"My mother sat beside Papa, an arm around his waist as if to shore him up. "Drink your tea, Roger," she urged in a soft, firm voice. "You got caught in that rain squall this morning, didn't you? The tea will warm you up." My father took a sip, obediently, like a child. "I'm sorry to be such trouble," he said. "Papa," I said, shocked. "How can you talk so? We love you. How can anything we do for you trouble us?" The mug of tea slipped from my father's fingers, then bounced off the tabletop and smashed on the floor. Hot liquid and broken crockery shot every which way. None of us moved or made a sound. Our attention was riveted on my father's face, on the tortured expression in his eyes as they stared into mine. "Belle," my father said hoarsely, and I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise at his tone. "Ma petite Belle. I wonder if you will say that when you know what I have done." (excerpt)
"Belle is convinced she has the wrong name, as she lacks her sisters' awe-inspiring beauty. So she withdraws from society, devoting her time to wood carving. Secretly, Belle longs to find the fabled Heartwood Tree. If carved by the right hands, the Heartwood will reveal the face of one's true love.
"During a fierce storm, Belle's father stumbles upon the mysterious Heartwood -- and encounters a terrifying and lonely Beast. Now Belle must carve the Heartwood to save her father, and learn to see not with the eyes of her mind, but with the eyes of her heart." (summary)
I read this book all in one sitting early this week and quite relished it. Well over half the book actually takes place well before the Beast ever enters in, but for all that, it included some of my favorite parts. I really enjoyed Dokey's spin on Belle's family: with the caring parents and the realistic relationship between the sisters -- bickering sometimes, but genuinely loving one another hard even in the toughest times.
Her descriptions are delicious, and round various little twists in the story there are unexpected quips or turns of phrase that catch you by surprise with sheer delight.
I also love how she chose to portray the Beast... Leaving his appearance definite yet shrouded in mystery, since Belle honestly can't look him in the face *SPOILERS* till the end. ;) My one caveat is that the story does wrap up rather quickly after that happens, but it's yet all so rich and refreshing and delightfully charming, that it quite makes up for it.
In the end -- fresh with the wind off the sea and spring rain on green hills and the light of stars in the water -- and a heroine who will dare anything for those she loves -- it's thoroughly enjoyable and altogether lovely!
Tell me! Have you read Belle? Or any other books by Cameron Dokey?
(Reviewed for Meredith's Beauty & The Beast Week and also my first book read and reviewed for the ARC.)