Synopsis: When Lucy Pickett arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her ailing cousin, Kate, she finds more than she bargained for. A restless ghost roams the hallways, werewolves have been reported in the area, and vampires lurk across the Scottish border. Lord Miles himself is clearly hiding a secret. He is brash and inhospitable, and does not take kindly to visitors—even one as smart and attractive as Miss Pickett. He is unsettled by the mysterious deaths of his new wife, Clara, and his sister, Marie. Working together, Miles and Lucy attempt to restore peace to Blackwell Manor. But can Lucy solve the mystery of Miles? Can she love the man—beast and all?
When I started reading this book, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Steampunk is something I only vaguely understand as a mix of Victorian period archetypes with industrial technologies as fashion statements. Now this is probably only marginally correct, but it’s the best picture I can form in my head. Of course, I love the Victorian period and so anything that has to do with it, written or otherwise usually gets at least some perusal by me because I’m interested in that subject. When I started reading this book I was drawn in by how well everything fit together that although everything seemed completely unlikely and ridiculous, the world was wholly real and easy to imagine. Like how vampires, werewolves and ghosts could co-exist in what appeared to be a very staunchly aristocratic society where women still wore corsets and men wore cravats. The ideas were polar to each other, but the beauty came in the strange contradiction.
This story, I believe, is supposed to be some new retelling of Beauty and the Beast (hence the title), but I really couldn’t find many similarities other than the fact that Miles had a huge scar down the length of his eye and chest and…well…too many spoilers if I tell you that part 😝. Most of the book was completely unrelated to Beauty and the Beast. I would say this could stand very well as its own piece with no relation and still be considered a great book.
At first I was worried the book was going to drag on for too long without getting anywhere as there was a fair amount of explaining and just general exposition that went on with the characters. While some books can be irritating in describing every little detail or mannerism each character displays, for some reason that didn’t bother me at all with this book, I think because it gave me a better concept of why the characters behaved the way they did or it helped me understand how they were positioned in a moment if the moment were more detailed. I’m one of those people who enjoys having a clear mental picture to read fully through a scene, so over description never really bothers me.
Also, I’ve just started figuring out what this “proper romance” idea means but I’m completely on board for it. Characters don’t need to be ripping each others clothes off (or imagining it) to make us believe that they are falling in love, or in love with, each other. Quite the opposite is true actually. Told from third person narrative, I enjoyed the sort of shifting that went on between the perspectives of Lucy and Miles. Although it wasn’t coming directly from them, we still got to see how they were feeling as their affection for each other grew throughout the book. Their banter was hilarious, cute, witty and it was nice to see a dynamic between a male and female character where she still needed to be protected by him at times but he respected her and treated her well.
There are so many things about the characters in this book that I enjoyed, even the villain(s). Kate and Jonathan were just the cutest, I swear I want a husband like that someday, although I hope nothing like what happened to Kate happens to me! Miles’s friends were such sublime additions and my only slight gripe is that I wish we would’ve gotten to see more of what happened with them and Miles in the military cause I feel like there are some interesting stories there.
Lucy sometimes had me a little irritated with how stuffy she could be because of her upbringing, but at the same time, it was her somewhat lofty upbringing and circumstances with her Aunt that taught her to treat everyone the same, which is why she never looked differently at Miles despite his outward demeanor and appearance. Plus, I did enjoy her contrast of vulnerability and strength that played throughout the book, it’s always a good thing to show that a character can be strong willed but get knocked down a few times. And although Miles’s broody nature annoyed me a bit at first, his journey was by far my favorite of all of the characters. To say I was swooning by the end would be an understatement!
Overall this was such a wonderful surprise for me to read. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but the further I got into it, the less I wanted to put it down and get back to reality. Truthfully, the closest thing I could compare this to, even though I haven’t read it (or seen the movie😉), would be Pride & Prejudice and Zombies. Even though it seems weird to mess with the conventional in so many ways, you get used to the nonsense and actually end up thoroughly enjoying yourself on the ride. I know I did, and if there are ever any more like this, you can count me in!
*I received an Advance Review Copy through NetGalley from Shadow Mountain Publishing in exchange for an honest review*