Today, we return to Mercedes Lackey’s Beauty and the Werewolf. The end of this story draws near, so in three weeks, we’ll start another story. But for now, enjoy part 8 of this new take on Beauty and the Beast.
Deep in her role as Abel the gamekeeper’s assistant to avoid falling into The Tradition’s trap of developing feelings for Eric, Bella accompanies Eric on his rounds, aping a boy so well that the gamekeeper starts treating her like one. While patrolling, Bella spots the signs of a poacher and witnesses firsthand the brutality of her companion as he beats, shaves, then stamps the thief before her eyes. Shaken, she conceals how such force upset her; though, she also understands that Eric’s way is still more merciful than the constable’s and, honestly, something must be done to deter thieving.
Reader Comments: I don’t know what this says about me, but when Eric started shaving the poacher, I immediately thought, “Hah, he’s going to use that in some sort of spell that he does in secret in his house against Sebastian.” Now, I understand that I have little to no evidence for this belief at the moment, but I suppose it will take Lackey flat out proving that Eric is not the villain for my suspicious little mind to accept it.
Writer Comments: After Eric collects the long string of rabbits the poacher had caught, Bella persuades him to take them to the church to feed the poor. When Eric responds first with disgruntlement—he doesn’t want anyone thinking he’s a benefactor—she uses logic against him: if the poor are fed, they won’t steal food; if people know about the rabbits, word will get around; if word gets around, the poacher will hear of it and will receive a second portion of grief. This paints Bella in two lights, both complementary and admirable. She is generous and compassionate, but she manages all this with a quick and cunning mind. If Bella were all the first, she might come off as weak and unrelatable. If she were all the second, she might seem impressive, but she would all suffer from the reader’s difficulty to sympathize with her. As is, she strikes a nice balance that can appeal to a wider audience.
At supper, Bella explains her peculiar behavior to Sebastian, who suggests that she might want to make herself into something for him too like a boy or merely an apprentice. He fears greatly that he will fall into The Tradition’s werewolf butchers those he cares for story. Bella demands he snap out of it, stop moping, and realize that there are other traditions of the werewolf defending those they love and that he can’t continue to seclude himself. He needs human interaction, and she convinces him to consider returning to court part of the month and having visitors at the manor. But as they climb the stairs to his workroom and her magic lessons, she feels a soft, warm tingling, the suggestion that maybe she’s really starting to care for Sebastian.
Reader Comments: Ah-ha, the romance! This is what I’ve been waiting for. I don’t prefer heroines that bully the hero as Bella does Sebastian, but I do enjoy some of their banter and am thrilling that things are starting to heat up for them.
Writer Comments: With this part of the plot, Lackey has to be careful. She’s established The Tradition, a force that compels people to act in ways that fit into story traditions. However, unless she makes a clear distinction between its influence and that of natural emotion, she runs the risk of making the romance feel contrived or forced. As such, Lackey has Bella compare the stirring of her feelings toward Sebastian with her impulses toward Eric when The Tradition was trying to compel her. For the romance to feel real and right, Lackey must inform the reader through Bella’s thoughts and senses that it does not come from The Tradition’s prompting.
Bella helps Sebastian strategize ways of bringing him into contact with more people while concealing his werewolf side three nights a month and while dispelling their fear of his sorcerer’s side, including the part about his invisible servants. After, they enjoy music together as the elementals play. When Sebastian confesses that one of the pieces was his father’s favorite and that he thought he would never hear it again, Bella impulsively touches his hand. For the duration of the music, they hold hands, and after, Sebastian asks her, since they’ve become friends and complement each other, if she would consider marrying him. Shocked, Bella fumblingly agrees, if Sebastian can secure the king’s permission and her father’s. She may not be in love with Sebastian, but he offers her a better life than she could have otherwise and maybe, just maybe, love could come in the future.
Reader Comments: The proposal was so perfectly Sebastian, nervous and a bit fumbling and absolutely endearing. I’m actually more shocked that Bella agreed so readily. Though, perhaps the funniest part was when Bella realized The Tradition was offended by her finding the absentminded magician with his glasses that keep sliding down his nose adorable.
Writer Comments: This was such a sweet scene. How often these days do the hero and heroine just hold hands and that be fulfilling and lead one to propose marriage? Lackey did a great job here of evoking that first tender, warm, wonderful feeling of the first time you held hands. The rareness of this gesture and it fitting the characters so well made this scene a subtler but pleasant one of dawning emotions.
Thank you for joining me for today’s chapters of Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey. I’ll see you next week as we race toward the climax and conclusion of this book.