Monday, March 7, 2016

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance

Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That’s why she’s accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.


But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte’s sprawling château. Soon she can’t tell the boars from the bores.


When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can’t trust her eyes—or her heart—since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets...


Series: A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery #3 | Publisher: Berkley | Release Date: 2/2/2016 | Genre: Cozy Historical Mystery | Source:  MLM Media| Rating: 3 Cups

Challenges Read For: Pick Your Own Genre: Historical

I’m a massive Beauty and the Beast fan so when this was offered for review there was no way that I could refuse this cozy mystery/fairy tale mash-up.
Here’s what’s going on. Ophelia is determined to break off her engagement with the Comte de Griffe and returned to America. Although when her nest egg disappears, Ophelia is forced to go along with her friend’s plan and stay with the comte. All she wants to do is breakoff the engagement, return the comte’s ruby ring, and collect the money her friend promised her so she can return home. Yet her plans get muddled with the arrival of  Professor Penrose, the man she once loved—who happens to be newly engaged—and the unexpected arrival of a group of stranded travelers—two of whom end up murdered.
Now not only does Ophelia have two murders to solve, she also needs to figure out who stole the ruby engagement ring. As though that’s not enough, there also seems to be a mysterious beast terrorizing the countryside and murdering livestock.
I came into this series a bit late (this is the third book), so the main characters and a few of the secondary characters had already been established. I kind of felt a bit disconnected because of it and I would have liked a bit of a backstory, especially about how Ophelia and Griffe met and their engagement and how pretending she was a soap heiress from Ohio came about.
There’s also a lot going on in this one. The odd relationship between Ophelia and Griffe. Griffe’s strange behavior. Professor Penrose and his hunt for information about the Beauty and the Beast legend and his obsession with an oddly shaped jawbone. Penrose’s unexpected engagement. The arrival of the stranded passengers who all have something going on. Henriette’s flirtation with one of the members of the hunting party assembled at Griffe’s house. Forthwith trying to swindle one of the comte’s guests. The mysterious villagers. Discovery of a secret cave. And to top it off, the murders and the missing items.
It was almost too much going on for a book just barely over 300 pages. And sadly, a few things I would have liked to have known more about were, more or less, glossed over. I would have liked less outside drama with Ophelia’s friends, Forthwith and Henrietta.
Of course, like all good cozies, this one also comes with a very tangled romance. As I’ve said, both Penrose and Ophelia are engaged to different people at the start of this one, but you it was plain as day that they loved each other. I’m still a bit uncertain how Penrose and Ivy became engaged. And I was more than a little annoyed with the how the romance between Penrose and Ophelia ended in this book, but I suppose it gives the readers something to wonder about for the next book.
The mystery aspect in the book, while it occasionally had a slight gothic feel, it was very light. I had the majority of it figured out from early on so,I would have liked it to have been a bit less transparent. I like work out the mystery not have it handed to me.
So, this was my first cozy mystery/fairy tale mashup and it wasn’t really what I had expected. Most of the time it felt as though two entirely different stories were happening, there was never really unity between the two. It almost felt as though the only reason the Beauty and the Beast aspect was thrown in was to bring Penrose and Ophelia together.
Overall, this one was just an okay read. I went in with high expectations—possibly too high—and I was a little let down. I had expected the fairy tale aspect to go along with the murder mystery and, sadly, it didn’t. There was too much going on to give the novel a rounded feel.

What do you look for in a cozy mystery?
Have you read a fairy tale/cozy mystery before?

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