An updated fairy tale in steampunk England mixes old-school gothic and new-school paranormal.
This new genre-blending offering by Allen (My Fair Gentleman, 2016, etc.) has a promising start, with heroine Lucy Pickett arriving at suitably menacing Blackwell Manor to figure out what ails her cousin Kate. The latter is newly married to the younger brother of the hero, Lord Miles Blackwell—he of the clockwork heart. During Lucy’s arrival, however, the lord of the manor is elsewhere, trying to conceal a secret that a blackmailer has already discovered. Is it proof that suspicions of Miles’ Bluebeard tendencies are valid? Are his wife’s death and his sister’s murder the fault of his beastly self? His return to the manor, along with Lucy's investigation into her cousin’s illness, escalates the ongoing mysterious happenings in the gloomy house. While the beast struggles to resist his desire for the beauty, she has to confront ghosts, automatons gone rogue, obnoxious relatives, surly staff, vampires, and Miles' faulty ticker—actual and metaphorical. This roster of problems would tax the hardiest of heroines, but when she starts to wander into darkened spaces and confront all manner of humans, machines, and creatures of the night, the most stalwart reader may develop steampunk-gothic-fairy-tale-paranormal fatigue. The urge to yell “Don’t go there!” may also be hard to resist.
There is a standard traumatic back story for the titular beast, a soap opera–worthy exhumation scene, and, finally, a dramatic unmasking of the obvious villain, but the story has already run out of steam by then.