Thank you to Net Galley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
WARNING: This book contains a graphic rape, attempted suicide, and abortion.
I’d like to think of myself as one that doesn’t get offended. That when the story calls for it I can deal with dark subject matter that comes out of the pages from an author hoping to add a twisted element to their story. These tropes work on occasion giving the story a deeper component that makes the story irresistible. I have encountered many stories of this kind and have enjoyed most, if not all of them if memory serves me right. I accept them for what they are and try to find their balance in the story being told.
What I cannot abide by though are these dark tropes thrown in without a care for what they can do if done with no forethought. It’s sad to say that Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen is just such a culprit. It is so disappointing to me because the premise of this book was fantastic. My hopes were high that I was in for a treat, as Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite stories and I wanted my first retelling experience of the story to be fantastic. This was not to be the case.
Our main protagonist is Lucie, who we later come to understand to be a gender-bender Lumiere. She is a servant in the Château Beaumont whose master is Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, Chevalier de Beaumont, the predestined Beast. We start the story with an insta-love of sorts as Lucie seems to fall madly in love with Jean-Loup at merely the sight of him. She suffers her work to just get a glimpse of him. Though these glimpses clearly reveal him to be a snobbish, narcissistic asshole, she is certain that he is truly a wonderful man (all he needs is a manic pixie dream girl to show him the way).
One night while Lucie is roaming the castle she stumbles upon an inebriated Jean-Loup who asks to be escorted back to his chambers using her candle to light the way. From there we engage in a two page long extremely graphic rape of Lucie a la Jean-Loup. Now I want to make this very clear. This scene came so far out of left field I felt shell shocked after reading it. Those of us who know and love the original story accept the fact that the Prince is a jerk-face, but to have him become a full on rapist is almost too much to handle. There is no redemption possible from that. None! And this story, this love story hinges on the fact that the Beast/Prince can redeem himself and become worthy of love. Your love story hard stops for me right here, but I continued to the end because I am a reader and a writer and I believe I can learn from others, even their mistakes.
Some questions are born from Lucie’s attack. One namely being, what if she births Jean-Loup’s child? The only way for her to cope she decides is to throw herself into the rushing river behind the Château Beaumont estate. There is no hesitation in her decision, this is the only option in her small mind. Truly, this girl is a dizzying character. When she gets to the bank of the river she doubts for a second, long enough for an old beggar woman to appear. This of course startles her and she falls into the rapids anyway, only to be saved by said beggar woman.
Lucie is distraught that she failed in her task and will now more than likely have to birth Jean-Loup’s bastard child. The old beggar woman, who goes by Sophie, tells her she can fix that. With no more than a wave of her hand (really all was missing was a puff of glitter) she says that it’s taken care of. What the Fuck! This old woman straight up aborted a fetus to prove to Lucie that she has power. I am all pro-choice, it’s a woman’s body, and all that, but my body physically shivered at this scene.
Once the baby is no longer a threat Lucie’s attitude quickly darkens. It is now we find what Lucie would truly love to do and that is to get revenge on Jean-Loup, because of course she does, the man fucking raped her! The old beggar woman is happy to oblige and sends Lucie on her way with a promise that Jean-Loup will get his just desserts.
This is where this story starts really including OG Beauty and the Beast into the mix. Jean-Loup disregards the old beggar woman who returns as a beauty and casts the enchantment on him and his Château. However, in this story all the servants flee except for Lucie who has such a lady boner for revenge that she insists to Sophie that she wants to stay and watch Jean-Loup as the Beast suffer. In response Sophie transforms Lucie into a silver candelabra whose flames never go out.
GOOD POINT: There are going to be few of these so relish it. I was intrigued at the idea of Lucie being the candelabra. It was the sort of twisty turny story I was initially hoping for. Of course this comes much after the horrible rape scene and so any happy thoughts I potentially could have had about it were vastly overshadowed by that.
Let me be clear again. Jean-Loup, rapist, is turned into the Beast. He is the same person, just harrier. As much as the story will try, these are not two different people, there is no split personalities. They.Are.The.Same.Person! Lucie is doomed to be an immortal candelabra and we are to accept the fact that she is happy about this. To me, this is the most round about victim blaming crap I have ever witnessed. You don’t imprison the victim with their attacker just so she can savor revenge. That is such a super unhealthy message, but then again there isn’t much in this story that is healthy.
Time passes, we aren’t given a clear indication of how long, though as the story progresses I’d wager it’s only a few months if that. Lucie has been held up in a cupboard this entire time only to be found by the Beast who she notes immediately doesn’t appear to be the same. He seems to sense that there is magic in the candelabra and so takes it with him to have something to talk to. Eventually Lucie and the Beast find a way to communicate and it’s suggested that it’s by telepathy, though it’s never really truly confirmed. Through these conversations Lucie comes to the startling realization that Beast has no memory of being Jean-Loup. In fact, as she explains what happened to her he believes that she is talking about another person entirely. I told you it was going to pull this bullshit. Do not fall for it.
Due to these new circumstances Lucie feels it only right not to categorize Beast with the likes of Jean-Loup and in fact begins to view them as two separate beings. She begins to treasure her moments with Beast as he tends to his roses or writes poetry. Honestly if this book tried any harder for you to believe a rapist fuckboi could magically turn into a hipster love interest with zero character growth it would be a Tinder profile with the headline “But I’m a nice guy.”
Because here’s where this story falls flat. If the Beast has zero character growth, when “Belle” shows up what will be the point? If he forgets all that he has done, how does he learn from those mistakes? I feel like Jensen knew this deep in her soul. She knew that rape was irredeemable and therefore couldn’t go the traditional character growth route. She had to take the amnesia route, because that really is the only way for a small audience base to accept this travesty.
“Belle”, I mean Rose, does eventually show up. The fact that the author went with the name Rose is the least troubling thing about this character. She does not come off as likable – at all, though Jensen seems to think she does. She never warms to the Beast despite him being the perfect gentleman (I say this because she is completely oblivious to Jean-Loup’s past, so baring that in mind and the fact that the Beast is all great now, there is no reason for her to act the way she does). And it is heavily, I mean heavily implied that she is a gold digger. More so than ruining the character of Beast I am pissed at Jensen’s abomination of the character Belle. Where is the kind, gentle soul? The adventurous bookworm, where is she!?
After a lot of round about love triangle shenanigans Lucie comes clean to Beast about the fact that he is truly Jean-Loup and if Rose agrees to marry him he will turn back into that rapist. Not wanting that, which is possibly the only redeemable thing for his character, he decides to send Rose away. Though he tries, she demands to stay because it’s about her Father’s honor (and the fact she knows if she stays long enough she can be mistress of Château Beaumont).
Lucie then gets the great idea of making Rose’s father appear in the mirror in her room. Of course it finds him extremely sick to where Rose has no choice but to leave. Beast accepts this and also accepts that she will most likely not return. In the mean time he tries to find ways to break Lucie’s enchantment because now that Rose is gone his attention is all back on Lucie. When this doesn’t work Beast decides his only avenue is to kill himself, leaving Lucie alone in the Château. (How he thinks this will make things better for her I have no idea).
When Lucie discovers his plan she tries to stop him by summoning Rose telepathically which breaks her enchantment, because all she needed to do was open her heart. *Ugh* Rose finds the Beast in time and declares that she will marry him like that hadn’t been her grand plan all along. Beast immediately transforms back into Jean-Loup who surprise surprise has not learned jack shit and is still a rapist.
Lucie runs away to Sophie’s where she learns the truth about the curse of Château Beaumont. Beast is actually the rightful heir and Jean-Loup is the curse. It all comes down to his mother who so sickened by his beast form begged Sophie to make her son as beautiful as his father and just like his father he becomes a monster of a tyrant. We also learn that Jean-Loup’s bloodline is essentially dry and he won’t be able to produce any children due to the evil that runs in the family. Basically negating that entire abortion scene in the beginning. WTF Sophie! Lucie becomes her apprentice, but on the day of the wedding she decides that enough is enough and she is going to bring back Beast.
She essentially catches Jean-Loup about to sexually assault another servant girl and in that moment declares that she loves the Beast. I groaned so hard at this. God Damn It Lucie! You just declared your love for a fucking rapist, and not just any rapist, your rapist. This is so beyond a troubling message to put out there I don’t even know where to begin. Beast returns and Rose accepts it along with becoming Mistress of Château Beaumont. Meaning that Beast and Lucie have to run away, which they do and we get this shudder inducing epilogue talking about their great life in their cabin in the woods. The end.
I feel like I went into way more detail in this review than I have in the past, but this book is just so problematic on so many levels. It sickens me that a story I grew up with and still to this day cherish was twisted into this rape victim blaming garbage. I know that Jensen has another retelling under her belt and that one has more critical acclaim, but it’s hard to want to touch anything else of hers knowing what she did with this one.
As a reader don’t be shy to point out problems such as these and as a writer, learn from them so that they don’t happen again.
BAD POINT: I think I’ve said all I need to.
1 Out Of 5 Stars
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