Author: Allison Cassatta, Tracey Michaels
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Ara Costas has it all—riches, power, and the kind of beauty that attracts all the right people. He’s flying high and loves his life, until a serious car accident leaves him horribly scarred. Ara becomes an angry recluse, hiding away in his Chicago high-rise apartment, running his multimillion-dollar business from behind a computer screen.
Ilias Adams is a quiet farm boy who keeps his nose buried in books. A great education and stellar resume land him a job as Ara’s assistant and liaison to the board of directors. Little did he know when he signed up for this dream job that he’d end up working for the world’s moodiest, most uptight boss.
Ilias is scared of Ara at times, but he recognizes the challenge he faces when he meets Ara and sees the reason for the man’s anger. Ara is guarded and suspicious, since he can’t believe anyone can bear to look at him. Despite all this, Ilias is determined to turn the beast into a beauty again, at least on the inside, and tear down the walls Ara has so carefully constructed around him
Beast is a modern-day, gay-themed version of the classic story Beauty and the Beast. Though it doesn’t contain the fantasy/fairy-tale element of the Disney story, it does convey the same theme. The main character, Ara, is presented as a reclusive, wealthy man who’s been badly scarred in a near-fatal car accident. Prior to the tragedy, Ara was incorrigibly vain and shallow, and upon reflection, he views the loss of his good looks as punishment for his conceit. After multiple cosmetic surgeries that do not succeed in concealing the scars to his satisfaction, he holes himself away in his Chicago mansion and hides from the world.
Ara, who does not leave the house, hires himself an assistant. He needs someone to represent him at the company board meetings and to make appearances on his behalf. But it has to be someone who’ll work well with him, someone who won’t make an issue of his disfigurement. When Ilias applies for the job, Ara is instantly taken by the flowing blond hair and gorgeous smile of the young man, but he makes every effort to conceal his attraction.
The two work well together and gradually they establish a bond. It blossoms into something beautiful as a romance develops. But Ara cannot quite believe a person as beautiful as Ilias—beautiful both inside and out—would find him in any way attractive. Ultimately he must decide if he will allow himself to live again, to trust the power of love and to accept that he is fine just the way he is.
I had high expectations before starting this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. For one thing, I’ve yet to read a story by Allison Cassatta I did not like, but I also am a sucker for this type of fairy-tale love story. I’m sometimes cautious about co-authored works simply because diverse writing styles often do not mesh and the result is a disjointed, choppy style that takes me out of the story. This didn’t seem to be the case this time, though. I felt the story flowed evenly and I really couldn’t tell which author wrote which section of the book.
I especially love gay love stories where one partner is more dominant and protective and the other is softer and more sensitive. This was such a story, and I found it absolutely touching. I fell in love with sweet Ilias, and I thought the character arc of Ara was masterfully presented.
At first Ara came across as a complete ass, but as the story progressed, he began to let down his guard. It became obvious that he used attitude and machismo to conceal his own insecurity. At times this brashness crushed poor Ilias, but he didn’t stop trying. Ilias, ever the optimist, always saw the good in his boss and would-be lover.
Overall, Beast contained every element of m/m romance that I most love. It was a beautifully told, romantic story with a wonderful happily-ever-after ending. It made me laugh and cry, and I didn’t want it to end.
I’d recommend Beast to readers who like classic romance with an HEA.
Reviewed by: Trevor