Beauty and the Bitch by Shawna Hunter sounded like it would be right up my alley, and I was not disappointed. Isabelle has a little mishap at work in the library, so her boss tells her she needs to get in shape. There’s only one gym in her sleepy, small town, and after heaving a sigh and girding her loins, Isabelle heads there to sign up for some personal training. Unfortunately for Isabelle, the only available trainer at the gym is Rachel. The two get off to a rocky start, but soon Rachel is ordering Isabelle around the gym, building strength and whipping her into shape. The biggest problem for Isabelle? The intense attraction she has for her new Coach. It causes some rather interesting words to come out of her mouth, and Rachel is quick to take her up on her inadvertent offers. This turns into a budding relationship that’s a little outside the norm, and opens Isabelle’s eyes to a part of her hometown that she never knew existed.
Isabelle is our main character, and the entire story is told from her point of view. She’s extremely body shy, very inexperienced, and fairly naive. At the same time, she’s a sexy librarian, so how could I not like her? What I especially liked here was the character arc. There were things that definitely weren’t cliché in the first place, like a librarian who listens to heavy metal music, and yet the initial impression is of that shy, retiring librarian who seems to always inhabit our libraries. Isabelle’s development as she begins to get physically fit, and more comfortable with her body, both from working out at the gym, and from Rachel’s private workouts (couldn’t resist calling them that) allow us to see her grow as a person.
Rachel, our buff love interest, is a little harder to get to know. This is often a problem when a story is told in first person. Rachel seemed like a person who doesn’t talk about her feelings much, and who keeps her inner feelings to herself. And that comes through in the story, because oftentimes it was difficult to figure out what was going on with Rachel. After the little trick she played on Isabelle when they first met, I was prepared to dislike Rachel, but she eventually won me over with her passion for fitness, her open honesty with Isabelle – even if sometimes it took her a while to talk about her feelings, and her dedication to helping Isabelle reach her goals.
The Writing Style
As I’ve said, this story was told in the first person, with Isabelle as the narrator. The story seemed to flow well, and move quickly. Two things to take note of: one, Hunter doesn’t use any dialogue tags, so reading the dialogue could get confusing; and two, I felt distant and almost disconnected from Rachel’s character.
Aspen Saint Anne did a wonderful job narrating. Her pacing and inflection was excellent, and she definitely gave each character her own voice. This was important because, as I said above, there were little to no dialogue tags. Listening to this book was wonderful, because Saint Anne never mixed the voices up – I always knew which character was speaking and never got lost.
I liked the integration of the story with the BDSM, neither aspect overpowered the other. The BDSM was integral to their relationship, but didn’t become the only thing they cared about. I also liked the openness and willingness to explore from both characters, as well as the respectful handling of anything that was out of a character’s comfort zone. I loved the physical fitness aspect of the story – it isn’t something I know a lot about, so I enjoyed learning a bit about what competitive body builders go through to get ready for competitions.
I will say that for a character who doesn’t have any experience with BDSM, there was very little discussion about limits and safewords. That’s probably the only problem I had storywise. Also, I don’t feel that the book has a lot of explicit sex scenes for something that’s considered erotica, and I wonder if it’s considered that simply because of the subject matter. The other thing I will note is that while the audio version was a very good listen, I did take a look at the ebook version as well and it has some technical editing problems, just for your information.
I had a fun time listening to this book. It doesn’t explain a lot for someone new to BDSM, but if you’re already familiar with the genre, you’ll enjoy that part of the story. Also I really enjoyed all of the various aspects of the story – the BDSM, the developing relationship, the body building, and Isabelle’s discovery of the real town she lives in. It was a very interesting listen, and I have no problems recommending the audiobook.
Excerpt from Beauty and the Bitch by Shawna Hunter
I sent a confused text to Rachel on the number she’d given me. She’d said I could text any time with any question and I had a very important one to ask. What the hell happened? Why couldn’t I move? I could almost hear her amused tone in her reply. It was so irritating to imagine her laughing at my misery. I had to remind myself that text is toneless and that I was probably imagining her mirth. Her soft lips curled up in that snarky little smile of hers. Finally I managed to remove the imagined tone and read the words for what they were.
It’s pretty normal for your muscles to be stiff and sore after a workout, especially when they aren’t used to it. Eat a few bananas, drink plenty of water and take an aspirin if it’s really bad. Most importantly get moving. If you let them rest they’ll feel worse. If the pain isn’t gone or significantly lessened by tomorrow let me know.
The advice was probably sound. At least I trusted her enough not to give me the trainer equivalent of ‘rub salt in your wounds’ but it was easier said than done. I had bananas, of course, and aspirin and nice, cool filtered water in the kitchen. The trouble was that the kitchen was down the hall and down the stairs. That might as well have been a three day hike considering that the end of the bed seemed a mile away. I reached for my phone, intending to call Gina and beg for the day off work when it buzzed with a last minute addition to Rachel’s text.
And don’t take the day off work. You’ll regret it. I don’t care how hard the work day seems you need to keep moving. I’ll be watching the library. If I don’t see that cute butt arrive on time I’ll come by your house and drag you there myself.
This threat was followed by a series of smile, heart and hug emojis, which I assumed she meant to soften the blow. It didn’t help. I didn’t know Rachel that well, yet, but after her little prank I wouldn’t put it past her to disregard my personal embarrassment and drag me through the town.
Not wanting to risk that I resolved to make the grand journey to my kitchen. It began with the epic quest to lift my sore body from the bed. The mighty climb to a sitting position made it very clear that bench presses are an effective exercise. Placing my feet on the ground and attempting to push myself to standing confirmed the same of leg presses. Finally the dual benefits of lat pull-downs for the back, and dips for the triceps were confirmed when I had to use my arms and back to push myself off the bed.
With a teetering, painful wobble I made it to my feet. With a triumphant yet miserable groan I celebrated my victory with an inelegant limp to the bathroom.
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Bits and Bobs
- Publisher: Wordwooze Publishing
- Audiobook Publisher: Wordwooze Publishing
- Narrator: Aspen Saint Anne
Shawna Hunter Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Beauty and the Bitch by Shawna Hunter. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.