One of the problems with reading a very popular romance novel after everyone on the planet has already read it, is trying to find something to say about why you loved it that isn't the same as everyone else. Everyone has already talked about story, the depth, the meaning, the writing, the Beauty and the Beast angle, the main characters, the steamy scenes - what's left?
I loved this everything about this book. It's going on my favourites shelf - where I keep the books that I re-read and love most of all. There is something about it that enables me to lose myself in the story, feel the attraction, feel the tension between them, fall in love with Edward and wish I was Anna. One of my favourite scenes is one where Edward has bet Anna that she can't make his dog answer to a name she has just given it, and the forfeit is a kiss:
Anna began to tremble. He bent his dark head toward hers, and his warm breath caressed her lips. She closed her eyes. And heard the dog clatter into the yard. Anna opened her eyes. Lord Swartingham was frozen. Slowly he turned his head, still only inches from hers, to stare at the canine. The dog grinned back, tongue hanging from his mouth, panting. "Shit," the earl breathed. Quite, Anna thought.
Part of the appeal for me is in the way that Edward and Anna are portrayed. Neither is "stop-traffic" gorgeous. It takes a second look before you appreciate the beauty of Edward's eyes, for example, or the shape of Anna's mouth. There is so much more depth to a person, imo, when their wit and their personality is part of what makes them attractive. This is what attracts me in real life and I suppose it follows me into my reading. Plastic, barbie-doll beauty has never held any appeal for me - either in men or women. (Unless it's Halle Barry. That woman is so beautiful she exists on a whole other plane.)
Anyway. That's what I liked the most about this book. Elizabeth Hoyt forces you to look past the scars and the grumpiness to see the serious hottie hiding behind them. Oh all right, and the lonely man convinced no one will want him because of those scars. (That's the touchy-feely part. I just thought Edward was seriously sexy.)
So no matter which romance trope is your favourite -- Ugly Duckling, widow/spinster, Beauty and the Beast, boss/secretary, this one has a bit of everything. Throw in some hilarious secondary characters (I'm thinking of Edward's valet, Davis), an intriguing fallen woman, and an excellent introduction to The Princes, Leopard and Serpent, and you end up with a book that was, for me, almost perfect.