Monday, August 1, 2016

Beauty & the Clockwork Beast

Beauty and the Clockwork Beast- Nancy Campbell Allen
Shadow Mountain Publishing
Release Date: August 2, 2016

Rating (out of 5):

Synopsis: Just like in the classic"Beauty and the Beast", this Steampunk Romance features an unlikely love story.  The Lord of Blackwell Manor, Miles, is plagued by a family curse that changes him into a shape-shifting wolf every month. Lucy-a smart, attractive, and well-respected botanist-travels to Blackwell Manor to take care of her sick cousin, Kate, who is married to Miles's younger brother. For Lucy, the trip is a welcomed respite from her work and recent discovery-a breakthrough serum that could eliminate the scourge of vampires from London. 
However, Lucy finds more than she bargained for when she arrives at the Manor. Miles, who is brash and inhospitable, does not take kindly to visitors. He is still unsettled by the mysterious death of his newlywed wife. And then there's Marie, Miles's sister, who was attacked and murdered just weeks earlier. Miles is horrified to think that he might be to blame for the deaths. And who is the ghost that haunt the halls? Lucy is convinced that the death of Miles's wife and sister-as well as her cousin's mysterious illness-are tied together, but how? With no other option, Miles and Lucy must work together if they are to find the answer to the mysteries at the Manor. But that's not all Lucy wants to solve. There's a deeper mystery behind Miles. Can she solve that, too? Ultimately, she must decide if she can love the man, beast and all

Stories based on the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" are among my favorites.  This one included not only elements of the fairy tale but then moved it to a Steampunk era England where dirigibles fly the skies, vampires are an accepted (and feared) part of life, and a political committee in London works to eradicate all predatory shape shifters.  The heroine of Clockwork, Lucy, is a successful botanist working to discover a way to fight vampires.  She takes a vacation to visit her cousin Kate, newly married and not entirely comfortable in her new home.  Reaching Blackwell Manor Lucy discovers that her normally healthy cousin is not only suffering the same mysterious illness that claimed her brother-in-law's first wife Clara, but a ghost is haunting the house.  And that's before she meets the master of the house, the surly and reclusive Lord Blackwell.

Lucy is a great heroine- strong and confident of her ability to fix any problem she encounters.  She moves easily between the world of the Ton, able to execute a successful ball for hundreds in less than 24 hours, and the world of science as a botanist who travels on secret research missions to discover antidotes to vampiric attacks.  Although she knows she is not a 'conventional' lady, she is proud of her abilities and refuses to pretend to be less than she knows she is.  Lord Blackwell, Miles, is the Beast of the story- both in personality and physically.  Curt, surly, with no regard for social conventions, Miles has served is the army in India, comes from a family of strong personalities and has a secret known only to two of his friends- and one blackmailer.  Miles has inherited the family curse and turns onto a werewolf during the full moon.  He may not know why his wife died but he's convinced that he murdered his sister while in wolf form.  Over 6 months after her death, Marie is still haunting Blackwell Manor, determined to communicate- or to revenge herself.

Clockwork is a great blend of mystery and romance, fairy tale and Steampunk.  The characters, including the murdered Marie, are three dimensional, and layered with complex motives, secrets, and desires.  The world they live in is a well written mix of Regency and Steampunk.  The reader is brought into it as if entering a familiar world with no awkward explanations of the technology to jolt us out of the story.  Part of me wished for more explanations of some things, like the telescribes or the vampires, but I enjoyed imagining some of the technology and seeing others revealed in small increments.  The unique was treated as if it was ordinary (which of course it was for the characters) and Allen remained "in character" instead of succumbing to the temptation of long explanations or histories of what the reader didn't know.  Instead, she allows them to discover the world as they go.
The mysteries of the blackmailer, Kate's illness, and the deaths of Clara and Marie were well done- nothing is kept back from us as readers, we learn what Lucy and Miles learn and can make our own guesses until the revelations at the end.   
Although it has a slightly slow beginning, Beauty and the Clockwork Beast picks up quickly and becomes a fast paced mystery, a complex romance, and an absolutely wonderful story.  Fans of Meljean Brooks, readers new to the genre or Steampunk devotees, will enjoy this and end the book begins for more.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for an honest review.

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