It’s perhaps natural that the next book should be inspired by every bookworm’s favorite Disney princess, Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”

In this case, thanks to the imagination and ingenuity of bestselling author Jasmine Guillory, Belle is 25-year-old Isabelle, an editorial assistant at Tales as Old as Time Publishing. After more than two years as an assistant to a demanding and unsupportive boss, Belle is burned out. She has put her own writing ambitions on hold, she is still living with her parents in New Jersey and commuting into the city, and, as one of the company’s only Black employees, she longs for a more diverse and supportive workplace --- or at least a boss who seems inclined to want to mentor her.

"Much as [Julie] Murphy did in IF THE SHOE FITS, Guillory adeptly works details and characters from Disney movies into her decidedly grown-up and modern-day romance."

The most interesting part of Izzy’s job is her weekly check-in emails with TAOAT’s potentially most lucrative author, Beau Towers. A former child star and son of two celebrities, Beau has become a bit reclusive since he disappeared from the tabloid headlines after years of bad boy behavior. Now he’s under contract to write a memoir about growing up in his famous family, but he’s gone completely off the grid. After months of trying to engage with him over email (her weekly missives have grown increasingly creative since she’s pretty sure he’s just ignoring them), Izzy has the brilliant idea to swing by his home in Santa Barbara to give him a pep talk. Much to Izzy’s surprise, her boss greenlights the idea, and soon she’s rolling up to his spectacular mansion, complete with a pool and its own orchard.

Beau is less than thrilled about Izzy’s surprise visit, but something about her pep talk seems to pique his interest. Soon she has extended her trip in order to help him get over his writer’s block. Far away from the cold NYC winter and her toxic workplace environment, Izzy is thriving and considering picking up her own writing again for the first time in ages. Their working relationship eventually blossoms into something more, as they realize just how much they have in common. But when professional responsibilities send Izzy back to the Big Apple and to real life, will this be the end of their fairy tale romance?

Much as Murphy did in IF THE SHOE FITS, Guillory adeptly works details and characters from Disney movies into her decidedly grown-up and modern-day romance. They include a housekeeper with the somewhat odd nickname of “Kettle,” Izzy’s pervasive feeling that inanimate objects in the house --- especially the clawfoot tub --- are talking to her and cheering her on, and, of course, a spectacular library. Even Disney’s villain has a clever counterpart in this novel, though social media and office gossip, rather than torches and pitchforks, are his weapons of choice.

Readers who remember the Disney princesses from their own childhood or who regularly revisit them as adults will be especially tickled by these subtle references, but BY THE BOOK stands on its own merit as well. I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting news of which Disney heroine is next in line for the Meant to Be treatment.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on June 10, 2022

By the Book: A Meant to Be Novel
by Jasmine Guillory