Sometimes I think I am too hard on novellas. I read a fair number of them, but most of the time, I fail to really connect. Either it's all action and the romance is back-burnered or it's all relationship and no plot. The romance is almost always rushed and I rarely feel like I know the characters. They often feel superficial, but then I ask myself, How could I expect more out of something around 100 pages? Well, novella authors of the world, thanks to Abigail Barnette, I now expect more from you.
This felt like a full and complete story. It had depth. It made me feel things. The characters were three dimensional and I believed in their emotions.
Johanna was the beautiful daughter of a noble who was supposed to marry Prince Philipe. But an uprising after their betrothal burned out her family's keep. It killed almost everyone and left her terribly scarred. After the fire, Philipe broke off their engagement without so much as seeing her again. In the 15 years that have passed, Johanna has suffered both physically and emotionally. Her heart was broken, her home reduced to rubble... and the fire truly disfigured her. Her life has been miserable.
Now Philipe's father, the king, is in the midst of a meltdown. He is convinced Philipe is trying to kill him so he has sent his men to take him down. An arrow to the shoulder has Philipe running for his life and he has no choice but to take refuge in what's left of Johanna's home. He must finally face up to his own actions all those years ago and deal with repercussions.
The story is difficult to read at times. So often, a "scarred hero" can still manage to still be attractive in some way, but Johanna is not. She is irreparably damaged both inside and out. And yet she can't quite rid herself of the love she holds for Philipe. At the same time, he finally accepts that he has never really stopped loving her. But how can she ever forgive him? There were times I wasn't sure I wanted her to. The story is called "Beast," but who are we really talking about? What Johanna has become? Or the man Philipe was to abandon her the way he did?
This is definitely not light reading. But I thought it was very well done. And I was happy with the ending.
Rating: B+*Book provided by author for review