Friday, February 26, 2016

Guest Blog by Maia Chance and Review & Giveaway of Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna

Please welcome Maia Chance to The Qwillery. Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, the 3rd Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery, was published on February 2nd by Berkley.

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna: Researching a Mystery Novel, Family-Style.

Researching my Fairy Tale Fatal mystery series means reading old travelogues and novels, studying antique fashion plates, poring over period railroad timetables and restaurant menus, and—oh, yeah!—traveling in Europe. My job is SO HARD. (Kidding.)

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna is set in 1867 in the Périgord region of France. I always knew the story would concern the “true history” of my all-time favorite fairy tale, “Beauty and the Beast,” but beyond that, I wasn’t sure . . . until, that is, I read about the prehistoric cave art in the Vézère Valley. These caves—the most famous one is Lascaux—are decorated with Paleolithic pictures of animals. Animals, you know . . . as in beasts? Bingo. There was my angle, because the idea of pairing “Beauty and the Beast” with the painted caves seemed so juicy.

Only catch was, I had, um, never been to the Périgord. So I packed up the Fam—my husband, my mom, and my two little kids—and off we went!

Getting There. Okay. Maybe it wasn’t quite simple as “and of we went!” Those of you who have traveled with little kids know what a gigantic production it is. For example: Bring your own car seats OR deal with the caked-on barf of someone else’s kid on the rental car company’s car seat. Buy tons of French snacks, which are inevitably buttery and flaky and which will grease and flake up everyone’s clothing. Oh, and those miniscule, multi-part toys your kids insisted on packing? You lost half of them in the airplane on the way over. (True story: once I retrieved my son’s toy car five rows back on an airplane. You get to know people on the plane when you’re traveling with the Tinies.)

The landscape. So. We managed to get ourselves to the Périgord, more or less in one piece. There was the three-hour stretch on the expressway when my two-year-old daughter wouldn’t stop screaming unless allowed to eat one and only one bite out of every French Pringle in the can, but we are trying to forget that. Oh my word, it is beautiful in that neck of the woods. Rushing rivers, rocky outcroppings, thick forests. It’s beautiful in a near-eerie way, at least for me, with its ruined castles and chateaux melting back into the hills. In fact, more than once my husband, mom, and I argued about whether a heap of stones in the distance was a natural formation or a castle. That not knowing, that magical merging of natural and artificial in the Périgord, was richly inspiring for Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna.

Caves. We visited two caves on our trip, Font de Gaume and Les Combarelles. Font de Gaume is the one I used as a model for the cave scenes in Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, although some of the animal pictures I describe are based on those in Les Combarelles. I cannot adequately describe the breathtaking experience of visiting these caves. This might help: I somehow managed to have a near-religious experience looking at the bison herds in Font de Gaume even though I was lugging my daughter in a backpack while she rattled the keys to the door of the cave that the tour guide had given her as a distraction. I think everyone on the tour was a little nervous she’d lose the keys somewhere in the dark. After all, the tour guide had, for security purposes, locked us in.

Architecture. Château Vézère, the Count de Griffe’s ancestral home that is the setting for a good deal of Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna, is based on the lovely Château de Veyrignac, although I placed it in a different location (a perk of writing fiction). The fateful ruined castle was inspired by our visit to Château de Castelnaud, although Castelnaud is not a ruin but sturdily rebuilt for tourists in hiking boots. Still, it is so high over the valley and riddled with enough precarious turrets that when I got my rambunctious four-year-old son out of there I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.

Towns. I admit, the village of Vézère is a total fabrication. But the town of Sarlat is very real, and incredibly atmospheric and even exquisite. The center of the town includes a carefully-preserved tangle of medieval streets, and so of course I had to set a dangerous chase scene there. I mean, come on. I don’t want to miss ripe opportunities.

Food and Wine. At some point on the trip, my daughter decided that she hated ANY and ALL sidewalk cafes. I thought sidewalk cafes were the entire point of France, so this was a mind-bender for me. So in Sarlat, instead of dining on the famous mushrooms and local wine and, I don’t know, holding hands with my husband, I was taking a very short girl on endless walks up and down stone-paved streets. We got to know some pigeons and cats. The only thing my daughter would eat in Sarlat, by the way, was terrine de canard, a super-rich duck pâté in little jars that is basically a condiment but which she ate with a tiny spoon like baby food. I considered this an improvement on the Pringles.

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna
A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 3
Berkley, February 2, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

From the author of Cinderella Six Feet Under, a beauty must solve a beastly murder.

Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax knows how to win over an audience. That’s why she’s accepted the marriage proposal of the brutish Comte de Griffe to nettle her occasional investigative partner—and romantic sparring partner—the pompous if dashing Professor Penrose.

But with his boorish table manners, wild mane of hair, and habit of prowling away the wee hours, the comte has shredded Ophelia’s last nerve. She intends to disengage from her feral fiancé at his winter hunting party—until Penrose, his lovely new fiancée, and a stagecoach of stranded travelers arrive at the comte’s sprawling château. Soon she can’t tell the boars from the bores.

When one of the guests is found clawed and bloody in the orangerie, Ophelia is determined to solve the murder before everyone starts believing the local version of Beauty and the Beast. But until the snows melt, she can’t trust her eyes—or her heart—since even the most civilized people hold beastly secrets…

Jennifer's Review

The 3rd installment of Maia Chance’s Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series is entitled Beauty, Beast and Belladonna. The story follows American Ophelia Flax, a former stage actress, who has gotten herself into a bit of a jam by accidentally becoming affianced to a formidable Count while searching for a killer in Victorian Paris during the last novel in the series. Ophelia must travel to the Count’s isolated estate in the middle of winter to try to gracefully disentangle herself from her current difficulty. As things always go with Miss Flax, nothing runs as planned and she finds herself in the middle of yet another murder mystery that revolves around a classic fairy tale.

Ophelia is a formidable character. She exudes more confidence than she actually feels and has a special talent for subterfuge and the art of disguise. Both of those talents are what landed her engaged to Garon Gavage, the Count de Griffe, whom she met and inadvertently attracts while disguised and an American Soap Heiress. The count resembles a large beast himself, with an unruly mane of hair and imposing stature, but it is his domineering and coarse manners that truly mark him as such in Ophelia’s mind. While she never intended to continue her ruse as an heiress, Ophelia must postpone informing the Count of her deception when a murder takes place in the estate’s greenhouse that also coincides with a series of thefts at the manner, thefts that include the ostentatious and expensive ring that the Count presented to Ophelia upon their engagement. Ophelia must find the killer, in the hopes that she can also find the ring, before she can be branded a thief and confidence trickster.

Ophelia enlists the help of old friends in her search for the truth. Henrietta Bright, also a former actress, is an old acquaintance of Ophelia’s. Henrietta is a practiced gold digger and manipulator, who also happens to be the mother of Ophelia’s best friend, Prudence, who is absent from this novel while she is staying at a Parisian convent. Henrietta manages to wheedle her way to the estate as Ophelia’s chaperone, and brings along stage magician and con artist, Forthwith Golden, to post as Ophelia’s older brother and wealthy soap heir. The two certainly have their own agendas, of which Ophelia is wary. One other old friend who has featured heavily in the series is Professor Gabriel Penrose, the Earl of Harrington. Penrose is a handsome and pompous scholar with an almost fanatical interest in the reality behind classic Fairy Tales. He is also a major reason for Ophelia’s current predicament as she originally accepted the Count’s marriage proposal to nettle Penrose, with whom she has had a tumultuous and confusing friendship, fraught with romantic tension.

Penrose, who is visiting the manner at the Count’s request, brings along his new fiancée, the petite and utterly fashionable Ivy Banks. Miss Banks is an entirely unlikeable character being catty and snooty, especially to Ophelia. She is accompanied by her severe but dotting father, Albert Banks. The last invited guest is Thorstein Larsen, and older hunting enthusiast, who also happens to be the object of Henrietta’s marriage scheme. Other visitors to the manor arrive during a terrible snowstorm and become stranded for the duration and are ultimately caught up in the murder and thefts. These include the Reverend Cecil Knight, who is escorting a young African boy by the name of Master Abel Christy, a precocious and intelligent orphan, to London; Etienne-Frederic Tolbert, and shifty and secretive zoologist; and Madame Dieudonne, an aging and extravagant lady who is traveling with her pampered poodle, Meringue.

Rounding out the cast of characters are various members of the Count’s household and other townspeople. Bernadette is the Count’s spinster sister, who is as formidable in stature as her bother, but is welcoming to her guests and eager to get to know her soon to be sister-in-law. Clemence and Marielle are long time family retainers, being the head maid and cook respectively, and both play important roles in the plot. Madam Genepy, a senile old lady that captures Penrose’s interest with her supposedly true tale behind the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and her granddaughter, Lucile, who is skeptical but solicitous. We also meet a stealthy stage coach driver and fearsome blacksmith during the course of Ophelia’s investigation.

The plot of this novel flows well, with elements of surprise and also humor. The mystery is tied in nicely with the fairy tale theme of the series, and the recurring characters gain more depth and motivations in this installment, making them multi-dimensional and interesting. The Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery series is solidly written and very enjoyable to read!


Snow White Red-Handed
A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 1
Berkley, November 4, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Miss Ophelia Flax is a Victorian actress who knows all about making quick changes and even quicker exits. But to solve a fairy-tale crime in the haunted Black Forest, she’ll need more than a bit of charm…

1867: After being fired from her latest variety hall engagement, Ophelia acts her way into a lady’s maid position for a crass American millionaire. But when her new job whisks her off to a foreboding castle straight out of a Grimm tale, she begins to wonder if her fast-talking ways might have been too hasty. The vast grounds contain the suspected remains of Snow White’s cottage, along with a disturbing dwarf skeleton. And when her millionaire boss turns up dead—poisoned by an apple—the fantastic setting turns into a once upon a crime scene.

To keep from rising to the top of the suspect list, Ophelia fights through a bramble of elegant lies, sinister folklore, and priceless treasure, with only a dashing but mysterious scholar as her ally. And as the clock ticks towards midnight, she’ll have to break a cunning killer’s spell before her own time runs out…

Review here.

Cinderella Six Feet Under
A Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery 2
Berkley, September 1, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

This Cinderella goes from ashes to ashes in the new Victorian-era Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery by the author of Snow White Red-Handed . . .

Variety hall actress Ophelia Flax’s plan to reunite her friend Prue with her estranged—and allegedly wealthy—mother, Henrietta, is met with a grim surprise. Not only is the marquise’s Paris mansion a mouse-infested ruin, but Henrietta has inexplicably vanished, leaving behind an evasive husband, two sinister stepsisters, and a bullet-riddled corpse in the pumpkin patch decked out in a ball gown and one glass slipper—a corpse that also happens to be a dead ringer for Prue.

Strangely, no one at 15 rue Garenne seems concerned about who plugged this luckless Cinderella or why, so the investigation is left to Ophelia and Prue. It takes them through the labyrinthine maze of the Paris Opera, down the trail of a legendary fairy tale relic, into the confidence of a wily prince charmless, and makes them vulnerable to the secrets of a mysterious couturière with designs of her own on Prue’s ever-twisting family history.

Review here.

About Maia

National bestselling author Maia Chance writes mystery novels that are rife with absurd predicaments and romantic adventure. Her latest releases are Come Hell or Highball (St. Martin’s Minotaur) and Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna (Berkley Prime Crime). Maia lives in soggy Bellingham, Washington, where she plays laundress and cook to two imperious children and takes secret solace in vintage cocktails. She blogs at and loves to socialize at

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance from the publisher. US ONLY

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Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 6, 2016. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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