I got just over halfway through Beauty and the Wolf, and then I couldn’t do it anymore. Normally I’m not a fan of paranormals (the last one I really enjoyed was Moon Awakening by Lucy Monroe and that was back in '07), but this werewolf Regency had a lot of elements I like. It’s a beauty and the beast story, and it’s got a gothic vibe. It actually wasn’t the supernatural element that drove me away from this book—I liked the werewolf plot surprisingly—it was inconsistencies in character and purple prose that made me put it down.
Lord Draven Winthrop, Earl of Dunwich, is afflicted by a Gypsy curse that turns him into a werewolf under a full moon. He will be held captive by the curse until he truly repents for his past sins (he inadvertently caused the death of a young gypsy woman), and if he tastes human blood he’ll be trapped in wolf form forever.
The night before his wedding to Isabella Farrington, Draven is bitten by a wolf, which I believe is the trigger for the curse to begin, although it’s not explicitly stated. Isabella and Draven are entering a marriage of convenience, and are more or less strangers on their wedding night. As they begin to consummate the marriage Draven starts to transform into a werewolf. He drives Isabella away (she doesn’t see the wolfiness), and she flees his estate with no intention of returning.
Two years later Isabella returns to Draven’s manor. Her father has taken ill, and they are poor; she needs to regain her place as Draven’s countess to secure their future. Draven has not sought her out, but he hasn’t divorced her either. She plans on returning to his manor, seducing him, and becoming pregnant so that he can’t put her aside.
Isabella’s father is an archaeologist who became unwell after an accident at a dig in Egypt. His greatest discovery is an amulet that is said to be cursed—the wearer will kill her true love, then end her own life. Isabella doesn’t believe in curses so she dons the amulet.
There’s a lot of Draven skulking around his castle, yelling at people, and generally frightening Isabella. He locks himself away in his suites, shirking from human contact, and prowling the countryside in wolf form under the full moon. His attraction to Isabella is enhanced to a maddening level by the fact that her blood calls to him—I guess it smells like warm apple pie or bacon or something. You can tell a paranormal romance heroine apart from her peers because her blood smells extra nummy.
Isabella is determined to get her baby and her security, but Draven pushes her away because he’s afraid of hurting her and also of passing his curse to the next generation. He’s so tormented that he’s tried suicide, but found that the curse prevents him from killing himself. As the book progresses Isabella begins to uncover secrets regarding Draven’s curse. She also sees the werewolf lurking outside on a stormy night and is terrified of the beast.
I liked the atmosphere of the book. It reminded me so much of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast—the dark, spooky manor, the beastly hero lurking in shadowy corners and suites forbidden to the heroine, servants who see the heroine as salvation for their master. What I didn’t like was the inconsistencies. Isabella doesn’t believe in curses or she wouldn’t wear her amulet, but she totally believes Draven when he tells her about the Gypsy curse that turns him into a monster every full moon. So you don’t believe in the curse that will supposedly drive you to suicide, but when your husband, who everyone thinks is crazy, says “BTW, I was cursed by Gypsies,” you’re all like “Sure. Chicken for dinner?” Either Isabella believes in the supernatural or she doesn’t; her flip-flopping didn’t make sense.
And even though Isabella’s seen his wolf form, she assumes he means monster figuratively, like it makes him PMS-y, and she never puts two and two together. Up to that point she’s had so many clues pointing to “werewolf” that I thought it was totally implausible that she wouldn’t understand what the curse truly meant. Short of a giant neon sign pointing to Draven flashing the words “werewolf,” Isabella wasn’t going to get it apparently. I mean, she’s seen the werewolf. She knows what a werewolf is courtesy of childhood stories. Her husband becomes a monster UNDER THE FULL MOON. Do the math, Isabella.
I also thought there was a lot more telling me the characters were falling in love than there was showing me. At one point Draven looks at Isabella with “tentative love” in his eyes. It’s like just telling the reader that he kind of loved her but was afraid to. Show me that though his actions and character, just don’t tell me it’s happening. I didn’t feel the transition from Isabella being terrified of Draven to falling in love with him was particularly well executed either.
…And then there were flanges. The prose during the sex scenes was too purple for me. At one point “his fingertips caressed the sensitive skin of her flanges” (Myles 68). FLANGES. That’s like saying her lady business looked like a sub roll sliced in half or a pistachio. It kind of makes sense but totally evokes the wrong feelings. Flanges are metal, cold, hard. At least the ubiquitous petals, peaches, and lips are sort of warm and yielding and kissable.
If you really like Beauty and the Beast, or if you love werewolves or regency paranormal, you might want to give Beauty and the Wolf a go. It just didn’t trip my trigger.