ARC Review | Lionheart by Fran Seen

ARC Review | Lionheart by Fran SeenLionheart: a Beauty & the Beast Retelling by Fran Seen
Published by Createspace on August 8th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Retelling
Pages: 236
Format: eARC
Source: via Author
Amazon US

An Arab-American soldier and a stargazing woman connect in this high-tech Beauty and the Beast retelling.

In an attempt to pay off her family’s debts, Lula answers a Craigslist ad for a job opening at the formerly vacant Bluegrass Manor. A stern and brooding man offers her the job, but there’s a catch—Lula isn’t allowed to look at him. No one in the manor has ever laid eyes on Mr. Rahim’s face. Although, Mr. Rahim has eyes on everyone—security footage relays on a constant loop in his office.

Everything Lula isn’t meant to notice about Mr. Rahim intrigues her: the cadence of his accented voice, the stoutness of his build, and his self-imposed prison that mirrors her own.

Lionheart is a romance of huge stakes that asks one question:
Is love enough to mend a broken soul?

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My love for retellings has made me a tough(er) critic when reviewing it. I was scared to read Lionheart because I loved Beauty and the Beast and I knew it would be hard to impress me. 

This is a story about a girl who pauses her life to fix her family’s, and a wounded man who pauses his to escape it. 

Lula moves back in town to help her family who does not seem to want it. It’s hard to find a job, especially if you have little to no experience, and so in her desperation, she goes to Craigslist and finds an ad for a housekeeping position in Bluegrass Manor. 

Alo Rahim moves in to Bluegrass Manor when Mr. Milton, the owner and his late best friend’s father, offers it to him as refuge to recover from the explosion his tour in Iraq. The war has left him physically and emotionally disfigured, and now he refuses to show himself to anyone other than his doctors and Mr. Milton. He stays in his room and spends his days watching CCTV footages of the manor. 

“The things people do when they think no one is watching–that’s the most direct view into someone’s soul.”

Honestly, it took me a while to get into the story. I hated how Lula’s family treated her and I didn’t know what to think of Alo when he was still secluded in his room, watching Lula through the CCTV footages. It felt a little too Big Brother for me. But as I found out more about Lula and Alo, their struggles and their journey to finally moving forward, I couldn’t put the book down.

I loved Alo’s story arc!  Fran Seen had a way of writing his story that made me feel like I was there with him. It was eye-opening to read what happens because of the war and its effects on anyone who goes through it. Everyone involved is a victim of war.

Alo and Lula’s romance had a bit of slow burn to it, growing from employee-boss to friends, confidantes then eventually to lovers. They saw what the other was hiding or feeling even though they couldn’t see it for themselves. They both had to grow together on their own. I also enjoyed watching them get to know each other more, and I loved Alo’s space puns! 

“Mr. Rahim: The moon must be going broke tonight.
Lula: Why’s that?
Mr. Rahim: It’s on its last quarter.
Lula: God.”

Garrett is every bit the Gaston in this book. I hated him the moment he was introduced; he’s narcissistic, selfish, and emotionally manipulative. Garrett and Alo’s difference reminded me of a quote from Pride and Prejudice––“One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.”.

What I liked the most about the book is that after reading it, it led me to think and reflect. I learned a lot; things I know I’ll bring with me for a long time. It started out as a typical retelling, but it became so much more as it went on. It talked about first impressions, racism, discrimination against a certain religion, emotional abuse, war, and moving on. It gave a raw and unedited glimpse of the things veterans go through after the war. 

My favorite about the book? Romance wasn’t the focal point. It was moving on and moving forward, for both Alo and Lula. And I love how realistic yet heartwarming was the ending. It wasn’t like “Suddenly, all was well.”. They still had a long way to go, but they were finally going somewhere.

And my favorite line? 

“A significant other didn’t all of a sudden make my life more significant, but he sure are hell made it more enjoyable.”


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