Allen, Nancy Campbell. Beauty and the Clockwork Beast. Salt Lake: Shadow Mountain, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-175-0. Print List Price: $15.99.
I was leery of the Proper Romance series when I first heard about it. While I’m definitely all for romance novels without sex on occasion, the idea that these books were being released by an imprint of LDS publisher/chain bookstore Deseret Book made me uneasy, due to my (most likely inaccurate) preconceived notions about LDS people. Not to mention I resisted picking up this one in particular, because I was writing a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling and feared that it would influence my own work. But as I finally gave in and picked it up.
And I enjoyed every second of it. This was the first steampunk novel I read, so I fully expected to be bothered by some of the weird anachronistic, yet imaginary technologies and fashions. But once I adjusted to the concept of the genre, I became more and more engrossed in the possibilities of a world where these concepts were possible.
The book is much less of a straight retelling than some of the others, although there are some aspects that you might recognize from the original story and the more popular Disney adaptations. The book is preceded by a quote from the original tale which discusses the Beast’s goodness despite his monstrous exterior, in comparison to others, “who, under a human form, hide a treacherous, corrupt, and ungrateful heart.” This quote is reflected in the narrative, with Miles not being the “beast” society believes him to be, whereas another in the story who presents a friendly facade turns out to be the real villain of the tale.
I was surprised how much I loved Miles by the end. He is standoffish at the beginning, which is very typical of the “Beast” character, but as the story unfolded, and we saw how he protected Lucy, even to the point of getting into fight with his boorish cousin who kissed her at one point, I was in love. I don’t normally like the overly protective or broody heroes, but he is written in a way that works. And Lucy’s a wonderful heroine as, well, being determined to be involved in all the action and save her cousin, even when it leads to her getting a number of injuries.