Author: Jasmine Guillory
Narrator: Sarah Hollis
Audiobook Length: 9 hours 42 minutes
A tale as old as time—for a new generation…
Isabelle is completely lost. When she first began her career in publishing right out of college, she did not expect to be twenty-five, living at home, still an editorial assistant, and the only Black employee at her publishing house. Overworked and underpaid, constantly torn between speaking up or stifling herself, Izzy thinks there must be more to this publishing life. So when she overhears her boss complaining about a beastly high-profile author who has failed to deliver his long-awaited manuscript, Isabelle sees an opportunity to finally get the promotion she deserves.
All she has to do is go to the author’s Santa Barbara mansion and give him a quick pep talk or three. How hard could it be?
But Izzy quickly finds out she is in over her head. Beau Towers is not some celebrity lightweight writing a tell-all memoir. He is jaded and withdrawn and—it turns out—just as lost as Izzy. But despite his standoffishness, Izzy needs Beau to deliver, and with her encouragement, his story begins to spill onto the page. They soon discover they have more in common than either of them expected, and as their deadline nears, Izzy and Beau begin to realize there may be something there that wasn’t there before.
By the Book is the Beauty and the Beast retelling in the Meant to Be series. The fun part about this series is that all the novels are not only standalones, but they are written by different authors. I like the way this series is set up as readers can get different styles and takes on these retellings. This story follows Isabelle (Izzy) Marlowe who works for Tale As Old As Time Publishing in New York. When she is on a work trip to California, she ends up being assigned to Beau Towers, who is working on writing his book.
Beau and Izzy strike a deal where she will stay with him and assist him with getting the book complete. Izzy is currently an assistant, and she sees this as a chance to prove herself. Beau is initially closed off but does open slowly over time. For me, this happened too quickly as it seemed that although Izzy and Beau bicker, he opened to Izzy a lot faster than expected. The story heavily relies on the two of them staying and working together, but the process to get to this point needed a lot more to be feasible, even by fiction standards. It came across as forced instead of having a build up to the two of them coming to an agreement.
There are some fun nods to the Disney tale, including discussion of talking inanimate objects around the house, Beau’s wifi password, and many others. Izzy’s journey was interesting to read about as she tries to find her place in the publishing world. A lot of her conflicts were presented in her inner thoughts, so, along with Beau’s quick transition from having difficulty writing to writing a lot, all gave the story very low stakes. This made it difficult to fully connect to the story. While the story is set in Santa Barbara, there are not many instances where the characters explore this area. There are some outdoor places, like the beach, but it felt like it could have been coastal city.
Overall, the story itself was sweet, but it just needed a lot more for me to fully become invested in it. The main things Beau and Izzy bond over are his book and snacks. In many other Guillory stories, snacks are heavily mentioned, so it was not a surprise to see it in this one, too. I enjoy that she places an emphasis on making women who like to eat commonplace in novels, but it still became a bit much, even for some like me who loves snacks. The flow of the book did keep things moving and I enjoyed the progression in Izzy and Beau’s relationship. While I would not reread this story, I can see how tons of other readers would love it.