How Beauty Met the Beast is supposed to be a retold version of Beauty and the Beast steampunk, urban fantasy style. While I agree to the urban fantasy, I wouldn’t exactly say this is steampunk. While reading the blurb the word burlesque and the phrase “ scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see” caught my eye. Hey, I’m always up for fancy, beautiful strippers having scorching, anonymous encounters with scarred beastly men. Who isn’t?
Jolie Benoit is a burlesque dancer and grad student trying to escape from her rich family’s expectations. Her father is a very powerful media mogul and apparently one of the leaders in an organization, the Order of Ananke, who controls large parts of society. Wesley “Hauk” Haukon is a terribly scarred, damaged ex-Army Ranger who is a member of a different underground organization,the Underlight, who fights the Order of Ananke. I’m still not sure of the dynamics between these two organizations or why they are fighting each other, since this was a novella it had limited page time, but from what I can gather one is on the side of big business and the corrupt and the other is on the side of the man, who is fighting to keep their water uncontaminated, their medicines getting to the right people, the government out of their lives.. you get the picture.
Jolie and Hauk “meet” one evening after Hauk has escaped the bad guys and is hiding out in a friend’s burlesque club. While keeping to the back of the building so as not to be noticed by the patrons of the club he witnesses the incredible performance by Jolie. After Jolie leaves the stage and is changing clothes backstage she and Hauk have an accidental meeting, without ever actually seeing each other. Through the sheet that protects her from prying eyes they have a touching, tasting, teasing sexual encounter. I say sexual encounter because, there is no actual sex, and Hauk doesn’t get off, he is just grateful that Jolie let him have his first taste of a woman since he was so badly burned and disfigured. They part ways still without a face to face meeting. Immediately after Jolie is almost kidnapped, and Hauk turns into some kind of berserker who saves her. When asked for an introduction, Hauk had given her his first name, Wesley, and since Jolie has never actually seen his face she doesn’t associate the wonderful man with whom she had an encounter with the damaged man who saves her later on that night.
This was a very short read, only about 150 pages. It is supposed to be the first book in a three book series, or I should say a three novella series. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been a bit longer. The premise of the two secret societies battling each other was a good one, but a little confusing because I never really understood the history or dynamics of the two of them. I liked Jolie quite a bit. She is tough, smart, sarcastic and knew exactly who she was. Her reaction to Hauk was believable to me. His scars startle her at first, but once she gets to know him those scars don’t matter to her anymore. She starts to fall for him even before she realizes he and Wesley are the same person. Hauk is the typical Beast persona. A soldier who was badly damaged in the war and has gotten used to people shying away from him for how he looks. He is strong, loyal and honorable. He just needs someone to see past the ugliness of his wounds to the real him. Hauk was a great “beast”.
I did enjoy this book, but I must warn readers who pick it up thinking this is steampunk, it’s not. It’s not really paranormal romance either. The best I can classify it is maybe Urban Fantasy. Maybe. This kind of had the feel of a serial novel. It ends in such a way that there isn’t a HEA or even a happy for now ending. When it ended I had the feeling that I had finished a chapter in the middle of a book and apparently will have to wait until next year to get to the next chapter. And while I enjoyed the characters and the storyline, the ending got on my nerves somewhat. I will be reading the next book, How Beauty Saves the Beast, which comes out in February of next year, simply because I liked the characters and I enjoyed the author’s voice. Final grade: C+
Oblivious to her admiration, Hauk landed on the ground inside the wall and let go of the rope. As Jolie swung herself back onto it his voice rumbled beneath her. “You got a problem with me saying you’ve got a mighty fine ass yourself?”
She landed and arched an eyebrow at him. “I told you. I rock a thong. Now, me and my planless ass are going to proceed blindly toward that building, unless you care to fill me in on any more details?”
He grinned. “Nope.”
“You’re loving this power thing way too much”