The story of Beauty and her Beast has appealed to me ever since childhood. As an awkward, bookish girl, I wondered when someone would truly appreciate the real me. I must have watched the Disney movie a hundred times. At the very core of Beauty and the Beast is the friendship that builds between the two protagonists. Though Beauty is initially hesitant to spend time at the castle—unsurprising, given the circumstances of her arrival—she starts to see the Beast in a different light the more time she spends with him. After a while, he is no longer this scary creature, but instead a man she’s come to love.
While the central focus of most of the folk iterations of Beauty and the Beast focus on the Beast’s transformation, the stories tend not to characterize Beauty beyond her obvious aesthetic appeal. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the Disney version the best: it shows that both Belle and Beast are affected by their newfound relationship. Beast is no longer trapped in his past pain, and Belle has finally found someone who thinks she’s incredible just the way she is.
I find this is a central theme in every romance I write. To me, true love is about acceptance. It’s about seeing the complete beauty of a person. That’s why Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite: their love becomes something more. It is not based solely on visual appreciation, but instead a bond between two souls.
There are several commonalities in the iterations that I chose to incorporate into writing this book. The basic premise that Beauty must enter this deal with Beast because of something her father has done. The presence of siblings: though in most texts only Beauty has two sisters, I chose instead to give both Strickland and Abigail sisters. Beauty returns home and then realizes she loves the Beast. And of course, there are a few scenes I snuck in as direct homages to the movie version.
When Abigail Vautille popped onto the page in Secrets in Scarlet, I knew that she needed a happily ever after. Her scars made her believe she’s the Beast, and she must learn to love herself again. Michael Strickland, who also debuted in Secrets in Scarlet, captivated me from the beginning with his devil-may-care attitude. While Michael is physically attractive, he has a lot to learn about life and love. In this sense then Abigail and Michael are both the Beast, and at times they’re both Beauty. This dichotomy interested me. I think we all go through moments where we are either beastly or beautiful; we are never just one thing. It is our flaws that make us beautiful, as much as our strengths.
This novel contains my first depiction of a real life person in the scene with Superintendent Thomas Bicknell, who really did lead the H-Division of the Metropolitan Police at this time. All characterizations of Bicknell as a bumbling egotist are mine and mine alone, bearing no historical relevance and added simply for story enrichment.
Beauty and the Rake also draws on historical setting details from the East London areas of Cheapside, Whitechapel, and Spitalfields. While the Crispin Street Market is still active today, the clothing markets in Petticoat Lane are sadly no longer in existence. Spitalfields, with its long history of weaving, remains a vibrant community rich in culture. I have tried to stick as close to the actual street layout and locations of shops, etc. that was relevant in 1832—though of course, some errors may occur in my placement. The Chelsea Bun-House mentioned by Abigail was indeed a real shop that closed in 1839.
I greatly enjoyed doing the research for this book, and I hope that it adds a feeling of authenticity to your reading.