by Grace DravenEntreat Me begins with a lord in a loveless marriage waiting in his castle for his wife to die after childbirth. With the anger and despair of a woman who has lost everything, she lays a heavy curse before she expires.
372 years later, castles and curses are out of vogue, in a world of flintlock technology not very dissimilar to our own 17th century, apart from the few people able to use magic. Louvaen can see magic but distrusts it, and isn't able or prepared to use it to escape her troubles. Instead she uses her sharp tongue and quick wits to deal with problems that include her father's debts to Jimenin, a rich merchant who threatens to ruin them if he doesn't get what he wants. Jimenin also wants to marry Cinnia, Louvaen's beautiful younger sister.
Cinnia has other ideas, and runs off to a castle with Gavin de Lovet, a young lord with money and dark secrets. Louvaen follows her sister, keen to protect her younger sibling's honour and to keep her safe. There they meet Ballard, Gavin's father, who is in the grip of a painful and disfiguring curse that ebbs and flows in its intensity.
This is a Beauty and the Beast tale which borrows heavily from the motifs of that story. So we have an enchanted castle lost to time, roses, enchanted mirrors, and a man made hideous in the grip of a curse. However, Grace Draven puts plenty of twists on the usual story, confounding expectations. So whilst the Beauty and the Beast imagery crops up often, it doesn't mean that the plot will unfold in a conventional way.
For one thing, there are two romances in the place of one. Cinnia and Gavin are courting, whilst Louvaen gets to know Ballard. We read the story from the points of view of Ballard and Louvaen. Louvaen is a widow, which gives her quite a bit more agency because society is far more forgiving of her than it is of the unmarried Cinnia.
The pace slows deliciously as the main characters get to know each other and circumstances push them together. This is a steamy book with parts that get quite explicit. The domestic side also comes to the fore, since the castle only has a small group of servants. Whilst some of those servants are background characters, Magda is a down to earth character who seems motherly, whilst the magic user Ambrose is entertaining as he spars verbally with Louvaen.
The pacing picks up when a family crisis hits, and ramps up further when a villain reveals himself for who they really are, initiating a race against time to break the curse in an exciting showdown. The ending has a certain sweetness, and it provides good closure as we find out the fates of all the characters. However, I was a little disappointed with how it worked out, because the way magic works in this book is a somewhat arbitrary, which made it less suspenseful and tense than it may have otherwise been. Yet, in spite of that niggle, the journey to get to that point is relatable and worthwhile.
24th January 2019
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy