Copy received from the Penguin Group through NetGalley
After Beauty has caused her own expulsion from the Castle at the end of “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” she finds herself with the irresistible prince Tristan and other naked slaves on a cart heading towards the dreaded Village. Once on the market square, Beauty, Tristan and the others are auctioned of to the highest bidder, with Tristan being purchased by Master Nicolas, the Queen’s chronicler and Beauty by Mistress Lockley, the owner of an inn. It soon becomes clear to both of them that while they were used, ordered around and punished in the Queens castle, their treatment there was child’s play compared to what they are about to encounter in the Village. In the castle they were the playthings of the Lords and Ladies, but here they truly are slaves. And although their masters are still not allowed to do any real harm, there are no other restrictions on the ways in which they may be used.
Tristan finds himself put to work as a human pony, complete with tail and harness when he’s not being punished in a public spectacle while Beauty is handed over the handsome Captain of the Guard for his pleasure as well as that of his men.
Both slaves at first experience deep fear as well as humiliation but neither can deny the pleasure even these feelings bring them. And slowly the realisation dawns that this is the treatment they prefer. The submission they are brought to under the cruel villagers brings them deeper satisfaction then the games played in the castle ever did.
When Master Nicolas allows Tristan and Beauty to spend an unexpected night together, what should have been a heavenly experience turns into a nightmare and the start of a whole new, but not very different, experience.
It is hard to figure out what to say about this book.
A lot of people will say that they don’t mind, and even like, sexual content in their books provided it is backed-up by a good story, and in general I agree with that sentiment.
That of course does raise the question; what about books in which the sexual content is the story? What standard do you judge a book by if that is the case, as it is in Beauty’s Punishment?
This is a story about discovering the pleasures of sex as well as the truth about yourself. The characters discover that those things they are made to do and endure, which they know are humiliating, are also the experiences that bring them most pleasure. Everything they thought they knew about themselves, their needs and their feelings turns out to be wrong. As they discover what really brings them pleasure they have to overcome their old believes and values as well as truly surrender both to their own feelings and to those who bring those feelings to life inside them.
In many ways this book is as much a psychological examination of the characters needs and true feelings and their acknowledgment of those as it is a very explicit erotic fairy-tale.
And yes, this is very much a fairy-tale even if it is one that is aimed only at adults. It takes a familiar theme to extreme heights, on to a level that couldn’t be possible in the real world. And I found that because I was constantly aware that I was reading a fairy-tale I had no problem accepting what I encountered on the page. Nothing was too extreme or too unbelievable because in a fairy-tale anything is possible and everything is acceptable.
Anne Rice is a good author who has a way with words and knows how to draw her readers into her stories, and this book was no exception. I enjoyed my visit with Beauty and was fascinated by the world created around her. It won’t be long before I read the third and final part in this trilogy because I can’t wait what else Mrs. Rice has in store for her characters.