The Fatal Rose by Sarah Bryant

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SKU 978-0-3695-0635-1
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In an enchanted French chateau, Florian edges toward madness. Cursed by his jealous twin to a slow, disfiguring death, his only hope is true love’s kiss. But even if he could find a girl to love him, he could never love her back.

Meanwhile, in the Marseilles slums, Ren works tirelessly to keep his family from starvation—and to avoid the drugs, gangs, and prostitution his childhood friends have succumbed to.

When one of his late father’s ships turns up, cargo intact, it seems Ren’s family's fortunes are improving. Instead, a double-dealing agent and a stolen rose land Ren in Florian’s chateau as his prisoner.

Bitterly at odds, the boys at first seem doomed. As time passes, though, they learn that love wears many faces, words have many meanings, and even curses aren’t set in stone. But can they break the one consuming Florian before it destroys them both?

14+ due to adult situations

 

Excerpt:

Ren glared at his retreating back. The dog followed her master for a few steps and then stopped, turned her soft, questioning eyes back to Ren and waved her tail a couple of times.

Well, at least one of them isn’t an asshole, Ren thought.

When the Master realized that neither his dog nor Ren were following him, he turned around with an exasperated grunt. “You’re too old to sulk like a child.”

“And you’re old enough to say ‘please’,” Ren shot back.

The Master laughed incredulously. “You’re a demanding one!”

“Says the guy who kidnapped my mother because of a rose.”

The Master uttered something in between a sigh and a growl. Then with an exaggerated bow, he said, “Very well. Will you please do me the honor of accompanying me to the dining room, monsieur?”

He spoke with a pointed irony that made Ren want to refuse, but that really would have been sulky and childish. So he said, “You’re the Master. I can’t say no, can I?”

The Master let out an exasperated sigh, whistled to his dog, and then turned and began walking again.

This time, Ren followed, trying to keep track of the twists and turns they took to reach the dining room. By the time they arrived, he was fairly confident he could retrace his steps if need be.

The heavy door opened in front of them, and the Master strode inside without pause.

Ren, though, stopped short at the sight of the room. At lunch time the room had seemed ostentatious, but that had been nothing to the picture it currently presented. The linen runner on the table was gone, replaced by a blue brocade cloth that fell all the way to the floor. Gleaming silver candelabra full of indigo tapers sat on every possible surface, lighting the room almost as brightly as electric lamps would have. The table, as Ren had come to expect, was covered with dishes, this time surrounding a huge roast leg of something that had a cloven hoof. At one end of the table, two places had been set across from one another, with cobalt-rimmed plates, heavy silverware, and several cut-crystal goblets each.

The Master took one of the places and indicated to Ren to take the other as the dog retreated under the table.

Reluctantly, Ren sat, watching the man as he uncovered dishes. Most of them looked heavy, smothered in sauce, but then he lifted the lid on a tureen, and Ren was hit with another familiar smell. It was a bowl of mussels, cooked like they were in all of the cafés along the Marseilles docks, complete with a side dish of frites.

“Are you sure you aren’t hungry?” the Master asked Ren.

“If I had been, that would have been the end of it,” he said, nodding to the bowl of mussels.

The Master stilled for a moment, staring at him. “Is this not one of your favorite dishes?”

“Yes!” Ren snapped back. “And do you have any idea how creepy that is? Who’s making all of this stuff? And how do they know what I’m going to like, when I’ve barely been here a single day?”

The Master regarded him for a few moments, and then he picked up a carving knife and cut slices from the roast, piling them on his plate. It was only when he’d filled the rest with some of the side dishes that he answered. “The cook’s name is Cerise, and please don’t blame her for unnerving you. For so long, she’s had so little to do. She has … a kind of a gift, for discerning which foods someone will prefer. She only wants to make you happy.”

Ren dragged a hand through his hair. “Do you realize what you’re saying?”

“More or less.” The Master answered calmly, pouring himself a glass of wine from a crystal decanter and then offering it to Ren.

Ren shook his head—he had no desire to lose any kind of control in this place.

The Master shrugged and sipped from his glass. Then he cut into the meat and took a bite.

Ren could just make out his chin beneath the cowl, his jaw working as he chewed and swallowed. The skin looked oddly smooth for an older man, and very pale, but that was the most he could see.

“Food will hardly make you happy,” he said, “when you do not want to be here at all. But again, that is not Cerise’s fault. Your refusal to accept the only comfort she can offer will hurt her, and for what?”

Ren sighed and pulled the bowl of frites toward him. He picked one up and nibbled it while watching the Master eat. The man carefully kept his cowl in place all the time. At last, Ren asked, “Why do you cover your face? I mean, you live with a bunch of tree/human hybrids who seem to have known you for a long time. They must not care about whatever you’re hiding. So don’t do it for my sake—I mean, I’m not some girl you’re trying to impress.”

The Master stopped eating and regarded Ren for a long moment, his stillness that of a startled deer as it deliberated whether or not to run. “You don’t know what you’re asking,” he said at last, his voice very low.

“I know exactly what I’m asking,” Ren snapped. “If I have to stay here with you till the end of time or whatever, I might as well know what you look like.”

The man was still and silent for another long count. Then, without a word, he pulled the cowl back and let it drop around his shoulders.

Ren froze, stunned—because of all the things he’d imagined the Master might have to hide, youth and beauty had never been among them.

Product Reviews

Score: 4 out of 5 (based on 15 ratings)
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4/5
4 stars
Written by Tasmin on 21st Jun 2022

One of the best beauty and the beast retellings I've read. It didn't feel forced. The relationship between the two of them felt organic and real. It was nice to see a twist to a fairytale and it done right. The halflings were such a cool idea too. Along with the picking of the rose. It made so much more sense that picking a rose and then facing the consequences because the rose was a human once. I really enjoyed reading this.

5/5
5 stars
Written by Ellen on 21st Jun 2022

*Received as a free ARC* This was such an excellent book! Somehow, I wasn't imagining the time jump, but it made the story so much better! Florian's struggle to come to terms with his sexuality is one many people, especially teenagers, can relate to. The notes of drama and romance hit just right against the fantasy. I would highly recommend reading this as soon as possible!

4/5
4 stars
Written by Torey on 18th Jun 2022

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. I thought the descriptions of the chateau were beautiful and enjoyed the characters, though I would have liked to learn more about Florian overall. It was a great easy to understand, gripping and quick read.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Melissa on 18th Jun 2022

Alright. First, overall: I enjoyed this book quite a bit. YA isn't my thing, so there were very YA-specific things that had me rolling my eyes, but that's fine. The representation in this book was nice to see. The plot very closely followed Beauty and the Beast, so there wasn't much to anticipate besides the obvious ending--which is totally fine. All of that said, hang your disbelief up at the door because I had trouble suspending it adequately for the first couple of chapters. The prologue went from huh to wtaf in record time and a fair amount of the set up was.. hard to take as anything other than 'author said so, hence it is.' And that's fine. I get that some stories are like that. It just.. had this not been a netgalley review for me, I might not have given it a chance beyond the first chapter. Glad I did, though.

5/5
5 stars
Written by Eliana on 18th Jun 2022

This was such a cute but meaningful book. I always love Beauty and the Beast retellings, especially when they're gay. I think that they can be so powerful because they explore the depths of human character while also having romance and the development of trust. This had those things, it showed identity and how it changes after a terrible event, then how to grow afterward. This had a powerful message alongside a sweet romance.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Michelle on 18th Jun 2022

The Fatal rose is a modern day take on beauty and the beast Ren and his family are poor and live near the docks and he works hard to keep food in their table to help out his mother One day a call is received that says that a ship that he been his dads was found and there was a fortune on it and that the mother had to go to Nice to get it. Little did they know that it was a trap and the mother escapes into the woods and falls into another trap. She initiates her own curse inadvertently and the story moves on from there. If you have an issue with gay romance then you should keep moving on but this was a really good book!

4/5
4 stars
Written by Lana on 18th Jun 2022

A fatal rose gives an original twist to a fairy tale that everyone knows through and through. Although the story was a bit cliché, it did not bother me at all. It actually felt very sweet at the same time. There are plenty of new elements, such as the origin of the curse and the queerness of various characters. There is also a lot of originality in the appearances of the secondary characters. Both Florian and Ren also go through a lot of personality developments, it is nice to follow their search for themselves and love (as well as learning and daring to believe that they are indeed capable of love and are entitled to it) from close by. It takes a while before you really start to learn (in more detail) about what is going on in the castle, but once halfway through, I really found it hard to put this book down. It reads very smoothly. One thing I didn't really get though is why Ren is so bent on making up for all the things he missed because of dropping out of school (I know education is important but I don't see how it fits into the rest of the story). The reason why I keep my rating at 4 stars is because I would have liked a little more action as well, besides the emotional journey of the characters. I also didn't feel that I was getting very attached to the characters, although they didn't leave me indifferent either, absolutely not. So I can only recommend this book to people who are looking for a familiar story with a new twist, where the original Beauty and the Beast story is still very much present, and who are not looking for a sweet story.

5/5
5 stars
Written by Jeffrey on 18th Jun 2022

Beauty and the Beast have gone under a radical change in this gay version of the beloved classic. Despite some minor changes concerning the characters, everything else is there. However, the Beast has to make a boy fall in love with him. The rest is history. I loved the creative way the author developed the whole plot and also how she managed to keep the charm alive.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Chani on 18th Jun 2022

I'm a huge fan of retellings, and an MM Beauty and the Beast retelling sounded right up my alley. This book does a great job taking the original tale and morphing it into something believable for the modern-day. The changes made to the curse all made sense, and were interesting. I was also a big fan of Ren right from the start. He had a lot of personality and felt very realistic. I didn't get the same strong connection with Florian, but that might be because he had an old feel about him that most likely was done on purpose since he's been alive so long. I loved the prose, the descriptions were all well done and I could easily picture things. The dialogue after around twenty percent was stilted at times, but not bad by any means. To avoid spoilers I won't say much about plot, but I was quickly invested in them getting their HEA, especially Ren, who again, I loved from the start. All in all, a solid retelling with an enjoyable cast, a lush world, and a couple you find yourself rooting for. Definitely recommend for anyone who loves looking for all the tiny differences authors make in retellings. I would read another book by this author for sure.

5/5
5 stars
Written by Kae on 18th Jun 2022

This was such a lovely surprise. I expected this to be a decent and fast little read but I was utterly charmed by it. It's a sweet story with an endearing cast of characters and the romance is adorable. I really enjoyed this one and was kept interested throughout.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Brittney on 18th Jun 2022

It’s now a week into pride month, and how better to celebrate than a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast? When it comes to fairy tales, there are not a lot I can think of that are more rife with source material for reimaginings, than a story about a beautiful maiden who comes to love a hideous beast. My love for monster romance aside, that’s just a great premise. However, as I’ve gotten into discouvering more queer fiction I haven’t yet encountered many fairytale retellings, let alone ones that stay firmly rooted in YA. As such, I wasn’t too sure what to expect with The Fatal Rose. However, I was most assuredly, pleasantly surprised. As a story, this has all the pining I could want. The progression of the relationship between Ren and Florian, from their initial antagonism, to later friendship, and final romantic involvement was just cute to bear witness to. I’m always a sucker for a protagonist caught up in a “he loves me, he loves me not” mental loop; and this story had two of them! However, it also touches on themes of objectification, gender identity, and bodily autonomy in a way that didn’t feel heavy handed. My one little quip is that I really didn’t like the dream sequences, because they just felt like a McGuffin to move the story along. A deus ex machina, if you will. Which were absolutely not necessary and just became addedages of exposition. But, in all honesty, that is such a small thing when compared to the enjoyment I got from the rest of the novel. Overall, a really fun book to pick up if you’re looking for an easy, yet fantastical read.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Camilia on 18th Jun 2022

I really enjoyed reading about Florian he was a pretty good mc, the writing was good and easy it made the book a pretty quick read, and I think it was a very original take on the fairytale. Now the reason I gave it a 'lower' rating, is becasue I didn't particularly enjoy the romance between the mc and Ren. I thought the pacing of it and their chemistry wasn't very well done and it took ma out of the story quite a lot at times.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Karen on 10th Jun 2022

While there were a few plot points I wasn't a fan of (the dreams, Saule), overall I really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. I loved Sarah Bryant's take on the curse and was thrilled that someone FINALLY decided to explain why picking a flower is such a big freakin' deal!

5/5
5 stars
Written by Amber on 10th Jun 2022

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of The Fatal Rose by Sarah Bryant.. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ARC to review. The Fatal Rose is a retelling of the fairytale Beauty and the Beast, but it was the creative filling out the narrative which elevated The Fatal Rose to something unique. Florian and Ren were so well developed that the time flew by, and I was very invested in them attaining their happy ending. But it was not just the OTP (one true pairing) that I enjoyed. The creation of the cursed castle and its inhabitants was fascinating and helped flesh out the beautiful world-building. I give this book a solid 4.5/5 and would happily read another work by this author.

4/5
4 stars
Written by Meg on 6th Jun 2022

Gahhh this was super cute: Beauty and the Beast but make it gay! Florian is your average 18 year old... if by 'average' you mean over 350 years old and horribly, irrevocably cursed. Florian can see the light at the end of the tunnel and is chagrined to find anything, or anyone, able to stop him from reaching it: enter Ren. Sweet, down on his luck and cursed with exceptionally good looks, all Ren wants is to keep his family fed and safe (without resorting to anything illegal). So when a mysterious ship once belonging to his long-deceased father filled to the brim with riches washes ashore, Ren feels that the situation is just too good to be true. Ren and Florian could not have met under worse circumstances, but from their anger and despair maybe something beautiful can grow. And although all Florian has ever known in his life has been thorns, perhaps Ren can help him to see the beauty that is in his life, or maybe the clock will run out on their real life fairytale. I really enjoyed this read, a sweet YA fantasy about two boys from literally two different worlds coming together to save one another. A great read for fans of Beauty and the Beast or just retellings in general!