Series: A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery (Book 3)
Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley (February 2, 2016)
BEAUTY, BEAST, AND BELLADONNA
by Maia Chance
Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax has accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.
But the Comte’s boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the Comte’s sprawling château. 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.
I enjoyed this book.It was intriguing and charming. You are instantly pulled in by the story you will want to keep reading till the end.The author takes fairy tales and add a twist with a side of murder that makes this action packed mystery one you won't be able to put down. I look forward to what Maia will have next.
Q&A with Maia Chance - Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna
1.)Describe Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna in 140 characters or less.
Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is a fun, adventurous, and romantic historical mystery set in a secret-riddled French chateau in 1867.
2.) What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness for me is spending time outside somewhere beautiful, with my husband, kids, and dog.
3.) What’s your favorite part of Ophelia’s quirky personality?
I like the way Ophelia compensates in creative and gutsy ways for her lack of a good formal education. She’s smart and resourceful and she uses her unusual skill set—farm girl, circus performer, actress—to help solve the mystery.
4.)Which living person do you most admire?
My husband, actually. He is an unusually gifted person who overcame significant disadvantages and obstacles to get where he is today. And he gives the best pep-talks!
5.)What inspired you to marry fairytales and mystery?
I was searching for something that hadn’t been done yet, and I was reading a lot of fairy tale criticism for school at the time. It sounded like a deliciously fun project, so I plunged in.
6.) Is there a type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Dialogue definitely comes more easily for me. I find action scenes more challenging—I’m paranoid that they’ll get bogged down. (So if I can, I add dialogue to my action scenes!)
7.) What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Sticking to strict schedules. I don’t like to keep people waiting, but there is something to be said for giving yourself creative or restful wiggle-room during the day.
8.) Which of the characters in this novel do you feel the most drawn to?
I became more attached to Professor Penrose in this book. He’s more vulnerable and at a loss than in the previous two books—and more deeply in love.
9.) Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Oh, my. Probably dozens. I seem to like “buzz” a lot for some reason. I’m deleting it all the time.
10.) Can you describe for us your process for naming characters?
For historical American characters I use census records. I collect names from cemeteries whenever I visit one, and I often borrow names from literature. Since my books have lots of characters, I try to give them all distinctive names that hint at their personalities, to help the reader keep everyone sorted in their mind.
11.) Who are your favorite writers?
Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, Edith Wharton and Theodor Adorno.
12.) Who is your most loved hero of fiction?
13.) Which talent would you most like to have?
It would be ecstasy to be a really, really great opera singer.
14.) You're hosting a dinner party, which five authors (dead or alive) would you invite?
P. G. Wodehouse would probably be the life of any party. Also, Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There would be lots of drinking at this party. Maybe some arguments. No strip poker though.
15.) Do you have a favorite time period in literature?
Not really. Because of my English degrees I have read very widely, and I have favorites from every era. And every era has its stultifying boring authors, too.
16.) What is your motto?
17.) What is the best reaction over a book that you’ve ever gotten from a fan?
Fans who say my book gave them pure pleasure—that’s happened a few times—make me so happy. It’s my aim to give people something to read that’s a pleasurable and absorbing diversion from Real Life. Real Life is hard.
18.) Where would you most like to live?
A place with lots of trees where I could do all my daily activities and errands on foot. I’m working on it.
19.) Which historical figure do you most identify with?
No one specific, but I often think of the female writers over the centuries who kept at their stories even when they had screaming kids and the dinner to cook and a really messy house piling up around them. They did it, and so can I.
20. )What are you working on next?
I just completed a humorous contemporary mystery that does not yet have a publisher, and I’m working on a historical fantasy adventure with a co-author. After that, the next thing will be book #3 of the Discreet Retrieval Agency series.
BEAUTY, BEAST and BELLADONNA
Beware of allowing yourself to be prejudiced by appearances. –Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, “Beauty and the Beast” (1756)
The day had arrived. Miss Ophelia Flax’s last day in Paris, her last day in Artemis Stunt’s gilt-edged apartment choked with woody perfumes and cigarette haze. Ophelia had chosen December 12th, 1867, at eleven o’clock in the morning as the precise time she would make a clean breast of it. And now it was half past ten.
Ophelia swept aside brocade curtains and shoved a window open. Rain spattered her face. She leaned out and squinted up the street. Boulevard Saint-Michel was a valley of stone buildings with iron balconies and steep slate roofs. Beyond carriages and bobbling umbrellas, a horse-drawn omnibus splashed closer.
“Time to go,” she said, and latched the window shut. She turned. “Good-bye, Henrietta. You will write to me—telegraph me, even—if Prue changes her mind about the convent?”
“Of course, darling.” Henrietta Bright sat at the vanity table, still in her frothy dressing gown. “But where shall I send a letter?” She shrugged a half-bare shoulder in the looking glass. Reassuring herself, no doubt, that at forty-odd years of age she was still just as dazzling as the New York theater critics used to say.
“I’ll let the clerk at Howard DeLuxe’s Varieties know my forwarding address,” Ophelia said. “Once I have one.” She pulled on cheap gloves with twice-darned fingertips.
“What will you do in New England?” Henrietta asked. “Besides getting buried under snowdrifts and puritans? I’ve been to Boston. The entire city is like a mortuary. No drinking on Sundays, either.” She sipped her glass of poison-green cordial. “Although, all that knuckle-rapping does make the gentlemen more generous with actresses like us when they get the chance.”
“Actresses like us?” Ophelia went to her carpetbag, packed and ready on the opulent bed that might’ve suited the Princess on the Pea. Ladies born and raised on New Hampshire farmsteads did not sleep in such beds. Not without prickles of guilt, at least. “I’m no longer an actress, Henrietta. Neither are you.” And they were never the same kind of actress. Or so Ophelia fervently wished to believe.
“No? Then what precisely do you call tricking the Count Griffe into believing you are a wealthy soap heiress from Cleveland, Ohio? Sunday school lessons?”
“I had to do it.” Ophelia dug in her carpetbag and pulled out a bonnet with crusty patches of glue where ribbon flowers once had been. She clamped it on her head. “I’m calling upon the Count Griffe at eleven o’clock, on my way to the steamship ticket office. I told you. He scarpered to England so soon after his proposal, I never had a chance to confess. He’s in Paris only today before he goes to his country château, so today is my last chance to tell him everything.”
“It’s horribly selfish of you not to wait two more weeks, Ophelia—two measly weeks.” Not this old song and dance again. “Wait two more weeks so that you might accompany me to the hunting party at Griffe’s château? Stand around and twiddle my thumbs for two whole weeks while you hornswoggle some poor old gent into marrying you? Money and love don’t mix, you know.”
“What? They mix beautifully. And not hornswoggle, darling. Seduce. And Mr. Larsen isn’t a poor gentleman. He’s as rich as Midas. Artemis confirmed as much.” “You know what I meant. Helpless.” “Mr. Larsen is a widower, yes.” Henrietta smiled. “Deliciously helpless.” “I must go now, Henrietta. Best of luck to you.” “I’m certain Artemis would loan you her carriage—oh, wait. Principled Miss Ophelia Flax must forge her own path. Miss Ophelia Flax never accepts hand-outs or—”
“Artemis has been ever so kind, allowing me to stay here the last three weeks, and I couldn’t impose any more.” Artemis Stunt was Henrietta’s friend, a wealthy lady authoress. “I’ll miss my omnibus.” Ophelia pawed through the carpetbag, past her battered theatrical case and a patched petticoat, and drew out a small box. The box, shiny black with painted roses, had been a twenty-sixth birthday gift from Henrietta last week. It was richer than the rest of Ophelia’s possessions by miles, but it served a purpose: a place to hide her little nest egg.
The omnibus fare, she well knew from her month in Paris, was thirty centimes. She opened the box. Her lungs emptied like a bellows. A slip of paper curled around the ruby ring Griffe had given her. But her money—all of her hard-won money she’d scraped together working as a lady’s maid in Germany a few months back—was gone. Gone. She swung toward Henrietta. “Where did you hide it?” “Hide what?” “My money!” “Scowling like that will only give you wrinkles.”
MAIA CHANCE writes historical mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. She is the author of the Fairy Tale Fatal series, The Discreet Retrieval Agency series and the Prohibition-era caper, Come Hell or Highball. Her first mystery, Snow White Red-Handed, was a national bestseller. Maia lives in Seattle, where she shakes a killer martini, grows a mean radish, and bakes mocha bundts to die for. She is a Ph.D. candidate for English at the University of Washington.