Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna (Fairy Tale Mystery #3) by Maia Chance
Rating: Very Good
Description: From the author of Cinderella Six Feet Under, a beauty must solve a beastly murder. Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That's why she's accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle occasional investigative partner - and romantic sparring partner - the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose. But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia's last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiance at his winter hunting party - until Penrose, his lovely new fiancee, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte's sprawling chateau. Soon she can't tell the boars from the bores. When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can't trust her eyes - or her heart - since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets... (from Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: I've been wanting to read this series for awhile and actually have the first two books so I jumped at the chance to review the 3rd book. Plus, I really enjoyed a book by Maia Chance in a different series.
My Impression: Where to even start with this book? This isn't just a simple cozy with a murder or two. This is a complicated story but it's so beautifully done it didn't feel overly complicated or messy.
The atmosphere is heavy at the chateau. Not only is Ophelia trying to figure out how to get out of her engagement but she's trying to figure out who is stealing items from the guests' rooms, who murdered the vicar, is everyone really who they say they are, and deal with her past relationship with Proferssor Penrose. Along with that is a mysterious beast like creature that has been spotted in the countryside, the mysterious death of several farm animals, and the villagers vocal unhappiness and unease about Comte de Griffe's plans to cut down a portion of the forest. There's a Gothic-y atmosphere but Chance's light turn of phrase and quick on her feet main character keep it from feeling overwrought.
I loved Ophelia. She's intelligent and grounded with a good sense of humor and a strong dash of mischief. She definitely isn't a conman but she seems to have a talent for getting herself into situations that she has to extricate herself from rather carefully.
This is the 3rd book in the series but the first book I have read. Most of the relationships were formed prior to this book but it at no point got confusing. Without over explaining, Chance made it very clear who was who and how they were connected. I am excited to go back to the earlier two books and get the scoop but only because I want more from the characters not because I wasn't sure what was going on.
The mystery wraps up nicely and all the loose ends are tied up nicely without being contrived. I thoroughly enjoyed all the time I spent with Ophelia and Professor Penrose and want more! My only negative is that if you're looking for a straight retelling of Beauty and the Beast I don't think you'll find that here though there is discussion of the story and the legend of the beast itself.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Definitely! I'm very glad I already have the 1st and 2nd book in the series to dive into and I can't wait to find out what Ophelia does next!
Would I Recommend this Book?: I think any mystery lover would really enjoy this one and this author in general.