Author: Nancy O’Toole
A woman on a mission…
Rose Gardner never thought she’d leave the small town of West Ridge. But when her husband dies at war, she must return his arms to his place of birth to set his spirit to rest. After traveling into enemy territory, Rose falls into a trap. Held captive in an enchanted manor, she finds herself face to face with a beast who is equally horrifying and kind. Will she manage to complete her quest or be pulled in by the secrets of the manor?
A man haunted by his past…
Trapped within his own home and in the body of a hideous beast, Kris never wanted to share his prison with another. As much as Rose may draw him in with her beauty and stubborn strength, he knows she must escape before the next full moon. After all, he remembers all too well what happened to the previous caretaker.
The dead won’t let him forget the blood on his hands.
I am a huge fan of retellings, so picking up The Rose and the Claw was an easy choice. I had some trepidation as there are many Beauty and the Beast retellings out there. This story gave me no reason to worry as, although it was short, it was a very refreshing and unique take on the tale. Similar to the source material, the two characters are brought together where they are originally nervous around the other and begin to learn more through a forced proximity setting. However, this story takes it a step further with the backgrounds of each character to create mystery and sympathy for each.
Our beauty in this story is a recent widower named Rose Gardner. She is from Verdia and is on a mission to carry her deceased husband, Martin’s, arms back to the place of his birth to guide his soul to his final resting place. To do this, her journey leads to the village of Farrow in the kingdom of Kelvia. She runs into problems when the Kelvians do not welcome her with open arms due to the on-going war between the nations. The village headman, Garrick, orchestrates Rose to become the new caretaker at Rosewood Manor where she must care for the village beast, Kris, a cursed wolf-man-beast.
Kris and Rose have amazing interactions with each other leading to a very slow burn romance developing between them. The story switches between each of their perspectives, which I loved as not only did it give insights into their feelings for the other, but also into their takes on the war between their nations. Additionally, each character is dealing with their own obstacles and it was nice to read about their inner thoughts. Kris fears for Rose’s safety, especially, when he is at his most dangerous, but also wants to keep her around. Rose has an ability to get Kris to let his guard down and the two of them slowly get to know about the other. In turn, Rose is torn between her past as a recent widower and her new feelings for Kris.
The supernatural elements surrounding Kris and the manor itself were well done and suspenseful. For being a shorter novella, I was surprised at how many twists and turns the author was able to include while still making sense with the story. The characters and world were also more complex than I expected as each were well developed. Of course, I would have loved more since the story was very interesting, but I was also okay with the length as-is. Many of the mysteries are slowly revealed, so the reader finds out some at the same time as the characters. At times, this can be frustrating, but in the mysterious context of the story, I preferred it this way.
Overall, this was a very captivating read. The ending is not fully conclusive as it is not a straight-forward happily ever after and everything is wrapped up in a bow. Instead, it is a satisfying ending and there is room left to continue the series. If the reader chose to read this as a standalone, I think it would work well on its own. If the reader chooses to continue, then it also works. This type of ending I enjoy in the series as it is not a cliffhanger that “forces” as a reader to read the next novel nor is it fully conclusive that the next novel does not tie into the first. For me, I am very excited to read about Rebecca and Zahir (two characters that the reader meets in this story) in the next novel in the Twin Kingdoms series, A Dance with Magic, which will be a retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses.
**I give a special thank you to Book Sirens and the author, Nancy O’Toole, for the opportunity to read this entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**