If it’s a fairytale retelling, I’m there. Love the fairytales, but particularly if it’s Beauty and the Beast. I was prepared for this new to me author to weave some enchantment. And…she did. The atmosphere, the magic, the character portrayals, the doomed romance was all there. This was no weak shadow of the classic story; this was a well conceived adult version of it.
The story begins with Erik’s wife, Dominique, dying along with their baby son in childbirth. He didn’t love her, but he cared for her and grieves her passing. Unfortunately, Dominique’s mother is a powerful witch who blames Erik entirely for this loss. She curses him to slowly become the rutting beast she feels he was for marrying Dominique against her wishes and getting her delicate daughter with child. Only Dominique’s forgiveness can reverse the curse and Dominique is dead so his fate is sealed.
Kristine awaits the final moments of her life in the bowels of the prison where she is a condemned murderess. She had only been defending herself against rape, but she is alone, penniless and powerless so she is not believed. In her final hour, a mysterious cloaked man comes and chooses her to be his wife. Soon she learns that it is the Demon Lord himself, Erik Trevayne, who is now her husband. So many wild speculations are passed around about him since he hid himself away from society four years before at the death of his wife- a death he is rumored to have caused. He comes to her in the dark of the night remaining covered and never allowing her to see or touch him. He claims to only want one thing from her, a child, and then she will be free of him.
Erik is already half-way turned to the beast that Charmione cursed him to be, but he wants one lasting legacy. His father was disappointed that Erik’s favored older brother passed and disappointed that he was stuck with Erik as his heir, but in one thing, he would like to please him. He never wants to be close to anyone again so he chose the pitiful young waif condemned to death and will get her with child so he can be assured that his father has the heir he wished for and then Erik will go off on his own to die.
Only, as the days progress, Erik realizes that Kristine is nothing like he imagined. He goes to her nightly, but silently watches her from the shadows as she settles in to her new home. She brings light and joy to the old castle again. Slowly he is captivated by her even as he refuses to satisfy her justifiable curiosity. He gives in to her wish to be near him and to do things together. He wants to feel some happiness before he loses it all when he becomes the beast.
Kristine’s feelings grow for Erik even as her curiosity about his appearance and what is wrong with him remains unsatisfied. He will do anything for her or give her anything to make her happy, but that. She knows that whatever afflicts him brings physical pain, but also he carries around a great burden too. Not many months later she is with child and her fears are realized when Erik withdraws from her. Now more than ever she must discover his secrets and help him before it is too late.
As I have said, this was not just a light retelling of the old tale. This was a fantasy and a fairy tale in its own right. It was amazing in its scope and tone, the way the characters and their situation was painted and the growing tension as this one paced out slowly and steadily. The romance was beautifully done so that I was made to feel Kristine’s bright hope and Erik’s slow loss of hope even as he learns to love. The evil witch was truly evil and I really wanted her to get a painful, deserved ending the way she made Erik suffer so much even beyond the curse.
For much of the story, I was fully engaged, but then the author tossed in a few extra plot lines and I could only wonder what the point was beyond trying to stir up more drama that seemed pretty unnecessary on top of what was already going on. The intro to the werewolf family and the potential rival for Kristine just didn’t work for me. Story didn’t need it and, as I said, it felt just so contrived. The sideline with the wizard and Erik’s mom was similar, but as it wasn’t really to do with Erik and Kristine I tolerated its inclusion better. There was one action on Kristine’s part which was made in desperation that didn’t set well with me. I won’t say what it was because it would be a spoiler, but it lessened her in my eyes. This stuff didn’t ruin the story for me, but it did prevent me from being perfectly satisfied.
In the end, I was pleased with my venture into this strong and slightly spicy fantasy romance tale. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy fairytale retellings, fantasy romance and historical paranormal romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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