Cruel Beauty and Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodges
Nyx has spent her life in preparation to kill her betrothed, the Gentle Lord. Why? Because he’s a demon, he's’ the reason her mother is dead. At least, that’s what she’s been taught. Her duty is to hate, and to sacrifice herself for her people, for their freedom.
Here’s a link to a bit from the author and a book trailer.
Cruel Beauty is a mashup of Beauty and the Beast, Greek mythology, and with some heavy philosophy tossed in for good measure. I love fairy tales in all their variations and retellings, so I kept reading this one even though I figured out the secret early. I wanted to see how Nyx, who is not an easy person to like, but probably more real than most “princesses” in some other retellings, handled the reveal. She’s quite aware of her personality flaws, and revels in them just a bit. The reveal was somewhat confusing. Suddenly everything is the same but different. I reread to wrap my mind around it. (Nice one, Ms. Hodges--I don’t have to reread often.) Readers looking for an HEA will find it, but it’s muted and not shiny, happy,
There is a novella set in this same world called Gilded Ashes and in it I learned that almost everyone in Arcadia is miserable, selfish, and unwilling to deal with life’s downers. To only have the “ups” they are willing to bargain with the Gentle Lord, but end up no happier, and perhaps worse off than they were before the bargain. There is hope, though. I believe Maria is very wise when she says, “There are a lot of things I want. . . but I think I will keep what I have.” (loc 1134) Too bad more people in our own world don’t think that way. On a side note, the novella I downloaded has an excerpt of Cruel Beauty that literally takes up one third of the data. But I do think this variation of Cinderella was worth my $2.00.