Saturday, July 3, 2021

Nancy Campbell Allen - Beauty and the Clockwork Beast

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?

Comment: Another book that ended up in the TBR pile for who knows what reason. I assume because of the Beauty and the Beast inspiration but maybe it was due to something else. Nevertheless, it was a story I ended up liking so my reason to add it actually paid off.

In this book we find a steampunk world during Victorian times, with our characters living a pretty much similar life to that on the 19th century but with several add-ons in the figures of vampires and shape shifters and mechanical entities. This story begins with out heroine Lucy coming to stay at Blackwell Manor to be with her cousin Kate, who recently married the younger brother of the lord of the house. Kate hasn't been well and Lucy is determined to know why, especially since Kate's ailment seems to be physical and, as a botanist/scientist, Lucy believes she can help. Miles, the lord of the manor, has had issues in the past, has a scar in his face and courtesy of a family inheritance, a problem every month he can't share with others. When Lucy arrives, he is attracted to her but fears she won't bear to look at him. Besides, there seems to be some ghost haunting the house and his brother's wife is ill. Could it be that something weird is going on? Could Lucy and Miles join efforts to discover what is happening?

In the first chapters, I was reading and thinking that this was OK but a little boring. I was trying to decide if I wanted to keep going when something interesting happened and I thought I had to know what would happen next and when I noticed, I was already half way through it, so this ended up being good evidence that sometimes a book might not grab us right away but perhaps there are good things coming still!

I think what was making me not very impressed was how this seemed to be such a predictable story at first and the paranormal elements didn't seem to matter much but when the ghost made an appearance, things changed and Lucy and Miles started to interact more, which made the experiences/situations they shared more interesting too, because by having to interact, we could learn more about the two of them and although this is a "proper romance" in the sense there is no lust or sex scenes, I think it was clear they would be a good match and I wanted to see it happen.

However, despite that, I'd say the biggest appeal in this book turned out to be the mystery of what was happening to Kate, why was she so ill since she arrived at the house and then, why was there a ghost trying to give a message to Lucy, who never reveled any kind of connection with ghosts before. I was intrigued by where the author was taking this plot and I believe she did a good job balancing the two things: the mystery and investigations with the slow developing romance between Lucy and Miles which, at first, seems to be quite bland but turned out to be better than what I anticipated.

The romance is definitely slow and focused on the things they discover about one another, how caring and compassionate they are. It was sweet to see how they started to appreciate the other person for the little things they did to help someone else or by how they treated one another when others might have different opinions... I especially liked the scene where confident Lucy defended Miles while others were staring at him because of his scar. It was very good to see, on one hand, how their feelings seemed to be based on mutual respect and not just lust as often happens.

The mystery, at some point closer to the end, is no longer so intriguing, I must confess. Some things get known and the villain gets uncovered in a somewhat predictable way for me. It was a bit frustrating to see how the villain became a villain, although the personality for it was always there, it seems. Another detail that didn't feel as well done, or at least it wasn't the focus so several elements felt like they were under developed or were made to feel pointless, was the paranormal content. Some things felt they were interesting and important, others were harder to understand why they should matter...

All things considered, this was a nice surprise. I liked the mystery and the romance even if the execution wasn't always as well done or when I'd change some things for personal preference. Still, it was an entertaining read and I will read the next story too, some day.
Grade: 7/10

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