The Beast At The Door by Althea Blue is a very sweet romance with a steampunk twist. Patience, the main character, is not like her sister. She isn’t sweet and biddable, interested only in who she will marry. No, Patience has much more in common with her brother Mason. She is interested in learning and seeing the world, not in marrying the horrible man her parents have chosen for her. So she does what any well-bred young woman in Regency England would do. She runs away.
Patience quickly discovers that being a runaway is nothing like the stories would have it sound. She is thoroughly miserable, but knows enough to make sure no one can find her and take advantage of her newly-impoverished state. However, the longer she’s on the run, the more desperate she gets. Finally, she’s desperate enough to brave the monster that scared her off from an isolated manor house. It’s there that she meets Ada, a girl about her own age, and who is just as alone as she is.
The two girls get to know each other and discover they have much in common. But Ada is hiding something. Will Patience’s discovery of her secret come between them, or will it open the door for much more between them?
Patience is the product of overbearing parents and an indulgent brother. Without her brother’s help, the essential spark of her nature would have been snuffed out long before. I think it’s telling that in her family’s household, she’s much closer to the servants than she is to her parents. Patience is also young. I would put her right around 18-19, and she’s been sheltered much of her life. So when she runs away, things go wrong very quickly. On the other hand, she’s determined and pushes through no matter how hard it becomes. It’s that determination that I most like about Patience. She seems self-aware enough to know she’s out of her depth, but she keeps looking for ways to get through.
Ada is much more timid than Patience, and interacts with the world through surrogates. She’s quite adept mechanically, and uses this to her advantage on more than one occasion. Like Patience, Ada is also without her family, though in her case it’s not by choice. Her mother is dead, and her father has disappeared. Ada believes that her father will return, and if he doesn’t, that she needs to make sure no one else knows. Like Patience, Ada prizes her independence, and she knows society won’t allow a woman of her age to move about freely, so disguising the fact that she’s alone is of utmost importance.
The Writing Style
The style of the novella works well with the period it is meant to portray. It reminded me of the writing of the Regency and Victorian periods, but without being nearly so dense. That being said, it relies a lot upon descriptive prose. I really like densely-described stories, but others may not.
We spend the book seeing everything through the eyes of Patience, which works well for the story. As much as this is a story of Patience’s escape from her parents, it’s also the story of the discovery of her sexuality. That aspect is handled well and manages to be quite hot.
I really liked Patience. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure I was going to, but the further I got into the book and the more Patience started to overcome her upbringing, the more I enjoyed her character. The book is written in such a way that Patience’s youth and naïveté come through. There’s a real freshness to the prose, and it works so well with the point of view of the main character.
I also liked the way the steampunk aspects of the story were handled. Often, the cool mechanical doodads take over a steampunk story, but that doesn’t happen here. The mechanicals and machines are very much there to support the story, they don’t drive it, and I really appreciate that.
It’s short! I’m not sure if it’s officially a novella, but that’s where I would place it. The story is over much too soon, and there are more things I want to know! The books wraps up nicely, and there’s no cliffhanger, but it’s a tribute to the world that Blue has created that I want to know more about these characters and their world.
My other nitpick is that I’m not 100% certain which time period this is supposed to represent. My guess is either Regency or Victorian England, but it’s never quite cleared up. Part of this is that we don’t see much of the outside world, so the clues we need to properly place things simply aren’t there. It’s a minor con, and it really doesn’t affect the story at all, but if you’re a purist for your period pieces, this may rankle.
Sheena’s Con: The cover is not great and so it will be overlooked by readers.
This is a great little story, with fun characters and a super sweet romantic storyline. It’s nice to read about strong female characters who can’t kick the asses of those who get in their way. Patience and Ada are strong because they have the determination and intelligence to think their way around problems, instead of meeting them with violence. The Beast at the Door is Althea Blue’s debut novel, and I’m looking forward to what else she has to offer.
Excerpt from The Beast At The Door by Althea Blue
The next morning, she found herself staring at the wall again. She remained cautious and held out as long as she could, but a source of food so close was too tempting to resist. She followed the same pattern as the day before, drinking her fill before ravaging a different area of the garden and running with her ill-gotten gains. The third day she didn’t even have to talk herself into it. She just climbed over and down and was less careful to stay against the wall. She was just letting the bucket fall back into the well when a terrible roaring came from around the side of the house.
Patience dropped the bucket and froze, crouching behind the wall of the well, positive some animal was coming to devour her. She shook in fear, unable to decide whether to run for it or to stay hidden, as meager a protection as the well might provide. The roar came again and again, but it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Maybe it wasn’t inside the grounds. If it was outside the wall, Patience didn’t want to risk leaving the safety of the garden. But if it was here, she didn’t want to stay. Moving slowly, and ready to run if anything came near her, Patience peeked around the side of the house.
She could just make out a ground-floor window open and something inside the house which occasionally leaned over the sill so she could just see the edge of it. She didn’t know what it was, it was far too big to be a dog or even a bear. The roaring continued regularly, and was definitely coming from the creature. A very small part of Patience wanted to see it better and she found herself edging out from the protection of the wall, only by a few inches. She stared at the thing and still couldn’t recognize it as anything from her brother’s books on animals. Certainly it was nothing from England. Maybe from Africa or India.
Perhaps whoever lived in the house had chained it up as a prize. She knew men who had gone large-game hunting, and though they came back with trophies instead of live animals she supposed it might happen.
Forgetting that she needed to stay hidden in her curiosity, she was nearly around the corner of the house. From this angle the beast looked like nothing more than a wolf, but standing upright and taller than the largest man she had ever seen. When its head swung in her direction and it roared again Patience jumped back involuntarily and tripped over something lying behind her. She landed hard on her rear and let out a tiny cry before she could stop herself.
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[tweetthis]Patience realized that it was looking at her and she froze, too scared to run[/tweetthis]
Bits and Bobs
- ASIN number: B01JVFKNUG
- Publisher: Supposed Crimes
Note: I received a free review copy of The Beast At The Door by Althea Blue. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.