Let me just start off by saying that this was the very first Melissa Haag book that I read and I gained immense respect for her after this book. I’ve read other titles under her other name and they have not disappointed me, at all.
1. Cover ★★★★★
A beast lurking in the shadowy background, dark-haired young girl in a beautiful gown, creepy woods? Sold!! I loved the cover, something about it called out to my inner dark side and we made a pact to stick together till the end of the series.
When I first stumbled upon this book, can’t exactly remember how, (since I’m writing this review based on my second read of this book. I first read it in 2015) I think I was into fairy tale retellings. At the time I had just tossed a book into my DNF folder (A Cameron Jace retelling of Snow White?), one I tried to complete reading over a course of maybe a month. So I desperately wanted to read something that would pull me out of my reading slump.
When I came across the MJ Haag book I suddenly had the urge to check out the summary, so I did. Then I ordered a sample from Amazon because I really didn’t want to buy it then regret my purchase (somehow, even then I knew I wouldn’t regret the purchase, I don’t know how).
I guess that’s how engaging the cover was, so for that it deserves a 5-star rating.
2. Premise ★★★★★
Benella, a less fortunate, sixteen year old is being tormented by two village boys whom she desperately tries to avoid while she forages for food to help feed her family of 4. The best food however is on an enchanted estate in the dark woods which houses an unwelcoming, scary beast.
After the two village-boys lock her behind the gates of the estate she knows this is the end of her life and she has accepted that, but what she didn’t expect was a beast that would be so forgiving. There begins a “relationship” between the two where she keeps bargaining with him.
I loved the premise and I think I’m using the word love way too much already. But I loved it! It was appealing, gripping and I wanted to find out more.
I also thought of it as unique, since the beauty and best story we have grown to love did not include a pair of brothers torturing the demure Belle. I also liked the scrounging part – it felt a bit like a post-apocalyptic survival novel which I always enjoy. I enjoy reading about humans in distress and how they survive.
So I gave the premise a 5-star rating for being gripping and unique.
3. Plot ★★★★★
The plot was superb, in my humble opinion. Now, I know someone else might give this 1 star or 3 stars etc. because to them it wasn’t what they expected, or not what they wanted to read. But in my opinion, and only my opinion and based on my preference, I gave this 5 stars because I loved the plot.
Too many times the sexual encounters in an adult book take away from the plot. Or there are just too many sex scenes that the plot development gets placed on the back burner.
This was complete 180. The plot was paramount, with the sexual tension being interwoven in there with as much vigour. The plot and sexual tension was executed brilliantly as a whole.
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I really don’t….
This is a love/survival story which will have you so invested in the life of our main character that you’ll laugh, feel every emotion she goes through and root for her from Depravity to Devastation.
4. Genre Representation ★★★★★
If you’re looking for something overly erotic, you might as well move along. If you want an adult book, with mild sexual language, a gripping plot with enthralling sexual tension and anticipated romance then look no further.
I loved the mild sexual language; I also absolutely loved the anticipated romance. You know it will happen, you’re not sure when but you’re willing to wait and ride the journey with our protagonists while they get to know and tolerate each other. I think the tension and anticipation is so much better and worth it.
5. Characters ★★★★★
The character interactions were believable. Maybe I’m in love with this book so much that I am biased, because even when I hated some of the things a character did I still loved the book. Those interactions had to happen so that we could feel for our main character and thus get us (the readers) fully invested in the story.
So, we have Benella, our Belle, who is strong, opinionated, caring, hard-working and pretty darn fit, since she runs a lot and fights a lot in this book. She is a bit naïve in the art of all things sexual though, but that’s okay because she’s young and more concerned with feeding her family. However, she does know what the phallus is so Kudos to you girly!
The beast – he’s angry, forgiving (ish), self-centred, wants what he wants and must have it. His satyriasis controls him and is the main reason he’s in this mess.
The interaction between Benella and Beast is to die for. They have a sort of witty banter while they’re bargaining. Benella isn’t too afraid of Beast so she basically tells him what’s on her mind paying no attention to her attitude. Beast attributes that to her being smart and knowing how to negotiate, but it infuriates him to no end. No doubt he has ever met such a highly opinionated female. He’s probably accustomed to only hearing moans from the women with which he has had encountered in the past.
There are the sisters – Bryn and Blye. Selfish, inconsiderate, skilled in their respective art and what more can I say? They’re a great addition to the supporting characters’ cast.
While Benella scrounges for food, Bryn is the one who cooks, cleans and does laundry for the family. She has a fling with Tennen, the elder of the awful village boys who torments Benella. She believes Tennen’s family will rescue her from her poor lifestyle and whisk her away into blissful marriage. Boy! She couldn’t be more wrong, since Tennen’s family is also poor and I don’t like to gossip butttttt –Did you hear that his mom Sara was on the bakery’s counter top with that corpulent, pervy baker? Apparently he samples her goods in exchange for some coins. But you didn’t hear it from me.
So yeah, Bryn thinks she’s in love with a guy she couldn’t be more wrong about.
Blye on the other hand sews, it’s her passion and she hides whatever money she makes in the hopes that she’ll one day leave her home and happily be on her own.
The reason I said they’re both selfish is because they both hide their money and refuse to spend even when the family is going through a rough time. There was once the family had nothing to eat and they flat-out refused to admit that they had a stash of coins. I mean come on! Just spare a coin.
Their father, Bernard, works in the village as a teacher for a modest salary. It’s quite small and he gives his family every last coin that he makes, same as with Benella. He is a good father who loves his daughters and tries his best to support and provide for them. Despite their egotistical ways, she still loves Blye and Bryn and would gladly die for them.
6. Journey ★★★★★
Did I enjoy the journey this book took me on? Yes, yes, a thousand times YES. I thoroughly enjoyed the character interactions especially between Benella and the Beast. I loved reading how she grew to tolerate being around him. It actually felt like a journey, I read and understood what she thought of him on the first encounter, I was invested in the book so I also felt like I was gradually getting to know him and letting him in.
7. Ending ★★★★★
Was it predictable or unique? Well, it’s a series, so the author had to write it in such a way where a book 2 would continue where the book 1 left off.
The ending had to happen for book 2 to be possible, it just had to, but the way it happened left me thinking “Yeah, I don’t think it could have ended any other way”.
I didn’t see that situation coming from a mile away but somehow I should’ve because there was really no other way. I doubt Benella would have agreed to what the beast was proposing so he gave her an ultimatum. There was simply no other way.
I liked the situation her family was thrown into; I did – a bit of harmless coercion.
8. Writing Style ★★★★★
Her writing style was pretty simple, but in a positive way. I didn’t have to trudge through simile hell to get to the next point. It was clear, concise, very straightforward and well-edited. There was only one error which is still fine in my books.