Author: Mercedes Lackey
Publication: Luna (October 18, 2011)
Description: The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella—Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.
Anxious to avoid the Traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with "Granny," the local wisewoman.
But on the way home she's attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman! Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn't howling at the moon.
Breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he's only an occasional werewolf) and a little godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.…
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this very different take on werewolf stories. This one, as part of Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms books, also takes fairy tale tropes and twists them. Bella is a daughter of a rich merchant. She has a stepmother and two stepsisters but none of them are in the least bit evil. The stepmother is perhaps overly socially conscious and the stepsisters might be a little silly but they are all good natured and let Bella manage the household.
Problems come when Bella is on a visit to Granny to learn some magic. She has an encounter with the Gamekeeper of the local duchy and is bitten by a werewolf. The werewolf happens to be Duke Sebastian who is under a curse to be a werewolf three nights a month. After she is bitten, she is shipped off by the king to stay with Sebastian until it is determined if she will become a werewolf herself.
Bella is both angry and frightened to have her life so disrupted. But Bella isn't anyone's idea of a victim. She quickly takes charge of her life. She gets involved in practicing her magic by making ointments, liniments and various other potions in Sebastian's long neglected still room. She also is befriended by Sebastian's invisible servants and learns more about them then Sebastian knows.
Together with Godmother Elena and the Granny Bella and Sebastian try to learn who placed the curse on him and how they can break of modify it within the bounds of The Tradition. Meanwhile, Bella has to be on the lookout for The Tradition's trying to fit her into an existing story. She has to be careful that she isn't sucked into a relationship she doesn't want with Eric, the Gamekeeper, or with Sebastian. Eric is Sebastian's bastard brother who has been guarding and protecting him since he was struck with the curse.
I especially liked Bella's character. She was managing but still kind. She was also bright and loyal. She also had quite a snarky sense of humor and a sharp tongue.
This was a fun story. I recommend it to those who love non-traditional fairy tales and who want heroines who are not just sitting around waiting to be rescued by a passing prince.
The twins had caught their breath by this point, and allowed new partners to carry them off into the dance. For a moment Bella found herself without anyone to chaperone and without a partner--I bought this one. You can get your copy here.
"Alone and defenseless. Just the way I like them," purred a voice in her ear.
Reflexively she stomped her neat little heel onto a set of booted toes, thrust an elbow behind and her and nimbly leapt over the bench the twins had been sitting on. Since the current dance was a very lively Dargason, this went entirely unnoticed.
There was a muffled yelp and an equally muffled curse as reactions to her assault, but when she turned, whoever had accosted her was gone already.