Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment. She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.
St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone. They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be?
I can’t remember for the life of me where on social media I came across Beauty and the Recluse by Ellie Gray, but when I heard about this tour organised by Brook Cottage Books, it was already on my kindle. As is increasingly the case, the tour made me dig it out and read it, rather than allowing it to vanish into the murky depths. And I’m rather glad I did. Published by Tirgearr Publishing on 12th February, it’s available for kindle from Amazon in the UK and US, and also for Nook and Kobo, and through Apple and Smashwords.
I think it’s fair to say that the story’s not entirely original – it’s really a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast – but the author does it so very well. Kiya’s sadness after the death of her grandfather is palpable, and she wins your heart very early in the book. St. John has a reputation locally for being difficult, bad tempered and solitary – but in reality he has more than physical scars, he’s emotionally damaged too. Their first encounters are difficult – St. John is actually downright nasty, but only because he’s not willing to let anyone past the boundaries he’s built to protect himself. As you’d expect, those boundaries come down – but this isn’t a smooth-running love story. Misunderstandings abound – and the story is really well told.
It’s curiously old-fashioned – which gives it more of a fairy tale feel – but has an entirely modern setting. The first time one of the characters takes out a mobile phone, it feels slightly out of place – but that isn’t a criticism, bringing the story up to date really does work. And it’s not just a story of two people circling round each other. St. John’s lawyer and friend, Dominic, plays a major part in the misunderstandings that drive the story, and is a thoroughly likeable character: one of Kiya’s male friends works on taming the garden, and the appearance of St. John’s girlfriend makes things very difficult for everyone. And then there’s the cat – well, two cats really, one with a brief appearance only…
One other thing I really liked about the book was the setting – the mansion and its grounds are vividly described, as they’re returned from neglect and desolation to their former beauty. I’d rather like to spend time in that restored orangery – and the library sounds thoroughly lovely.
The book is really well written, with natural dialogue, tender love scenes, characters that I really liked, well handled emotion – and as a whole, it really works. Don’t be put off by the cover (sorry Tirgearr, I really didn’t like it at all!) – this book has a great deal more depth than you might expect, and a warmth in the story’s telling that brings a smile to your face. I really rather enjoyed it.
Fancy an excerpt? My pleasure…
Singing softly to herself, Kiya was halfway into the room before she realised that she was not alone. From the corner of her eye, she saw St. John O’Neill spin around in surprise and she gave a startled cry, the vase slipping through her fingers to smash on the floor by her feet. He was a very tall man, easily 6ft. 5ins, broad-shouldered and muscular. His thick black hair, although clean, was long and unkempt, and his beard did not quite hide the vivid scar that ran from high on his right cheek down to his mouth. Incredibly bright blue eyes bore into her and, despite the scar and his rough, dishevelled appearance, Kiya was breathlessly aware that he was an incredibly attractive man. He continued to stare at her, radiating an aura of menace, and Kiya gave an unconscious shiver.
‘Seen enough?’ he asked coldly.
Blushing furiously, aware that she had been staring, Kiya quickly bent to pick up the pieces of shattered vase.
‘Leave it.’ His words were clipped.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t realise what time it was. I’ll just clear…’ she babbled, nervously.
‘Dammit, I said leave it.’
Her hand jerked at his unexpected ferocity and she gave a yelp of pain as the sharp edge of the broken vase sliced her palm. She stood quickly, lifting her hand to check the severity of the cut, and felt a wave of nausea wash over her at the surprisingly profuse amount of blood pouring from the wound. She heard St. John mutter an explicit curse and looked up to see him striding quickly towards her, his expression furious.
With thanks to Brook Cottage Books and the author, I’m pleased to be able to offer the chance to win an Amazon Gift Card for £20 (or $20). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry.
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Ellie Gray lives in the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire with her partner, David, and two children, Joe and Abbie. A contemporary romance author, she is published with the lovely Tirgearr Publishing, and is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Her debut novel, Beauty and the Recluse, was published in February 2016 and her second novel, Love on the Nile, is due to be released in July. In between working full-time in public services and studying for an MSc in Public Management, Ellie is currently working on her third novel.
A few random pieces of information about Ellie:
Favourite TV shows – The Walking Dead, The X-Files, Nashville, Dr. Who, The Great British Bake-off!
Favourite Music – I’m an 80’s girl!, country, sixties, Elvis, classical (when I’m writing)
Favourite Food – Indian, tapas, crisps, cheese
Favourite Drink – black coffee – copious amounts when I’m writing, Sauvignon blanc when I’m not.
Follow Ellie on Twitter or via her Facebook author page, and do take a look at her website. You’ll also find her on Goodreads, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn.