Not too long ago, I posted about Jane Austen in the Age of Disney. I didn’t get into specifics about Disney characters, just a general overview of connecting fantasy with Jane Austen. Well, today I want to talk about Beauty and the Beast because I’m releasing a Regency Paranormal Beauty and the Beast retelling in October!
I think Belle, as portrayed in the Disney film, is the most Austen-like of Disney characters. She’s too smart for her small town. She loves to read and is devoted to her father. Belle is without pretension about class and wealth, doesn’t fall for the sexist good looking guy and discovers a warm heart under a gruff exterior in the Beast.
Now, the Disney version is notably different than the original story. And as an author who would prefer to not be sued by the mouse-eared lawyers, I tried to stay clear of Disney influences. The basic premise, however, of seeing good character underneath the less than charming and handsome exterior then falling in love, is the cornerstone of any Beauty and the Beast story and certainly remains so in mine.
Instead of being transformed into a beast, I chose to keep my hero fully human. He does have a terrible curse, however. He is homebound, and the Castle is enchanted. Most people see a terribly scarred man. And sadly, that is what dear Leo sees in the enchanted mirror as well. He also has deep emotional scars. His parents never loved him, nor did his wife. He’s been told all his life he’s unlovable and in turn has become selfish and vain.
While I think Disney borrowed from Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet rather heavily to create Belle, my Arabella Beauley would be closer to a cross between Jane Bennet and Elinor Dashwood with a sprinkle of Catherine Morland. However, she’s no shrinking violet! After her mother died, her family relies on Bella. She endeavors to only see the best in those she loves. Arriving at Sundridge Castle, Bella is meant to be a governess but soon becomes embroiled with understanding the curse on its residents.
No servants turn into daily objects in my story. However, a daily object is now a person. Instead of a rose to mark the time until the Beast’s twenty-first birthday, my rose is a little girl; his wife’s illegitimate daughter. If Leo does not find true love before her sixth birthday, he is cursed to die.
As the years go by, Leo has accepted his fate. No one will love him. He is then left with the dilemma of what to do with his deceased wife’s child—assumed by Society to be his own. This, rather than the hope of returning to human form is the crux of the conflict for the story. I think Jane Austen would approve. Love for fellow man is what makes us truly human rather than beast-like. Looks and prejudices can be quite deceitful.
Interested in a snippet? This is part of the Prologue to Beauty’s Mirror, appearing in a duet set with Jenni James next month!
“You’re a monster, Erroll! You never loved me!”
“Celia, come down from there. Be reasonable,” Leonard Sundridge, third duke of Erroll called up to his deranged wife. Her behavior had become increasingly erratic since the birth of her child less than two years ago. She now stood on the railing of the master staircase of his ancestral home. If she slipped, her death would be immediate.
“Tell me I’m wrong!”
“You’re wrong,” Leo said as calmly as he could.
She immediately smiled, but he was lying, of course. Love had nothing to do with their marriage. She married him to become a duchess, and he married her because of her political connections. Now, however, he would lie on his father’s grave to end the scene unfolding. The problem, however, was that this scene unfolded nearly daily. Celia’s demands ever increasing and unattainable.
“Then you’ll let me go to Desmond’s dinner?”
“Anything you want. Just come down,” Leo pleaded.
Lady Erroll obliged. As her bare feet touched the plush carpet she suddenly looked every inch the regal duchess Leo married two years ago. Holding her head high, she walked off to ready herself for her lover’s dinner.
After the first incident, Leo had stood rooted in place, panting for breath and trembling with fear, anger, and embarrassment as servants swirled around him to clean up the mess of broken vases her tantrum had caused. This time, he turned and walked steadily to his study. After arriving, he pulled the servant bell, and his housekeeper appeared a moment later.
“Tell your husband to do it tonight, Mrs. Potter.”
“As you wish,” she said and dropped a curtsy.
Read more on my blog!