Title: Kissed by a Rose Author: SamoaPhoenix9
Source: Beauty and the Beast (Animated) Characters: Beast/Prince & Belle
Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Romance Chapter(s): 33
Status: Complete Rating: M
Synopsis: Belle comes to the castle burdened by an unspeakable secret and a deeply wounded spirit. The Beast carries betrayal in his own past. Can they still learn to love, and to trust, one another?
It’s been a long time Readers, but I’m back with more fan fics to review. I am the Fan Fic Reviewer back to review the good, the bad, and those that should not exist in the world of fan fiction.
I’m kicking off my return in response to an “imperfection challenge” which means that I’m posting this while on a 24-hour deadline with minimal editing. Pardon the dust and the grammar while I get back into the swing of things with this Beauty & the Beast review.
The live-action movie came out so I got the craving to go dig up some fan fiction. After a while I started noticing that a lot of them were looking cut and paste; it was like everyone used the same cookie cutter and just decorated with different colored frosting. Same cookie but with a slightly different coloring. It was uninspiring and a bit depressing. Where was the creativity?
Determined to find something that offered a bit more than just the basic retelling of the movie or an added scene, I decided to look up some alternate universe stories. My efforts bore fruit and this is one of the fan stories that I was able to feast upon.
Before I give you my synopsis of the story (the one above does not do it justice), I ask that you fully read my description before deciding the story is one of those cookie-cutter stories I was just complaining about above. It’s a retelling of Beauty & the Beast but this time Belle is pregnant. Raped by Gaston prior to the story, Belle struggles to decide how to hide her pregnancy until she and her father can move away, out of Gaston’s reach. Fate leads Belle to an enchanted castle where to takes her father’s place as a prisoner to the castle’s ruler, the Beast. Fueled by his royal upbringing and the examples set before him by his father, Beast assumes the worst of Belle until he learns of the circumstances behind her pregnancy and unwillingness to marry the father. It’s no longer just a tale of learning love another for who they are on the inside but also to see beyond the ugly circumstances that cloud another’s past.
Still don’t buy it, then click away. For Readers who wish to stay and hear me out, proceed.
Often I feel fan fiction that add in the pregnancy element do not incorporate the pregnancy well; most times the story doesn’t change other than a few scenes where the story reminds the Reader that the leading lady is with child. Other times, the pregnancy is just a means to stir up drama or a way to make a political statement; rarely is it treated as a matter of life. I don’t need it to be treated as something that is right or wrong, just don’t use it to unnecessarily heighten drama.
This story though, defies me and my expectations of the “retelling with pregnancy” fan fiction. In this retelling the pregnancy is as important as the budding romance between Belle and Beast. For Belle, the pregnancy provides additional motivations for her actions (taking her father’s place and being disgusted with Gaston) and adds an extra layer to her character. She’s still kind and compassionate, but she has a real sense of loneliness because she feels she has no one to turn to for help in the village. Then she has this motherly instinct to protect her child from Gaston and other perceived dangers. There is nothing lost in Belle’s character, just new elements that help reshape her.
Then on Beast’s side, the pregnancy allows him personal reflection over the type of person he is/was and the type of person he should be. Beast’s connection to Belle and her unborn child is subtle and amazing, so I will only touch on a few events. When Beast first realizes that Belle is pregnant he assumes her to be a whore but as the story progresses and he learns about the rape, the laws that would make her marry Gaston, and starts to understand her struggles. The more he understands Belle’s situation his judgement of her changes making him reevaluate himself and what he was taught.
As previously mentioned, I tend to find fan fiction where the pregnancy is more of an after-thought, just something to increase drama. Rarely do I see pregnancy as a means to explore a theme. This story explores the theme of family and the bonds make up a family unit. Nature versus nurture; is it DNA or experiences? It’s not an in-depth exploration but there are moments and situations beautifully handled that resonate with this theme. Like one moment where Belle places Beast’s paw on her stomach to feel the baby kick. Or after the baby is born, the features that Belle and (human) Beast focus on are those that are Belle’s and a few that are similar to Beast. It’s just a nice progression of these characters building a family and learning to love despite what brought them together.
Last thing about the baby. Normally when I read fan fics that involve pregnancies the story always takes place during a brief part of the pregnancy. Most times the character is just a few months along and recently found out about the pregnancy. Rarely do I find stories that actually chronicle the whole experience. This story has Belle start 3 or 4 months pregnant and ends about a month after she’s given birth. I love it! It illustrates the passage of time and showcases the changes in Belle’s character; relying on Beast and the staff for help in the later months.
I’ve waxed on about the great, expectation-defying things this story does with the pregnancy element, now it’s time to talk about the other things that I really enjoyed about the story. Next I want to talk about the characters. Let’s start with our leading lady, Belle.
I’ve always liked Belle in the Disney animated movie. She was the type of person I wanted to be; strong willed, compassionate, imaginative. Yet, I find the Belle from this story to be even better than Belle from the movie. The Belle in this story is more compromising, she is willing to negotiate and handles things diplomatically. Even when Beast puts up a fight and tells her that it’s “my way or the highway,” she doesn’t meet him with temper but with pragmatic reasoning. There are a few moments in the story that make me think of Beauty & the Beast: Enchanted Christmas when Belle tries to force Christmas on the Beast. While reading this story I kept thinking, “she should have tried to compromise with Beast in that movie.” This is a personal gripe I had about the movie version and what I think this story improved upon.
Next up, Beast. I love that Beast has a backstory beyond the movie’s opening narrative; the backstory gives Readers insight into what made Beast who he is at the beginning of the story and why the Enchantress felt that he had no love in his heart. It helped build a starting point. Throughout the story, Beast compares what he learns to what his younger self knew and how his father had acted before his death. It’s a great way to compare and contrast as Beast’s character grows and changes during the story. It’s these type of personal growth stories that I love and are so rewarding to read.
I could try to talk about Gaston but in this story Gaston hasn’t changed. The main difference between Gaston from the animated movie to Gaston in the story is that now he’s raped Belle. The guy is still the town hero, a bit on the dim side (brawn over brains), and can’t comprehend how a woman can resist him. So yeah… Like I said, I could try to talk about Gaston, but there’s not much to say. He’s just made a bit more despicable due to the rape.
Finally, LeFou. LeFou is one of those underappreciated characters who normally isn’t given much depth or time. Same holds true for this story, LeFou is still Gaston’s number one fan and loyal companion, but the extent that his actions are motivated by his hero-worship is refreshing. There’s a point where LeFou releases Belle and Maurice from a cellar not because he realizes that what he’s doing is wrong. He releases them because he can’t stand the idea of Gaston’s child being born in a dirty cellar. LeFou is no longer simply following Gaston’s orders, he acts in what he thinks best honors his friend and hero. It’s a small thing but I admire that the story takes LeFou’s feelings for Gaston and makes them his sole motivation.
The last item I want to talk about is this book that follows Belle throughout this story. “But it’s my favorite. Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise.” Remember that line and how the animated movie never came back around to that detail? Well, this story makes that book important. Belle’s favorite book in this story is Arthur and Guinevere and it becomes the means by which Belle reteaches Beast to read, builds conversations between Belle and Beast on morality and judging people, and inspires the baby’s name. Belle’s favorite book is an instrument that helps develop an understanding and romance between Belle and Beast.
Now let’s talk about the bad. Mmh… Nothing in particular stands out to me. I’m probably glossing over grammatical errors and some inconsistencies, but with everything this story does right I think I can ignore those flaws. That’s not to say it’s a flawless story (I’m sure another reader will find flaws), only that for all the fantastic parts of this story I don’t care about its flaws.
That being said, I highly recommend this story to anyone who loves reading fairy tale fiction (especially Beauty & the Beast) and to anyone who is looking for a solid, mature love story. Not like Fifty Shades mature but mature in understanding. It was a great story to read and did a great job of making this retelling into its own story. For as often as I saw parallel scenes between this story and the animated movie, this story didn’t copy those scenes but used them as guidelines and crafted them into scenes that are unique to the story. I’m glad that for my first review in a long time, I was able to find this gem.