How did I come by this story? It’s the same as always happens. I was at work doing a boring task and wanted to listen to something entertaining. I got lucky when I took a chance on Nancy Campbell Allen’s Beauty and the Clockwork Beast. The synopsis made me think it would be similar to the paranormal romance series I read last year — Fairwick Chronicles by Juliet Dark, which is set in the present day at a small college in upstate New York. The stories aren’t similar, but I’ve enjoyed both and am glad I’ve read them.
Historical fiction; paranormal; steampunk; romance
Steampunk Proper Romance, book 1
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is a historical fiction novel inspired by the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. The story is set in Victorian England (but women, especially our narrator, exercise some independence) in a world that has certain technological advancements (such as airships and automatons) that give the story a strong steampunk quality. It is very atmospheric, has a strong gothic vibe, and features several supernatural creatures, such as werewolves, vampires, and ghosts.
The story is told from two perspectives. The first is that of our protagonist, Lucy Pickett, a botanist who is travelling to Blackwell Manor when the story begins to visit her cousin, Kate. Kate had recently married Jonathan and moved to his family estate, the Blackwell Manor, that is owned by his older brother, the Earl of Blackwell. Lucy is concerned for her cousin because Kate has been feeling weak since moving to Blackwell and claims to have seen the ghost of the earl’s late wife. Lucy visits the manor to care for her cousin but becomes involved in much more than she intended.
The other perspective is that of the Earl of Blackwell, Lord Miles, a Byronic gentleman who often broods in his library and goes off to a hunting lodge for extended stays that some consider mysterious. Though kind, he is often treated like an outcast because of his size and scarred face, but especially due to his wife and sister’s mysterious deaths that occurred within a day of each other. However, when Lucy visits, he develops a fondness for her that he’s afraid to entertain because of a secret he’s being blackmailed for. (Goodreads)
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast is described as “Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast,” and it’s easy to see the influence of these two stories in it. Like Jane Eyre, it is gothic and atmospheric what with the gloom of the setting coupled with the ghost that haunts the manor’s halls. When the ghost appears, I was reminded of the “mad woman in the attic” moment from Jane Eyre and could not decide if the ghost’s appearance was to help or hurt the character. The romance that develops resembles that of Beauty and the Beast in how Belle softens the Beast and makes him more human. The combination of these two influences made for a transportive experience that made me think I was in the English countryside being served by automatons as I listened to the story narrated to me.
As you can probably tell, I enjoyed it. The writing is descriptive and does a great job of projecting the setting, historical period, and characters to the reader. It sucks you right in. However, at times the descriptiveness and details bog down the reading experience and slows the story’s pace. But this didn’t occur too often for it to be a bother. Because I read it by audiobook, I struggled at first to remember characters and certain details because there are so much and listening to novels is still fairly new to me. But I was able to keep up and recall details as the story progresses.
I think this is the second steampunk story I’ve read. The first was the first volume of Lady Mechanika, The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse, which is a steampunk comic book set in the 1800s, in the Gilded Age, about an android, a half-human, half-mechanical woman, who’s seeking answers about her past. It’s an interesting story with great artwork. But it’s when I read Beauty and the Clockwork Beast that I realized I love this genre and need to read more of it. I like the combination of advanced technology in historical periods, and it was sweet to see the characters in this novel observe societal manners because of the time they live in. Because of this, though the story includes a romance, there is nothing more than heated glances and a passionate kiss that occurs once and at the end. But even so, the reader is aware of the characters’ feelings for each other and is convinced of the romance. I think it was well done and, for me, it was a change to see romance play out this way (when not reading a classic novel).
There is also a mystery that concerns Kate’s health, the ghost, and the death of Lord Miles’s wife and sister. It adds a sinister quality to the story and was easy to figure out, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment because I was more focused on the setting and romance. However, the mystery made Lucy appeal to me more as she tries to solve it. Lucy is smart, assertive, and plucky. I liked her and enjoyed seeing how much she gradually influenced Blackwell Manor and its earl. We also learn much about the supernatural creatures from Lucy, who as a botanist works for a society (I forgot the name of it) for which she is helping to develop a tincture to combat a drug that offsets prominent vampiric characteristics (such as enabling them to move around in daylight) that allows such creatures to easily blend into human population making them undetectable. I hope to learn more about the supernatural creatures and how they are treated in the other books. Such topics were discussed in this, but I’m curious and want more.
This was an enjoyable read and the narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, helped to make it so. I think she did a great job (or maybe I think so because I love her accent, lol).
It was fun and I highly recommend it if you want to read a steampunk romance with a supernatural twist, or a novel that is reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth the Buy if all the elements I mentioned above appeal to you.
Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy in May. To celebrate, I’ll only read fantasy books and post reviews of fantasy books, like this one! 😊 I’m also hosting a GIVEAWAY for W&W. Click here to enter.