Friday, July 15, 2016

(Save Our Cozies!) Book Review: Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance

Title: Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna (A Fair Tale Fatal Mystery #3)
Author: Maia Chance
Genres: Mystery| Amateur sleuth| Historical fiction| Fairy tale
Print length: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkeley
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2016
Source: Library
Format: Paperback
Author website: 
Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That’s why she’s accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose. 
But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte’s sprawling château. Soon she can’t tell the boars from the bores.
When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can’t trust her eyes—or her heart—since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets...Goodreads
The plot: The classic fairy tale (and best Disney movie ever), Beauty and the Beast, is re-imagined as a fun take on the traditional mystery. 

Our heroine, Ophelia Flax, a former actress/circus performer/lord-knows-what-else, seems to have landed herself in a bit of trouble by agreeing to marrying the rich, yet brutish Comte de Griffe. He believes that she is a rich American heiress, a ruse that she is quickly becoming uncomfortable with. Before she can come clean and break off the engagement, the money she set aside for passage back to America mysteriously disappears. Her scheming companion Henrietta promises to reimburse her if Ophelia keeps up the charade long enough for Henrietta to seduce a rich acquaintance of the Comte. A conman named Forthwith jumps in on this scheme. Wacky hijinks ensue.

To further complicate things, Professor Penrose, a romantic entanglement from previous books, makes an appearance at the Comte's estate with his beautiful fiancee and future father-in-law in tow. To add to this ever-growing party, a stagecoach breaks down outside the Comte's gate and several mysterious strangers join our cast of characters.

Murder(s), snooping, false imprisonment, and a history lesson behind the original story of Beauty and the Beast follow this curious event.

The character(s): Ophelia Flax is our typical, plucky young American heroine. She is a consummate survivor, but with a strong moral code that demands she make her own way in life. Her unusual background within this world makes her a much more interesting character than most cozy heroines.

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is the 3rd book in the Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series, and I must confess that I have yet to read the first two. My lack of knowledge on the series made it a little confusing in the beginning, because the pre-established relationships play a rather important role throughout the novel. However, I don't feel that it's necessary to read the previous books in order to enjoy the story.

The mystery: This book took some crazy twists and turns; most of them were interesting, others not so much. I went back and forth a few times on who the killer really was, but due to the complicated plot and surplus of characters, it was hard to really pin them down. Not sure if this is a positive point or not.

Final bite: This book was a pleasant departure from my usual culinary-inspired cozies, though the plot was a bit convoluted and the page length was a tad too long for a cozy. I'm in a weird position; I didn't care enough for the book to read the first two books in the series, but I liked it enough to read future volumes.

If you like historical mysteries and fairy tale-inspired stories, you will probably love this book.

Rating: 3.6/5

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  1. The premise sounds like it was fun, but too many characters sometimes puts me off too. I'll put this on my library list and when I'm in the mood I might just give it a try. Thanks for the review.

    1. I think my expectations were a bit too high, since I love Beauty and the Beast so much. It was a fun read, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Disney and fairy tales.