This is a tortured hero story at its best. He is scarred, both inside and out, and Sidonie proves to both of him that he’s not quite the beast he thinks he is. This was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and I found it to be just wonderful.
Sidonie arrives at Castle Craven in her sister’s place, to honor a bargain made with a man with no honor. From all her sister has told her, she will be facing the devil himself. From all her sister’s husband has ranted and raved, he looks like the devil as well.
Jonas was born to privilege, and he was titled, until someone dragged his mother’s name through the gutters and proved that his Spanish mother was never wed to his father. His bastard status lost the entailment, going to his cousin, who lorded it over him at every chance he got. But Jonas got to keep the money, only the title went to his cousin. Jonas made it his mission in life to become richer than anyone. But his scarred face didn’t cover a heart of gold. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Sidonie’s sister gambles well above her means, and she owes Jonas a huge amount of money. In exchange for not telling her abusive husband (his cousin), she agrees to 7 nights in his bed-The ultimate revenge in Jonas’ book. Sidonie and Roberta realize her husband will literally kill her if he finds out, so Sidonie goes in Roberta’s place. Her virginity to excuse Roberta’s gambling debts.
The gothic feel and crumbling castle lead mirror the hero’s black heart and yet. . .is he really such a beast? Oh he plays it well, but he isn’t the devil he was painted. Oh Jonas is no saint, but he and Sidonie strike a new bargain. He plans to seduce her in those 7 days, and if he fails she leaves virtue intact.
The romance was lovely, and the writing was beautiful. But Sidonie is hiding something. Something big. Jonas asks her to stay with him, to marry him, but she says she needs time. Everything changes once she returns home and Jonas is arrested for murder. Sidonie has proof to free him, but it means the fragile trust he had in her will be broken.
The last quarter of the book is heartbreaking. I was so frustrated with the characters, but they needed to work it out in their own time. And I loved how Beauty took her future with both hands and wouldn’t let go, no matter how beastly her Beast was.
***ARC courtesy of Netgalley and Forever Romance