3.17 Smug_BeautyandthebeastWhat is it about the clever blend of magic and classic aristocracy that is so pleasing to read? The mix of enchantment, romance, and classism is a tried and true bouquet, from books like Sherwood Smith’s much beloved YA duology Crown Duel/Court Duel to movies like the newest iteration of Beauty and the Beast.

Like so many others who grew up in the nineties (particularly of the bookish variety), I adored Beauty and the Beast. Belle’s dreams—wanting so much more than a provincial life—and the cursed castle she willingly throws herself into, in order to save her father from a monster, resonates so powerfully, even today. Belle was my first true Disney love, and I cannot wait to see the live-action adaptation of the classic animated film this opening weekend.

In fact, I was so eager to experience the magic and romance of the movie that I needed to immerse myself in fiction that captured the same potent mix of fantasy and period drama. If you, like me, are hungry for more in this particular subgenre, I heartily recommend the following books while you wait in line for your seats at the cinema:

Smug_darkdaysclub The Dark Days Club and The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman – From the author of Eon and Eona comes this period fantasy, set in 1812 Britain and following an Earl’s daughter who wants nothing more than to fulfill her duty—but then realizes that her inheritance is far more than a sum of pounds per year but a duty to fight the soul-sucking demons who plague the realm. Inheriting supernatural strength, speed, and senses, Lady Helen Wrexhall is a Reclaimer, a kind of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-type role. Helen is invited to join a secret society called The Dark Days Club, sworn to protect England and the Crown from the demonic Deceiver scourge. Both books in the series are so powerful because they focus on Helen’s choices—to become a Reclaimer or to forsake her powers, to follow the rules of the Covenant or to do what she believes to be right, to help others who are victims of the Deceivers who walk among us or walk away from a war in which she never asked to be a part. This, plus the powerful writing, characterization, imaginative magic, and simmering romantic tension between Lady Helen and her possibly-soul-corrupted mentor, Lord Carlston.

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Smug_bloodrose Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves – In Eves’ version of 1847 London, aristocracy is held separate from the menial classes not only because of means but because of magical ability. Youngest daughter Anna Arden watches enviously as her older sister, Catherine, prepares for her societal debut—involving dresses, dancing, but most importantly, a chance to impress the Luminate with her magical ability. Unlike her perfect sister, Anna is Barren of magic—in fact, around Anna, many spells seem to go wrong. When she sneaks into her sister’s debut and somehow manages to unravel Catherine’s enchantments in an instant, she draws the attention of the Luminate council—and not in a good way. Now, banished from her homeland, Anna is sent to return to her family’s ancestral home in Hungary—where she discovers her ability to break spells is power in and of itself, and learns of the rebellion brewing against the harsh strictures of the Luminate. Another powerful story about choice and self-realization, Blood Rose Rebellion takes a young woman from the life she's always wanted and awakens her to harsh realities of her world. Darkly magical and romantic, this first book in a new trilogy is highly recommended.

Any other recommendations for those hungry for fantasy and romance?