by Julie Reece
Amazon / Goodreads
They say death can be beautiful. But after the death of her mother, seventeen-year-old Raven Weathersby gives up her dream of becoming a fashion designer, barely surviving life in the South Carolina lowlands.
To make ends meet, Raven works after school as a seamstress creating stunning works of fashion that often rival the great names of the day. Instead of making things easier on the high school senior, her stepdad's drinking leads to a run in with the highly reclusive heir to the Maddox family fortune, Gideon Maddox.
But Raven's stepdad's drying out and in no condition to attend the meeting with Maddox. So Raven volunteers to take his place and offers to repay the debt in order to keep the only father she's ever known out of jail, or worse. Gideon Maddox agrees, outlining an outrageous demand: Raven must live in his home for a year while she designs for Maddox Industries' clothing line, signing over her creative rights. Her handsome young captor is arrogant and infuriating to the nth degree, and Raven can't imagine working for him, let alone sharing the same space for more than five minutes.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Is Gideon Maddox the monster the world believes him to be? And can he stand to let the young seamstress see him as he really is?
Review:A contemporary Beauty and the Beast retelling is always welcome, and I really enjoyed this book! It's light on the retelling aspect, although there are the important elements from the fairy tale - the confinement, the beastly hero, the connection between the couple, and the power of love to redeem. The story weaves in a great backstory for the heroine - Raven or Rae, who has a talent for designing clothes, but who has a very tough home life. Raven was so much fun to read about because of her wryly sarcastic voice. I found her hilarious!
The romance in this story is very sweet -it's sweeps you up if you don't pay too much attention to why they fall in love. Although for me, I felt it was hard to understand why Gideon fell in love with Raven so quickly when she was always so antagonistic to him initially. But I didn't mind too much since I really loved the characters, and it was great to read about their growing interest in each other. And I thought it was wonderful that Gideon can help Raven just as much as she can help him. And Gideon does help Raven realize her potential. Raven has two best friends who come to visit sometimes, and I loved that there is a little romantic b-plot going with those friends - this was an all around wonderful read for the romance aspect. (And YAY no love triangle!)
The story includes an interesting spin on the magic - there is a curse of sorts and a dark, forbidding house which made the story very mysterious and creepy at times. There were some particularly nerve-wracking scenes! Both the romance and the mystery of what secrets Gideon was hiding made this book so readable - a perfect page-turner with engaging characters, swoony romance, and eerie mystery!