Monday, 15 March 2010

Beauty's Curse by Traci E Hall

December 2009, Medallion Press (via Gazelle Books)
480 pages, Paperback
Review Copy

Paranormal Romance

Cushions: 3
Daggers: 2
Paperclips: 4 (but pretty infrequent)
Smiles: 5
Tissues: 3
Yunaleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥

Summary from Gazelle Books

In this reversal of the Sleeping Beauty story, gorgeous Galiana Montehue -- resisting her family's efforts at arranged marriage -- scorns all her suitors and finds true love only after she awakens an injured knight from a deep sleep. As the novel begins, Galiana has come to view her beauty as a curse, and she fears for her future. Wishing for an adventure, just one, before she is forced to settle down and marry, she takes a stroll in winter's first snowfall with her younger twin brothers and, following them into the forest, is horrified by the sight of a knight drawing a sword on one of the boys. Without thought, she throws a rock and hits the knight on the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Taken prisoner by the knight's men, Galiana finds herself locked up in a strange manor house where she is forced to care for the incredibly handsome victim of her well-aimed throw, but when the young man finally wakes from his coma, the household's happiness turns to sorrow upon hearing he is now blind. By this time, Galiana has become very fond of her knight, and he in turn is fascinated by her gentleness and her wit. Because he is unable to see Galiana's beauty, she trusts him, and by the time his eyesight returns, the young knight is ready to ask for her hand in marriage. He also reveals his true identity -- as a spy for Prince William. As he describes his life-and-death mission to find an ancient, magical stone known as the Breath of Merlin, Galiana knows her wish for meaning and adventure has come true, and she joins her prince in his fight against the forces of treachery and ancient

The style of writing drew me in to Galiana's life. She's a character I wholeheartedly love. She has confidence, but not too much. Occasionally she can overstep the line, but she lands on her feet eventually. Galiana is a rebel on the quiet. She is ladylike, but some of the airs and graces she is happy to drop when she doesn't have any of her female kin near her. She isn't skilled in everything but uses common sense to figure things out. It's a bonus that she appears confident and knowledgeable by using this logic.

She isn't afraid to tell the strange knights (apart from one who she knows) who are holding her captive in her own house (well, her parents. In the blurb it says she gets taken to a strange manor - this actually doesn't happen for quite a while in the story), exactly what she thinks of them. She stands up to Rourke, the man who she felled with a stone. I was relieved that she was able to judge pretty accurately when to make a fuss, and when to control herself.

Galiana is beautiful. In the past this has earned her many suitors, but little of that story line is shown in Beauty's Curse. Behind her beauty, which she doesn't really like, hides a great intelligence. She wants to be useful to people. Unlike her family, who do have access to small magic and intuition, she has no skills in that area. What she lacks in skill, she makes up in great enthusiasm and self-portrayed confidence. This sets in her good stead when she sets about teaching her captors a lesson or two, aided (or, perhaps more accurately, hampered) by her brothers.

Although she is in danger from the first chapter, I had a feeling that she would survive the novel in tact so I wasn't worried for her at all, apart from one time which took me by surprise.

Rourke and his men are highly likeable. Initially, I thought they were barbarians. I mean, why would Rourke threaten to kill Galiana? She only chucked a rock which nearly killed him in self-defense of her brother. What's the big deal in that? *smiles*

Rourke's point of view lets the reader understand the gravity of the whole situation which can't be displayed from Galaiana's view. He is more observant than his own men - thankfully he keeps quiet about some of Galiana's pretences. Rourke starts off by keeping secrets acting quite macho, but time and circumstance has him drop some of the brutishness. To be fair quite a bit of this is due to the way he reacts to his injury.

I thought it was good that she knew Rourke's foster brother Jamie a little bit. It meant that although Rourke and his men were unwanted, she would trust Jamie. Trust is perhaps not the best word to use, after all Jamie's allegiance lies with Rourke. But he does protect Galiana from trouble.

Trouble features a lot for Galiana - wishing for one adventure turns out to involve a lot of personal sacrifice. The sacrifice isn't unrewarded though, at least not later on. Being under siege in her own home brings out the warrior's side of Galiana. Her peril is full of humour, which is funny considering how serious the matter is. Not that she knows the full extent of how much hot danger is both outside and within her family's house.

Galiana isn't afraid to speak out when threatened. I think the reader knows the kind of lady she is when she states she can trace her family history back to Queen Boadicca. Spirited isn't just a characteristic, it is in her blood. Rourke's men acknowledge her strong personality by trying to behave with better manners. I say try because their hearts are not ingrained with the manners of gentlemen. They are knights, who do have to be chivalrous, but they spend a lot of term in the company of men and sometimes forget themselves in front of Galiana. They know they hold dominance over many people because of their knightly status, especially over women and those in their care. They abuse this so called privilwge, not always acting as politely as they could be.

I was correct in my assumption that although Galiana might not have magic at the beginning of the story, she definitely is involved with magic by the end. Just when I thought I knew was to come, magic turned everything upside down. What was already a great book became amazing.

The story follows a usual pattern as far as the developing relationshio between Galiana and Rourke is concerned. Initially at odds, they grow to like each other, then face danger before they can be together, for people wish to keep them apart. This slight predictability didn't spoil anything for me because I liked both the characters and their own companions who added a lot of humour to the story (Ned and Ed for Galiana, Jamie for Rourke.)

The mystery surrounding Rourke's missing ring and why there was a spy in the ranks is revealed slowly, as is the mystery of who he really is and what the Breath of Merlin was.

It was interesting to learn about natural remedies used in the story - it makes me heartily glad to live in an age where medicine has advanced a lot.There's a strong emphasus of handicrafts. Galiana cares about looking good for court. The way she is pictured adding details to her current clothes in an attempt to look good for court has my creative streak buzzing.

It's the little gestures of Galiana that she repeats, her obsession wih wrinkles, the balling of fists that make her a realistic character.

I nearly clapped at the end of the book. I was disappointed the story had come to an end, because it felt like the action around the Breath of Merlin wasn't over. The claps were followed with mental shrieks when I saw the next book is due out this summer!

I do have to add that I'm continually surprised by paranormal romance. The romance part can be a little strong in places, but this isn't as frequent as I thought. It is authors like Traci who are helping me change my mind about this genre.

Traci can be found on her website here (which is cool just for having a cat on the home page)

If you like this, I recommend The Soul Slayer by Paul Doherty and also Elizabeth Vaughn's series The Chronicles of the Warlands which starts with Warprize. I haven't reviewed it here, but I've read the series three times now :)


Unknown said...

Wow, this sounds great and like you really whooped at the end. Lovely review!

Nayuleska said...

:) Oh yes. I love Traci's work!

Live, Love, Laugh, Write! said...

This looks like a great book! I requested it from my library and I can hardly wait to read it ;)

Nayuleska said...

The book before this one, and the book after, are linked in the series, but involve different characters in Galiana's family.