Page Morgan’s The Beautiful and the Cursed marks the first time I've seen a gargoyle as a romantic lead, and the fact that the heroine is almost more drawn to Luc Rousseau’s gargoyle side than to his human side gives it a nicely gothic flavor. There are some steamy scenes that are quite effective, the sense of time is interesting—a scene that focuses on one character is often followed up with one about another character during the same period of time—and...wow. I’ve run out of nice things to say.
Because despite those refreshingly unusual aspects, the book suffers from a number of problems, the most major being that:
The worldbuilding is muddy and indistinct. The details of the world’s mechanics are conveyed in a way that is either totally overwhelming—the jargon is never-ending and the repetitive explanatory passages will induce Eye Glaze—or unsatisfyingly vague, in that many questions are left unanswered*, and some elements just DON'T. MAKE. SENSE.
An example of the third complaint? The gargoyles are known as the Dispossessed: people who, during their lifetime, committed “the cold-blooded murder of a man of the cloth.” (As proved by Luc's situation, it doesn't matter whether or not the man of the cloth had it coming.) Acting on God’s orders (supposedly?), the Angelic Order turns the murderers into gargoyles, and they have to atone for their sin by protecting the humans that live in their territory.
Everything about the situation appears to be completely random—there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason in regards to how long the gargoyles have to serve time (forever, maybe?) and their labor doesn’t seem to be furthering any purpose or plan (other than punishment): The identities of their human charges are based on random circumstance, and the lifeless gargoyles that they replace predate the Dispossessed, so locale doesn't seem to be a factor either. So beyond being the premise of the story, it just all seems...pointless.
The characters. Their actions seem to be based more on what works in terms of storyline than what works in terms of consistency: Gabby, for instance, only exhibits her amazing powers of perception when the plotting necessitates. The characters themselves are two-dimensional and forgettable—if I hadn't been reading this book with the intent of writing about it, I wouldn't have stuck with them, and that's a rarity for me. Oddly enough, I did notice that they all seem to have impressive senses of smell. (That makes sense for the gargoyles, but the two heroines also do a lot of considering the complex combinations of attractive aromas that are constantly wafting off of the various handsome men of their acquaintance. And in case you're wondering, yes: There is a love triangle. Two, actually.)
Repetition and anachronistic dialogue. In addition to the repetition I've already mentioned, there's an odd quirk in the third-person narration: semi-regularly (enough to be noticeable, both not along the lines of Stephenie Meyer's usage of the word “perfect”), very similar words will appear twice in close proximity—not necessarily jargon-type words**, and not for the purposes of rhythm or emphasis—as in: Pockmarks riddled the locks of dirty gray limestone, leaving the abbey looking like a ravaged victim of the pox. There are also a plethora of descriptions of the Dispossessed shifting forms—yes, that provides lots of opportunities for the reader to linger on the perfection of their physiques, but after the fourth or fifth time, the excitement begins to pall. And finally, I'm pretty sure that upper-crust British girls in 1899 didn't say things like “quit arguing” or used the word “killed” as a synonym for “painful.”
Overall: Deeply unsatisfying.
*To be completely fair, some other questions do ultimately get answered...all in one fell swoop, in a Classic Villain Monologue.
**Though after finishing this book, I'd like to go a good long while without reading the word “coalesce” again.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while re-watching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.