Depravity (Beastly Tales, #1)
By M.J. Haag
While searching for retellings on Amazon, this book popped up: Depravity by M.J. Haag. I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, and this being categorized as an adult romance pulled me right in. I was able to get the ebook on Amazon for free and ended up purchasing the Audible version as well.
The story begins with Benella, a teenage girl living with her father (Bernard) and two sisters (Bryn and Blye). Her mother has passed away and the family struggles to make ends meet. Her father works as a teacher, and one sister as a seamstress, but they still have little money or food to eat. The sisters try to save as much coin as possible, even if it results in the family starving. The girls are coming of age and old enough to marry, but depsite their father’s hope’s, struggle to find suitable husbands that they approve of.
Benella forages for food along an enchanted estate, finding crops to either share with her family or trade for other goods. She eventually encounters the beast who lives at the estate. The beast is angry and has been known to capture people, but he allows Benella to go free, yet consistently asks her to stay with him at his estate. The beast perplexes Benella as she strives to care for her family, and tries to stay safe from two village boys who are relentlessly trying to beat her up.
It’s been mentioned that this is an erotic and seductive tale; however, I surely didn’t think it was very erotic at all. When the story first began there was a sexual scene, but it was vaguely described. As the book went on, it wasn’t until the last third where some other sexual scenes came about (one very uncomfortable one including a sexual encounter with a wood nymph), but most others were on the light side in my opinion. I expected romance here between Benella and the beast to eventually develop, but instead the ending was left wide open, resulting in me feeling compelled to read book two and three.
As far as the worldbuilding and character development, I found it just okay. There really wasn’t much imagery at all. Naturally, I wanted to know more about the beast, but hardly any information was given besides him being extremely angry, and of course having a tail. He’s not well understood, but maybe the characters will flesh out in book two and three. With that said, I did find it unique how the author wrote scenes in her own way, making this retelling stand out from other Beauty and the Beast retellings. I was also on the edge of my seat during a few parts.
I did enjoy the author’s writing, but wish the story was more of a romance as labeled, and that it had more detail. As a retelling as a whole, it was enjoyable, and the Audible narrator was great.
I’d rate this one 3.5 and round up to 4****. My plan is to move right along to book two to discover what’s to come of Benella and the beast.