Filled with magic and fierce emotion, Lisa Jensen’s multilayered novel will make you question all you think you know about beauty, beastliness, and happily ever after.
They say Château Beaumont is cursed. But servant-girl Lucie can’t believe such foolishness about handsome Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, Chevalier de Beaumont, master of the estate. But when the chevalier’s cruelty is revealed, Lucie vows to see him suffer. A wisewoman grants her wish, with a spell that transforms Jean-Loup into monstrous-looking Beast, reflecting the monster he is inside. But Beast is nothing like the chevalier. Jean-Loup would never patiently tend his roses; Jean-Loup would never attempt poetry; Jean-Loup would never express remorse for the wrong done to Lucie. Gradually, Lucie realizes that Beast is an entirely different creature from the handsome chevalier, with a heart more human than Jean-Loup’s ever was. Lucie dares to hope that noble Beast has permanently replaced the cruel Jean-Loup — until an innocent beauty arrives at Beast’s château with the power to break the spell.
Well, this made for a rather peculiar retelling.
Before I begin the actual review, I do want to let readers know about certain important triggers that they should be notified of:
- 12% into the book, a rape scene occurs where the heroine experiences it – and the consequences – first hand. It is mildly described.
- 16% into the book, the heroine is devastated after the rape and tries to drown herself.
These are not light topics, and it was rather shocking to see it in the story, and so early. The revenge after the rape is what serves as Lucie’s driving motivation – and basic plotline – of the book. Soon enough, Lucie’s wish for revenge is granted when the handsome chevalier who attacked her gets transformed into a hideous beast, forcing all the servants to flee. Everyone leaves except Lucie, who gets turned into a candelabra so he can see his ugliness every day. Or something like that. It was a weird explanation for keeping her there.
Now that Lucie is a candelabra, she can’t speak or feel time. But the chevalier, or Beast at this point, knows that she’s sentient and banishes her in a dark drawer or room or something. A period of time passes, and suddenly the door is opened and the Beast is kind. Is this Jean-Loup? How did he have a 180 degree turn in personality? And how will this newfound knowledge affect the Beast’s future after Belle (from the original story) comes into play…
“This is what he thought of me once, an object to be used and discarded. But look at me now! I am strong, as I never was before. I am here to show him what he has become. I will illuminate his crimes.”
The thing about this retelling is that it’s just… weird. I can’t quite wrap my head around the “twist” the author wrote, and I really think there was a better way of executing it. After finishing, I kind of just had the reaction, “What in the world just happened.” The plot went into directions I didn’t expect, I give you that, but it also rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t quite comfortable about the fact that Lucie’s driving motivation was revenge from being raped, and I’m not sure how I feel about the mitigation of this plot point being addressed. I did appreciate the author’s message about how beauty isn’t everything in the world, and how if you dig beneath the surface, you can find hidden facets.
I do admire Lucie’s resilience throughout all her troubles, and her determination in getting justice. There was an odd dynamic, though, because the central characters were just Jean Loup, him as a Beast, her, and Belle, which lends for a quietly intense atmosphere. The setting wasn’t very explored (I suppose we just know that we’re in historical France where magical things happen) and the main focus of the story was just the twisty retelling. I usually enjoy Beauty and the Beast retellings, but something about the twists in this one was mainly uncomfortable for me. None of the characters were really explored past their superficial descriptions and actions, save Lucie.
Perhaps readers who want a darker twist of Beauty and the Beast would be drawn to this one. I myself didn’t really quite mesh with it, and I wouldn’t really recommend it for readers drawn to romantic stories. Revenge, perhaps. But romance? I never quite felt a connection, especially as the whole plot point with rape kind of ruined the whole premise for me. The one word I would use to sum this book up was just ODD, and more with negative connotations than anything.
rape, abortion, abuse, sexual harassment, gore/blood, suicide attempt
Thank you Netgalley and Candlewick Press for the review copy!