Review: Masque from #SPFBO

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masqueBeauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?

It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.
In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.
In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.
And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.
Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .
Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?

Goodreads Link: Masque (Two Monarchies Sequence #2)
Author: W. R. Gingell
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite Fairy tales, and it intrigued me to imagine it written in a Jane Austen style, since I also love her books. (Personally, I think Disney’s version borrows from Pride & Prejudice, since both characters dislike each other in the beginning.)

The fairy tale only seems to give a loose structure to the story, though, because the main focus is on a murder and conspiracy. The complex politics require a lot of dense information from the beginning so it’s slow to get into. I did realize this is the second book in a series, although it seems to have different characters from the first, so I don’t know how much it helps to know from the first book. I think it’s more likely that the author wanted to throw readers into the middle of things and let them figure things out for themselves. So while I can follow things, sometimes I have to go back to reference previous scenes to keep track of the large number of names being thrown about or puzzle through what’s going on. It’s not a light read by any stretch–and some of the details seem less than necessary, like the elaborate clothing or dances.

By the time Isabella is forced to live in the Beast Lord’s house to save her father, she already seems to growing to like him and I already had a good guess of who the murderer was (disappointingly, I was right, so there weren’t any surprises from the second half on). I thought the focus would shift to developing the relationship at that point, but it stays on chasing red herrings and arguments while the actual romance is so understated that you could almost blink and miss it.

Overall, it was an interesting premise, but lacked in execution. Both plot lines suffer from being bogged down by unnecessary side plots about Isabella’s many friends and worrying over the servants in the house. I think if more time had been spent on the main story instead of background flavor and world building, it might have done better.

Minor quibble: Trophy and Topher have very similar names but it’s crucial not to mix up these two characters.

I’m not sure I would recommend this to fairy tale or Austen fans. It falls somewhere in the middle with a lot of politics and intrigue mixed in. Maybe suited to fans of Mercedes Lackey’s fairy tale series, since it reminded me of that.

Favorite meal: chocolate cake! Isabella indulges in a lot of tasty-sounding food, but her favorites seem to be tea and chocolate, and the chocolate cake sounded very tempting. Not the book to read on an empty stomach!


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