A solid start to a new series inspired by Beauty and the Beast
Reviewed in the United States on 15 October 2021
I enjoyed this book but thought it would knock me for six a little more. I think after all of the build up and warnings about explicit content (I'm a massive fan of this author - I've read most of her books and they're all 5 stars from me), I was expecting a little more of a punch but what I found seemed to be more gratuitous smexy scenes thrown in here and there to spice things up a little and make it seem like a more risque, erotic read. I didn't find anything shocking or treading over any sort of line at all. This isn't a comment on the author's work as I'm sure some readers will be clutching their pearls, but more on what I expected. I'm obviously reading a lot of content that jumps straight over that invisible line of what makes a darker, naughtier read because it just seemed like a couple of kinkier bits and pieces were scattered about briefly and that was as heavy as it got. There was plenty of steam that didn't push the envelope that far between the two main characters (which I was kind of expecting because my favourite books by this author have them sealing the deal in the second/latter books, rather than the first), but again, nothing I found out of place or ground-shaking. A word of warning for those that might find the random kink scenes offensive - read the flipping warning on the book rather than buying it and complaining. It's labelled as erotic fantasy so that might give you a bit of a clue. There are also a few 'c' bombs here and there, too, so if that's something that will make you tsk, tsk, you've been warned so park your disapproval elsewhere. Oh, and there's an itty, bitty cliffhanger but the next book isn't far away, so fear not.
The story is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. As you'd expect from a K. F. Breene book, there was heaps to love, including the spin she's put on a familiar tale. There's a rose garden, an enchanted woods, a scarred hero, a kind but punchy heroine who likes to read and a curse thrown over the kingdom by a demon king that is leading the inhabitants further towards unhappiness and death. The two main characters are both right up my alley. Lyfain, our beast and a dragon shifter, is growly, jealous, possessive and dominant with baggage for days. I really loved the author's shaping of his beast character to fit the narrative. Finley, his counterpart, is intelligent, 6 foot tall, a hunter with a lot of stereotypically 'male' characteristics, poor, a bit of an outcast, sarcastic at all the right moments, tough, beautiful and compassionate and uses her skills and smarts to try and find a cure for the sickness that plagues everyone in her village due to the curse (if you've read this author's work before, she'll remind you of most of her female characters but written in a way that makes her new in the different setting). As she has knowledge of plants and healing, this is woven threw the book which I really enjoyed. She's a shifter, too, but due to the curse, has never made the change and her understanding of this has a lot of gaps which I'm going to assume get filled in in future books in the series.
The secondary characters were good, from Finley's family to those in the castle. My particular favourite was Hadriel, the mediocre servant. Demons abound due to the demon king's curse and his desire to take over Lyfain's kingdom. There are violent, gross demons and smexy-time ones who are there to debauch the castle inhabitants and make them hate themselves and life in general. I'm assuming (and hoping) this is built on more in the next book as while they complemented the story arc, the sexual ones didn't really offer this book that much apart from, once again, opportunities for some readers to pearl clutch. That being said, the book certainly had a flavour of originality for me and I look forward to more world building in the next ones.
The story had a great start and finish, but I found some of the story line in the middle was Finley being hit by waves of arousal and trying to convince herself that she didn't have the hots for Lyfain. The curse was there, her work with the everlass plants was present, but there wasn't that much else standing out for me. That's not to say it wasn't entertaining - it was, otherwise I wouldn't have given it four stars, but there were some bits and pieces in this book that I wasn't expecting from this author. Again, not bad, just not always for me. There was the secret about Lyfain that most readers will figure out from the get-go (I don't think this was meant to be a deep, dark puzzle. At least, I hope not, because it was glaringly obvious), several 'c' bombs here and there (this didn't worry me as they didn't abound and where I'm from, this word is basically an adjective and/or a noun on a daily basis), solid dirty talk and a bit of repetition, particularly regarding how big and muscular Lyfain was and how Finley was 'only' a commoner.
The other thing that wasn't up my alley were some of the phrases used in the intimate scenes, not because they went too far but because I found that they sounded like they came from a cheesy paperback. I'm talking overly explicit lines that seemed literal rather than explicit and gems like wet depths, sudden wetness (so much random liquid that Finley was like a walking Niagara Falls. I ended up feeling sorry for her because she was constantly aroused and it went nowhere for her), a needy *insert 'c' bomb*, more wet kitty cat (use your imagination here) and more gushing between body parts. I'm sure you're getting the picture. It got to the point that I was more concerned about hygiene because there was no running water to help with all this body fluid lol. And the one thing that made my eyes cross was...*SPOILER*.... the hero leaving Finley in the lurch without so much as a goodbye because... wait for it... it was for her own good. This is pet peeve of mine. I hate it in books, it's been done to death and it's cliché. This is a personal preference so don't get your knickers in a knot, but I'm mentioning it because I gave the book 4 stars. I'm sure this will all blow over in the next book, but it made me stabby in this one.
Overall, while there were some elements that meant isn't wasn't quite a 5 star read for me, the book was still really enjoyable and I'll definitely be going on with the next installment. It had this author's customary humour that I enjoy, good suspense with a touch of eerie mystery due to the fantastical nature of the story and great potential for future world building. I'm not a betting woman, but if I was, I'd back the next book being even better.
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