How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren (Tales of the Underlight #1)
Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Released: November 19, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
I’m a sucker for a beauty and the beast trope. Wesley Hauk has third degree burns over 80% of his body and is missing a leg due to an explosion when he was in the military in the middle east. He was the only person to survive that explosion, and later gets blamed for it. He deserts and ends up in a place called the Underlight, a secret organization that lives under the city of Austin in a complex tunnel system. Started 100 years ago, they are on no government records, no public utilities etc. They use no internet, no electricity, no telephones. They do create peculiar inventions to meet their needs. Their purpose for living this way is to “fight industrial control of our media, government and resources and return the power to the people.”
Jolie is a wealthy heiress who only wants to dance, much to the dismay of her parents. On her first night dancing for ‘Pussy Will-Oh,’ a burlesque show, when changing later behind a sheet, a man approaches. He happens to be our hero, but she doesn’t see him due to the sheet. Hauk is mesmerized by how beautiful she is and spontaneously pleasures her through the sheet. Later that night Jolie is kidnapped, Hauk can sense when something violent is happening, and he runs into thwart the kidnapping attempt. Because of what happened to him in the military, he kind of blacks out when he gets enraged and goes on a mass violent killing spree, saving Jolie and dragging her down into the Underlight. From here Jolie learns about his secretive world and they must find out why Jolie was kidnapped.
I had a love/frustration relationship with this book. I really loved Hauk and Jolie. Hauk is a tortured, disfigured soul who can’t control his rages and yet can be so gentle and warm at other times. He has a good heart, and I really like the start of his relationship with Joile. Jolie surprised me. She is a flirt and would say things that made me smile. She is saucy and confident and I liked that about her.
My frustration grows from the world building. It took a long time for me to grasp what the Underlight exactly is, and I still don’t feel like I understand it all. There are the people of the Underlight but then also the bad guys at The Order of Ananke, who also can use magic (more hinted at than a main element in the story). These members of Ananke, politicians and CEOs are set of destroying America. Or something like that. I feel like I need more explanation as to what is happening in this world. I’ve seen some reviews that say this is set in a alternate United States, but I didn’t feel that way. I think it is set in the future, and has magical elements, but not an alternate universe. I also don’t feel like this is steampunk, more of a contemporary suspense book, with a small paranormal aspect. All of this uncertainty adds to my frustration as I wanted a firmer grasp on this world. This book is only a novella, and it needed more pages to reveal what could be a very intriguing and different set-up.
Let me also note that this book ends with no happily ever after. Hauk and Jolie are on the path towards romance but I believe this is a trilogy and their HEA won’t come until book 3. I wish the blurb would have eluded to this more..but at the same time if there would have been a HEA at the end of a book this short, it would have been too rushed.
To summarize – Thumbs up to hero and heroine, thumbs down to the set-up of the world. I think if this had been a full length, instead of three novellas, I could have settled into the world more and understood things much better.