Beauty of the Beast by Rachel L. Demeter
Title & Author: Beauty of the Beast by Rachel L. Demeter
Genre: Gothic Fairy Tale
Release Date: March 15, 2017
Publisher: Self-Published…I believe…
Series Details: Standalone, but part of a Fairy Tale Retelling Series
Page Count: 342 Pages
Description: “Experience the world’s most enchanting and timeless love story—retold with a dark and realistic twist.
A BEAST LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF HIS PAST
Reclusive and severely scarred Prince Adam Delacroix has remained hidden inside a secluded, decrepit castle ever since he witnessed his family’s brutal massacre. Cloaked in shadow, with only the lamentations of past ghosts for company, he has abandoned all hope, allowing the world to believe he died on that tragic eve twenty-five years ago.
A BEAUTY IN PURSUIT OF A BETTER FUTURE
Caught in a fierce snowstorm, beautiful and strong-willed Isabelle Rose seeks shelter at a castle—unaware that its beastly and disfigured master is much more than he appears to be. When he imprisons her gravely ill and blind father, she bravely offers herself in his place.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Stripped of his emotional defenses, Adam’s humanity reawakens as he encounters a kindred soul in Isabelle. Together they will wade through darkness and discover beauty and passion in the most unlikely of places. But when a monster from Isabelle’s former life threatens their new love, Demrov’s forgotten prince must emerge from his shadows and face the world once more…”
“If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.”
As I started writing this review, all I could envision were scenes from “The Mob Song” sparking to life in reaction to my less-than-favorable rating. I could already hear the chorus of: “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” and knew I’d need to defend my unpopular opinion. So all I ask is that you withhold the pitchforks and torches until you’ve heard me out.
Thanks to Ashman & Menken, Beauty and the Beast is literally synonymous with “a tale as old as time.” Originating approximately 4,000 years ago, this is a story readers have loved across the barriers of time, language, and history and thus its elements have made their way into countless adaptations. As a glutton for fairy tale retellings, I have read my fair share of this genre – I even have 2 shelves devoted to the category in my library – and always find it fascinating to witness how authors manipulate the familiar folklore into foreign adventures. However, Demeter’s wordy reinvention lacked a certain je ne sais quoi and ultimately fell flat for me.
Before I address my major complaints, I want to clarify that this reworking wasn’t entirely beastly. I think most of Demeter’s changes to the original storyline (i.e. How Prince Adam became a “beast,” why she despises Raphael/Gaston, etc.) were effective and allowed the reader to better understand Isabelle’s motives. Most of these changes are coupled with vivid prose leaving little to the reader’s imagination and greatly enhancing the narrative’s world building:
“The nursery had transformed into the depths of Hell, and all nine of Dante’s rings were branded in his flesh.”
These creative — and clearly darker — adjustments make this story much more suitable for an adult audience seeking a steamier version of the classic fairy tale. And shocking no one, the courtship was my favorite part of this historical romance. And while the slow (read: super slow) burn romance did produce some stimulating scenes and kept the pages turning, it wasn’t enough to save the rating.
Although you’ll be rooting for the couple’s inevitable HEA, the repetitive language became exhaustingly expected, and ultimately left me feeling disconnected from the material. Between the “bruised” skylines and literally every character doing every action with “audacity,” I found myself rolling my eyes and huffing a deep sigh to each duplicated phrase and cursing Demeter’s unwillingness to use synonyms. This is one of my biggest literary pet peeves and the constant rehash of terminology slowed down my pace and curtailed my overall enjoyment.
At the end of the day, this lacked the magic I was hoping for but is an easy read for those looking for a BatB retelling.
* Update: After posting this review, Demeter personally reached out to me and after several back and forth messages actually made edits based off my suggestions. I do not include this as a way to humble brag, but rather to praise the power of what we’re doing here. Hoping that our reviews actually make a difference. I also think it’s really cool that she was so open to the criticism and with the changes made I’m confident my original reviews cons are now negated.*