Beauty and the Clockwork Beastby Nancy Campbell Allen
Published on August 2, 2016 by Shadow Mountain
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Book Depository / Amazon / Barnes & Noble
When Lucy Pickett arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her ailing cousin, Kate, she finds more than she bargained for. A restless ghost roams the hallways, werewolves have been reported in the area, and vampires lurk across the Scottish border. Lord Miles himself is clearly hiding a secret. He is brash and inhospitable, and does not take kindly to visitors—even one as smart and attractive as Miss Pickett. He is unsettled by the mysterious deaths of his new wife, Clara, and his sister, Marie. Working together, Miles and Lucy attempt to restore peace to Blackwell Manor. But can Lucy solve the mystery of Miles? Can she love the man—beast and all?
Beauty and the Beast is truly a tale as old as time with yet another rendition of the tale in Beauty and the Clockwork Beast. A combination of advanced technology and supernatural monsters turn this steampunk London into a dangerous world for a young botanist with a cause. If a sick cousin wasn’t enough, Miss Lucy Pickett might just have a ghost and unexpected romance on her hands.
Due to some of the inspirations of the story, I expected the romance to take the forefront of the story but was happily surprised when it didn’t. Lucy is a fiery, accomplished young woman who’s made a name for herself in the sciences while also excelling at all the skills and graces a woman was expected to have in Victorian London. She is not a woman sworn off men thank goodness (can’t tell you how tired I am of that character type) and she holds her own. Her romance with Blackwell, the earl of the manor (a.k.a. Miles), is both heated and sweet in just the right balance to make it a drawing plot point without overwhelming the rest of the story or characters. He’s truly the beast: rude and generally unpleasant to be around by his own accord, though Lucy is able to draw him out and reveal the honestly good man beneath. I would say in terms of transformation, he showed the most, but I also expected that from the start.
The rest of the cast didn’t take a sideline to these two and played their parts. Kate, the sick cousin, showed her wit and humor through comments here and there and her perseverance through the tough situations at hand. Her husband and Miles’ brother, Jonathan, the ever-doting husband. And the damned cousins that had to stay for over a week — I hated them, truly. Which I think was the point. But, oh man, I was ready to smack Aunt Eustace upside the head. Horrid woman. Her kids weren’t much better.
While the characters were solid, what kept me going was the plot twists. It took a decent portion of the book before I was hooked but once Miles entered the picture, things got a lot more interesting (and not even because of the budding romance). Not only is there mystery surrounding the deaths of Blackwell’s late wife and his sister, but also the man himself. Cousin Kate has fallen ill with no cure to be found, and a ghost haunts Lucy’s shadow (as well as something much darker). All of this kept twisting back and forth until I wasn’t sure what to think. Like many readers, I formed a mental prediction of what would happen next early on. Some came true while others proved to be an unknown until the very end.
In fact, parts of this book reminded me a lot of the movie Crimson Peak, down to the horror-esque scenes, the murder, the intrigue. If you haven’t read this book but have seen the movie (or vice versa) I recommend them both as you’ll likely notice the similarities.
What Crimson Peak lacked was the extensive paranormal world that Allen has created. This is a Victorian era with vampires and werewolves, ghosts and magick of the light and dark varieties. Much of this is explored in this book alone, and from what I understand, it’s the first of a series so I’m excited to see what other parts of it are expanded on. Even the technology is far more advanced than any steampunk I’ve read so far. They have a form of communication almost like texting, the vehicles are mostly automated (some heated internally). Lights and similar power are widely available, and realistic-looking robots have replaced most servants. The combination of technology with the supernatural elements doesn’t sound like it would work, necessarily, but Allen pulled it off splendidly.
If you’re looking for something paranormal with plenty of mystery and romance thrown in for flavor, this is the next book for you. And if the rumors of it being a series are true, then even better! A thoroughly enjoyable read.