Beast: A Story of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen is a retelling of a the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Lucie is sent to Château Beaumont with the hope that she will be able to get a job there to keep her away from her Step-Father. After becoming a maid for the Château she quickly finds herself enchanted with the breathtakingly beautiful Jean-Loup Christian Henri LeNoir, the ruler of the Château and the lands around it. After he rapes her Lucie is set on revenge, finding a witch in the woods who hears her plight and tells her to wait. The witch arrives at the castle and curses Jean-Loup turning him into a hideous beast, who will only be able to return to his previous form if he find someone who will marry him for who he is. Lucie is transformed into a candlestick where she watches the Beast suffer in his loneliness. However, Lucie finds that the Beast acts completely different than Jean-Loup and finds herself conflicted as to if Jean-Loup and the Beast are truly the same person. Rose arrives at the Château and Lucie soon finds herself obsessed with getting Rose to leave afraid that the Beast will turn back into his cruel original self if he succeeded in getting Rose to marry him. Does Lucie get her way or will Jean-Loup return and continue to torment her?
Beast: A Story of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen is a book that I truly wanted to like. Especially when seeing a large amount of the negative feedback about the book stemming from a rape scene early on in the book, with several people not finishing the book because of this. But it ended up being a boring read for me. I liked the changes that were done to the original fairy tale, but I was just incredibly bored. My dislike of the book mostly stemmed from this fact though there were a few other things that bothered me.
When Lucie starts trying to find a way to get Rose to leave to keep Jean-Loup from returning I spent the majority of the time wondering if she was doing this out of jealousy instead of for to good of the Beast. It just came off as her trying to keep the Beast for herself, instead of doing it because she didn’t want the Beast to turn back into his cruel formerself. There was no reason to believe that if the Beast does get Rose to marry him that he wouldn’t keep the Beast’s personality when he turned back into a human and because of this it just made it seem like Lucie was jealous and that she wanted the Beast to marry her instead.
I’ve seen some criticism of this book stem from the rape scene that occurs early in the story. I personally did not have a problem with this. I didn’t find it to be overly explicit or graphic. Lords often raped their servants during the time period this is set in as well. Lucie reacts understandably to the fact that she’s been raped. She thinks that everyone will know her shame and without her virginity intact she will never be able to marry and will remain poor and perhaps die in the gutters somewhere. As time goes on she begins to think that she is pregnant and continues to have suicidal thoughts and eventually tries to go through with it. This is a common thing to happen among rape victims and so I did not find this to be exaggerated or unreasonable.
However, as the novel progressed I began to wonder if Lucie was starting to suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. A condition where someone forms emotional ties with their captor as a survival tactic. I had a hard time separating Jean-Loup and the Beast, so when Lucie starts to fall in love with the Beast I found her to be falling in love with her rapist. Though, Belle, in Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, can also arguably have Stockholm Syndrome so I can see where this is just how Jensen wants the novel to go.
I do appreciate that Jensen puts an emphasis on the fact that Lucie’s value is is not diminished because her rape and subsequent loss of her virginity. Even to this day it is pushed upon young children that it important to save themselves for marriage or for the “right person. When the value that is placed on this aspect harms a rape victim’s self-worth adding more guilt on top of the shame that they feel from their rape. It is an important thing to tell women that their value does not become less just because they were unable to follow the societal norm because of someone else’s decision to force such a violent act upon them.
I would not consider reading this book again as I wondered why I didn’t stop reading it long before I got to the end. I was just over all bored and uninterested in the plot and characters. It’s a cute romance when taken at face value but there were things lurking beneath the surface that left me with a lot of questions by the end.