Author: W.R. Gingell
Genre: New Adult Fantasy (Fairytale Retelling)
Beauty met the Beast, and there was . . . bloody murder?
It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.
In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.
In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.
And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.
Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .
Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?
“I think I would like to see your face,” he said thoughtfully. “Would it stretch politeness too far to ask you to remove your mask?”
“After you, my lord.”
I thought he laughed at me, but again it was hard to tell. “I don’t think I understand you, my lady.”
I looked at him steadily for a moment, my chin propped up in my palm. “Forgive me if I seem rude, but I think you understand me very well.”
He sat forward again, leaning his forearms on his knees. His bulk was so considerable that this maneuver put his face only inches from mine, and I found his eyes uncomfortably piercing. “Very well, my lady. Remove your mask, and I will remove mine.”
I was burning with curiosity that was tempered by a touch of self-satisfaction that I was about to accomplish something that even Delysia had not been able to accomplish, but I untied my mask with fingers that were steady enough.
“Well, my lord?”
“Charming,” he said softly, deliberately misunderstanding. I found myself blushing for the first time in many years. It was annoying to know that he’d intended as much. “How old are you, Lady Farrah?”
“Very nearly thirty, my lord,” I told him composedly, ignoring the rudeness of the question. “And a confirmed old maid, so you’ve no need to waste your compliments on me.”
“What brings you to the Ambassadorial Ball?”
“The proposed militia merger, my lord; and I believe you’re stalling.”
He gave me a slow, considering smile, and I wondered if the face beneath the mask was smiling also. “Is that so? Are you sure you want to see my face?”
Courtesy compelled me to say, albeit with reluctance: “Not if you’re unwilling, my lord.”
Lord Pecus sat silent for a moment as if in thought, his mask unreadable.
“Hm. I don’t believe I am,” he said at last, as if he had surprised himself. “Try not to scream, my lady.”
If he had said it with the slightest theatricality, I would have laughed and gone back to the ballroom, content not to know what his face really looked like. But he said it unemotionally, a plain warning; and I had to take myself firmly to task for the quickly accelerating beat of my heart as he removed the charms that kept his mask in place. I settled my chin a little more firmly in my palm and waited, watching the process with some interest. I had not much talent for magic, and my knowledge was almost as slight: my training had mostly to do with international policy and diplomatic processes.
At last he seemed to be done. He raised both hands to remove the mask - beautiful hands, strong and bare of rings - and it came away cleanly. For a moment I thought he had yet another mask beneath: firelight played on tawny brown hair - no, fur!- in a face that looked like the worst parts of wolf and bear mixed. I blinked once, realising in that instant that it was his face, his real face, and no mask. His mask must be magic indeed to have hidden that snout under the pretence of a plain common-or-garden human nose.
“I see,” I said into the silent warmth of the room. I dropped my hand back to the arm of the chair and let a small sigh escape. “That explains a good deal.”
Interview with Isabella Farrah (Masque, by W.R. Gingell)
Can you tell us something about yourself?
Certainly. I’m the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador; which essentially involves hosting a great many parties, assisting in the brokerage of treaties, and being terribly polite to people I don’t particularly like. I’m excessively fond of tea, and- pardon? No, we shall not mention The Hair.
Oh, very well. It’s red. No, my temper is exceptionally even. Are you satisfied?
I understand you’ve been busy with a murder investigation lately!
And very scintillating I’ve found it! Rather messy, all in all; but certainly enlivening.
When did you first become interested in investigating murder?
Oh, I’ve always been nosy! I’ve been poking my nose where it doesn’t belong for more years than I care to mention, really. Murder in particular is not exactly a hobby: I merely dabble when it becomes necessary to do so.
What special skills do you have?
None at all. I’m rather distressingly ordinary- unless, of course, you choose to consider nosiness as a special skill .
You hold a special place in New Civet’s court: you’re the Queen’s friend. What’s that like?
Delightful! Annabel (that’s Her Majesty to you!) is possibly the most dangerously genuine person I know. Fortunately for her, both the King Consort and I are as devious as can be. We’ve been through . . . rather a lot together.
What is it like living in Glause after growing up in New Civet?
Damp. Excessively, annoyingly damp. Glause does not achieve snowfall more than once every fifty years. There is a wet season, where it rains roughly forty percent of the time; and then there is the monsoon season, where it rains eighty percent of the time. It is not conducive to keeping one’s clothes tidy.
What are your plans for the future?
Classified, I’m afraid.
Not even a clue? No? Well, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me!
The pleasure was all mine! Do call in for tea next time you’re passing through Glause, won’t you?
W.R Gingell is a Tasmanian author who enjoys reading, bacon, and slouching in front of the fire to write. More titles in the Two Monarchies Sequence will be upcoming, and readers are encouraged to visit wrgingell.com or follow @WRGingell for the latest news and publication dates.
Other publications by W.R. Gingell include A Time-Traveller’s Best Friend: Volume One, and Ruth and the Ghost.
This book was so delightfully witty. The dry humor was wonderfully understated. The premise of this exciting mystery involves a heroine, Isabella, who is a bit of a thrill seeker, discovering clues that will lead to the identity of the man who killed a long time friend of hers. She is forced to keep her investigation a secret due to the fact that Lord Pecus is intent upon heading his own investigation while keeping her safe and secure in the confines of his own home.
Lord Pecus has been cursed with a beastly face, and wears nothing but a mask he has created from magic. He believes that Isabella can break the curse, but runs into one obstacle after another in order to keep her safe.
I thought both characters played off of one another beautifully, and Isabella has to be the funniest most lovable character I've come across in a long time. I'm a huge fan of strong willed, clever, resourceful females. Isabella is all of that and more. The dialogue was masterfully executed, and the pacing of the story line was perfect.
I will say that the novel is first and foremost a mystery, with romance being of a more secondary part of the story. Just a heads up for those of you assuming that romance will be the main focus of this novel, though the ending does not disappoint in the romance department.
A hilarious romantic romp with loads of mystery ensconced in a clever Beauty And The Beast retelling. Seriously, what's not to love here?
It simply must receive five cherry blossoms!