EnsnaredEnsnared by Rita Stradling

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Okay so that 2 Stars was almost a 2.5 until I realized that the parts I liked were just not enough to boost the rating.

“She felt like Atlas fumbling the heavens and left standing to watch them roll away.”

You and me both, sister. You and me both.

Those who know me know that I LOVE might sort of like the Beauty and the Beast tale. It definitely might just be my fairy-tale go to. So when I saw that this was suppose to be B & B in a modern day future complete with AI…I was stoked. I had to read it (The Terminator/Skynet love could also be another childhood holdover.) So maybe I was expecting too much. But this ended up the hard luck tale of fantastic premise that fell shy of delivery.

What B & B IS, is a tale where the father messes up in a big way and lets his daughter (jerk) do the time for him. And, during her incarceration to a maddened and slightly unreasonable, cursed creature of some sort, she learns to see beyond the gruff and teaches the beast to be human. During this transformation of understanding and humanity (the his and hers improvement set) they fall in love and are almost torn apart; but physically save each other in the nick of time. And of course there is the Happily Ever After schtick that follows.

Well, I do admit that all those points were indeed hit…mostly.

“I didn’t have good parents. They were– I think they might have been insane.”

Alainn’s dad is an inventor of AI tech with a bad gambling addiction. Unfortunately he decided to funnel funds from a rich recluse into casino coffers. To make matters worse, the tech he was supposed to produce was used as a sort of guinea pig for his and his son’s theoretical ideas and definitely does NOT meet the predetermined criteria. And the only person worried about this mess is Alainn– well and maybe the AI robot.

“She didn’t know what she would have chosen at ten years old, but today she would have been buried alive to save her mother.

When the creeptastic robot (Rose) makes a plan to temporarily substitute Alainn for herself to keep dear ole dad out of the clink, Alainn goes along with it even though she does not trust Rose and figures she will end up stuck there…stuck there pretending to be a robot (view spoiler)

Upon entering the tower, she discovers that the only thing demanded of her is dinner. Every. Night. Her host never lets himself be seen in the light and his entire residence is a rather neurotic and all-too-human AI who enjoys meddling like an ancient matriarch, without regard to feelings (or laws) because it (she?) just has to be right. In this twisted household a menagerie of robot monkeys stalk and clean. Boredom quickly sets in and mischief is had and the next thing you know…(view spoiler) So nobody in this insane household (including our pretend robot) is playing with a full deck.

Let’s see…that puts us at…

✔ Beauty
✔ Beast
✔ Enchanted House(ish)
✔ Irresponsible Father
✔ Pesky Dilemma
✔ Need To Be Human

All the ducks seem to be lining up nicely. So what went wrong?

The fillers. And the details. And..well..character believability took a hit as well.

The author felt the need to add twisted back stories for both the our Beauty and Beast. That was fine. We needed to know how they both became such hopeless-unlikeable head cases. But then a present was also created and it fell flatter than a souffle fresh out of the oven during rock band rehearsal. There were all these additional characters who had one-dimensional and half-hearted back stories that added nothing to the plot, world, or characters. We had a best friend/boss with an awkward half romance, for a non-specific example. There were also all these plot tangents that did not matter or make sense. For most of the story Alainn only worked half the year as a rescue skier and then their were these allusions to troubled teens at random; or there was Alainn’s brother and Rose with their astronomy homework, for a couple more non-specific examples.

There was just so much that was down right unnecessariy.

Still we try to press on…only…the characters were really not that developed. They both needed therapy, do not get me wrong, but that was I got from them.

The romance between the two did blossom naturally and with great forethought. That part held together wonderfully. As did the torn-apart-only-to-save-each-other bit. Basically the B & B parts of the story held together even if the characters made you want to dole out the medical referrals. The parts that really drug the reader down were the add-ons and extras that took a short novella and turned it into a full book. And then, after everyone comes to their just rewards, the story JUST KEPT GOING. It became I, Robot meets Terminator somehow; and then SWITCHED BACK. That is a serious peeve of mine. Stories should know when to end. And stay on course. Tangents our reserved solely for us rant/rave reviewers.

Overall I would say this would have been better as a short story or novella, rather than being a full length novel. There were just too many under developed characters and too many tangents.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley for an honest review.

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