Monday, March 27, 2017

"Beauty of the Beast" by Rachel L. Demeter

Beauty of the Beast
(Fairy Tale Retellings Book 1)
by Rachel L. Demeter

Beauty of the Beast, the first book in the new Fairy Tale Retellings series by Rachel L. Demeter, is currently on tour with Promo Stars Services. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

For more books by this author, please check out my blog post on The Frost of Springtime and my blog post on Finding Gabriel.

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 ...
Perfect for fans of Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera, Beauty of the Beast brings a familiar and well-loved fairy tale to life with a rich setting in the kingdom of Demrov and a captivating, Gothic voice.
Note: This is an edgy, historical romance retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Due to very strong sexual content, profanity, and dark subject matter, including an instance of sexual assault committed by the villain, Beauty of the Beast is not intended for readers under the age of 18.

Book Video

~ The East Tower ~
Arms sprang out from the darkness. They spun her full circle and slammed her body against the king’s portrait. Isabelle gasped, more in shock than from pain, as she stared into Adam’s deformed face. The lantern flickered behind his massive form, casting his cloaked body in silhouette. But she saw enough to know he was far from pleased. Rage and frustration radiated from his body like a palpable force.
“I warned you to stay out of here,” he said, his voice dangerously cold and deep. Those rugged vocals vibrated against her body and seeped into her marrow. “What part of forbidden didn’t you comprehend?” His voice lashed out from the darkness like a hurtled knife, and the word “forbidden” seemed to whisper another meaning altogether. Isabelle tried to answer but failed to find her voice. Indeed, her vocal cords had turned to solid ice, as numb and cold as the blood rushing through her veins. She couldn’t breathe; she felt like she was suffocating.
“My mother gave me that musical box on my fourth birthday,” he said, the sensual lull of his voice causing the fine hairs on her nape to stand erect. “And now your recklessness has destroyed it. Have you nothing to say?”
“I—I’m sorry.” He offered no reply; only the ragged sound of his breathing and the hammering blizzard broke the silence. “Please—I didn’t mean any harm.”
She struggled under the weight of Adam’s colossal body and battled to free herself. He merely gave a low chuckle and pressed her firmly against the portrait. He looked otherworldly at that moment, like an angel of death seeking vengeance. Both beautiful and monstrous, his cool, sapphire eyes overflowed with warring emotions. In spite of his harsh and ruthless exterior, she detected a quaver in his voice and saw that his large, cloaked shoulders trembled. The darkness in his soul cast a shadow that embraced her; as she peered up at him, she knew he was drowning in the turbulent waters of a past time.
“What a disappointment,” he went on, his voice growing deeper still, mocking her words from so many days ago, “You’re like any other woman.”
“I—I’m sorry. Please, Adam. I—” Her gaze shot past his body and over the wreckage of a past life. She thought of her private chamber again—of the stale perfumes and outdated garments.
Her flight or fight instinct seized hold of her. She attempted to scramble free, but he merely grabbed her shoulder and whirled her back against the portrait. Gloves wrapped his hands; his long, silk-clad fingers grasped her shoulder and kept her firmly in place.
He stood intimately close.
Far too close.
As close as Raphael had been that night.
“Going somewhere, ma belle? After you’ve worked so hard to find my East Tower?”
Hands like two steel bands held her wrists in place. Hot breaths, which faintly smelled of wine, seared her cheeks and assaulted her senses. Her breasts flattened against the pressure of his strong chest, and she felt that same chest swell and deflate in perfect sync with her own. One large hand slipped down her elbow and glided across her extended arm. The lush material of his gloves drew a shudder from her heaving chest. His breathing grew more ragged, shallower, and the erratic beat of his heart banged against her own.
Anger and desire warred on his face, twisting his features into a mess of both monster and man. “Find anything of interest, aside from my musical box? Come, come. You went through such great trouble to get here,” he asked, his voice now threaded with both anger and something else.
Yes, Isabelle recognized that something else. It was the same note that had entered Raphael’s voice that night…
She attempted to duck under his arm, but he moved swiftly, capturing her in the crook of his elbow. Reeling her toward him, he emitted a low, haunting chuckle that swelled the eastern tower to its rafters. She was back where she’d started—pinned against the portrait, Adam’s body serving as a flesh-and-blood blockade.
Hunger radiated from him, enfolding her in a current of sizzling power. His silk-clad hand grazed the curve of her breast as it moved down her body in a painfully slow caress. Even more alarming was her reaction to him. Her treacherous body responded with a crush of hot and cold pulsating waves. Then he whispered a taunt in her ear, and his liquid baritone slid down her backbone like honey; it swirled inside her, finding its home in her most intimate area.
He leaned closer still. His face’s uneven skin brushed against her neck, the black waves of his hair tickled her chin... His thick arousal expanded against her, reminding her of what he was capable of—and of her sheer vulnerability.
His lips teased the base of her throat. Cursing her traitorous body, Isabelle gasped at the gentle scraping of his teeth. His tongue and lips tormented her throbbing pulse—just barely, stirring her skin in a mere ghost of a touch.

[Want more? Click below to read another excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Another Fairy Tale grows up, gains some dark realism and proves that without love, even a saint can become a beast from within their heart and that love can make anyone beautiful in the eyes of those who love them. Rachel L. Demeter has shown her writing chops once again as she turns an already dark tale into an edgy read that will rock you back on your heels." ~ Tome Tender Book Blog
"Absolutely beautiful. A perfect retelling of one of the most famous fairy tales. This version doesn't involve talking teapots or enchanted roses, but this retelling is still beyond magical." ~ LYLY 5 STAR BOOKS
"5++ enchanting stars. This book is so beyond anything I could have ever expected. The author recreated the original Beauty and the Beast story with a sexy and dark edge and I completely LOVED it. Rachel L. Demeter's writing is just beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, my kindle is literally FILLED with highlights." ~ Katie's Book Blog
"I loved Ms. Demeter's Finding Gabriel, so I when I saw her Beauty of the Beast, I jumped at the chance to read it! The fact that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, my favorite fairy tale, only made me want to read it even more - and wow - was it good. Although good is too weak a word to describe it, it really was amazing and I positively loved it!" ~ A Hopeless Romantic's Booklandia
"Once I started reading it ...I. Could. Not. Stop!" ~ The Booknatics

My Review

*Contains spoilers*
Beauty of the Beast is an original adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that reads like a historical romance, with a touch of The Phantom of the Opera and Cinderella, and even references to The Sleeping Beauty and The Frog Prince. The story starts in 1808, in Lavoncourt, in the fictional Kingdom of Demrov. Prince Adam Delacroix is only eleven years old when revolutionaries set fire to his family's palace, killing his parents. In an attempt to save his baby sister, Adam is disfigured by fire. And when she dies, something in him dies, too.
"As he felt her spirit fade away, he too felt a part of himself disappear. His body grew cold and numb, resembling an empty shell."
Flash forward to twenty-five years later, in Ruillé, Demrov, where we are introduced to Isabelle Rose, an avid reader and book lover.
"She flipped through her book’s well-loved pages, allowing the sentimental words to wrap her soul and lift her into another time and place."
Isabelle's love of reading stems from hearing the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty and "true love's kiss" when she was only six years old. When things become difficult, Isabelle retreats from reality into her imaginary world.
"Once again, Isabelle allowed herself to slip inside the fabric of her dream world—a beautiful realm of make-believe."
She lives with her ailing father and her two younger stepsisters and is engaged to Vicomte Raphael Dumont, a nobleman of dubious reputation. Of this marriage of convenience:
"She realized that to save her loved ones, she’d need to sacrifice much more than her flesh and happiness. Alas, by the time this nightmare ended, she’d be forced to sacrifice her very soul."
Isabelle's father says of her deceased mother:
"... was she a beauty like I had never seen. Indeed, her beauty stole half my wretched heart. Her spirit stole whatever remained. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her... Nothing we wouldn’t have done for each other."
Isabelle wants to experience a love like that. But it's a dream she is willing to sacrifice.
"Finding true love. It was a dream Isabelle was willing to sacrifice if it meant buying a couple of more precious years with Papa."
In a final, desperate attempt to escape from the cruel Raphael, Isabelle uses the excuse of the annual Merchants' Fair to leave town with her father.
"The Merchants’ Fair was the perfect excuse to land a carriage and the necessary funds; she would use Raphael, that cold-hearted fool, just as he meant to use her."
When Raphael violates her, she vows to get her revenge.
"She didn’t know how, and she didn’t know when; somehow, someway, she’d make Raphael pay for his unthinkable cruelty."
Feeling scarred and ruined, Isabelle is not too different to Adam.
"She’d never recover from Raphael’s assault should she live to see a thousand years. She still felt what he did to her—and not inside her poor heart where it pained her so. Where Raphael was concerned, her heart had turned to stone months ago. Non, she still felt it physically, inside the depths of her sore and bruised body. He’d ruined and scarred her, both inside and out."
Raphael gives Isabelle a carriage and money, and she escapes with her father. They stop for the night at what appears to be an abandoned castle. But its residents are a hooded man and his enormous beast of a dog, Stranger the wolfhound. When she finally catches sight of his face,
"... he resembled more of a beast than any man she’d ever seen."
Of course, this man is Adam Delacroix, who like the salamander of his family crest, has risen from the fire.
"Adam knew she saw him as a hideous monster—and he was precisely that. The countless years of solitude, of reliving the horrors of that night over and over, had eaten away at his soul, leaving an ugly shell in its wake."
That night, Adam imprisons Isabelle's father because
"... the old man had repaid his mercy with thievery."
But Adam agrees to release him the next day and let Isabelle stay in his place. Unfortunately, Isabelle's father dies during the night, and they both blame themselves.
"What have I done?"
Isabelle calls Adam a monster, but
"... those weren’t the eyes of a true monster. They held far too much emotion, too much heartache, as if they bore all the world’s sadness. Those eyes belonged to a man. Nothing more, nothing less."
As for Adam,
"He’d found his own words, his own personal mantra, long ago. Never trust. Never forget. And never forgive."
"He could never love again. Love demanded a considerable degree of trust, and after his family had been betrayed all those years ago, he’d lost his faith in others."
Will Adam ever lose his beastly nature and learn to love again?
Isabelle and Adam are similar in so many ways. His love for music and her love of books are their escape from the real world. Slowly, as their trust in each other grows, so does their love for each other.
"I suppose we aren’t so different, after all."
And the fitting climax brings everything full circle.
"Behind them, the fire steadily grew and raged, consuming the library."
The story is told from multiple points-of-view, but mainly from Isabelle's and Adam's. The author creates a great Gothic atmosphere, aided by writing in an old-fashioned, historical style. As you can tell from the many quotes I have chosen, the writing is generally excellent. However, the story is a bit slow and repetitive towards the middle, there are too many references to Adam's "sapphire" eye color and his scent of "pine and winter" (how does winter smell?), and the main lovemaking scene goes on far too long (about 30 minutes of reading). I was also a bit disconcerted by the author's repeated use of "fire" references used to describe the lovemaking. I don't know if this was deliberate or inadvertent but, to me, it felt insensitive to Adam's condition. There are few editing errors, including historical inaccuracies (in 1808 or earlier, Adam's piano tutor taught him the "greats", including Debussy who wasn't born until 1862 and Ravel, who was born in 1875). I'm not a fan of epilogues, in general. However, this one, set seven years later, is just perfect.
An original fairy tale adaptation with beautiful writing, emotional scenes, and interesting characters.
Warnings: coarse language, sex scenes, sexual assault.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"Rosemary’s cries fell quiet a heartbeat later. It was the loudest silence he’d ever heard."
"The music pulsated through her veins and lit a fire inside her soul."
"The castle was a wild beast that would swallow her whole at the slightest provocation."
"... the final note floated in the air and swirled around them, sweeter than honey from the comb."
"On nights such as these, the castle transformed into a living entity with a will of its own."
"Laughter erupted from Isabelle’s lips. The sensation felt liberating, freeing. When was the last time she’d laughed? She couldn’t recall. The revelation both thrilled and saddened her."
"The endearment sounded like liquid velvet sliding from his tongue."
"In Isabelle's mind, few things were as romantic as the feel of a book in her hands. The smooth, slightly embossed face of the cover. The scent of words and parchment that wafted toward her with each flip of the page. And the countless possibilities and adventures that lay between the covers. "
"Since I was a girl, all I’ve ever wanted were books. I used to wish I could live inside them, that I would fall asleep and wake up somewhere else as somebody else. It was my escape, my personal haven. Papa used to say that so long as I had my books, I’d always be free."
"I know these walls are filled with shadows. But that doesn’t mean you have to live in darkness."
"The soft melody of her voice reached out to him—more beautiful and tempting than any musical piece."
"He played her body like an instrument, his masterful fingers and tongue seducing her to sing for him ..."
"The earth and horizon joined in perfect union, a marriage so complete it was almost impossible to see where one ended and the other began."


About the Author
Rachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California, with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and her high school sweetheart of fourteen years. She enjoys writing poignant romances that challenge the reader's emotions and explore the redeeming power of love.
Imagining dynamic worlds and characters has been Rachel's passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mother would record them for her. She holds a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether crafting the protagonist or antagonist, she ensures every character is given a soul.
Rachel endeavors to defy conventions by blending elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness.
Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Finding Gabriel by Rachel L. Demeter.