Bride of the Beast – a Novel – Toni V. Sweeney
Reviewers: She Said – Gloria Lakritz / She Said – Penelope Adams
A political marriage to stop a war, a king whose golden mask hides his face from his people, a princess who loves her husband though she never sees his face, and a curse placed on a royal family by God. Michael of Habir believes his bride Senset is the one to break the curse, but Senset herself has doubts. Only one who has selfless love will free the king from becoming a Beast, but is she truly the one her husband seeks?
Gloria Lakritz – She said:
I must admit, I was taken aback by the fluttering in my mind. It was like a feather tickling me, to realize where this book was going. This is the world of the past, bigger than life heroes, Kings and Royalty, and a Princess that could save a beast.
Senset, a young Princess, lives with her father the King and her family. The King has a favored wife, secondary wives and concubines, as is their practice. Her brother is Prince Horem, General of the Aegysian army and Crown Prince of Usaset. He is arriving home from war to his wife Asanath, pregnant with child; greeted with a parade with accolades of his countrymen. He rides home with a prisoner from the people they warred with. The man looks and bellows like an animal and he is thrown into the dungeon to be used as a sacrifice to their Gods. Senset, hearing of this prisoners execution which will happen in a few days, sneaks past her guards nightly, past the jailer in the dungeon and inevitably helps the man to escape. This is so unlike her, but she thinks this is an unreasonable punishment, as they have not given this man a chance to speak for himself.
Senset is summoned to dress as the Castle bustles. A visitor from another land has come for an audience. The guest is none other than General Aram who had been their prisoner and escaped. We learn he is the twin brother of the King of Habir, and his return home extolled the virtues of Senset for setting him free. His brother Michael has sent gifts of jewels, fabrics, and riches to ask for the hand in marriage of the beautiful Princess, sight unseen. It will be a great match, solidifying their treaty with each other. The King agrees, making sure he is sending his daughter as Prime Wife to this King.
Traveling many days, Senset meets the Beast King. He wears a mask of gold that covers the upper part of his face. Michael relates why these people were called beasts and Michael wears the mask. This mask as a curse placed on the royal family by God. He reveals to her that he felt she had done something selfless to save his brother, a stranger, so she possibly could be the key to his and his people’s salvation.
When Senset was in her own land, much of what I picked up were the many Gods that they worshiped, Isis being mentioned and their dress was very Egyptian. When she meets Michael’s people, Judaism plays a big role in this story. Their names, the history, the dress, the one God. The reason for the curse.
Since I am of Jewish faith, some of the story made me cry, and it might not do this so much to others, who would not realize all this story had to offer. The tearing of the garments to mourn was utmost in my mind as I just lost my sister this August and let me tell you having to do this 3 times now in my life, losing my mother, father and now sister, you cannot know how this feels to a mourner. The reason for this is that you are severing your tie with the deceased. The tear is very painful emotionally.
It will be up to you to read this wonderful story, and see if Senset is the key. I will not either address this or spoil it for you. But I do suggest that if you want to read a well written, well thought out love story, THIS IS IT. I commend you Ms. Sweeney on the wonderful story that you have woven, as well as expressing that “Giving up something of yourself to do for another” as a powerful lesson for any God to reward.
Sorry readers, keep checking with us as this book is SOON TO BE RELEASED… But Add it to your TBR List !
Review by Gloria Lakritz
Sr Reviewer of the Paranormal Romance Guild
Penelope Adams – She Said:
In a time when women are used as a means of barter between kingdoms to ensure peace, 17 year old Senset was well past her prime. The youngest daughter of the king of AEgys, she is still unmarried. Senset’s brother, General Horem, has returned victorious once more from battle with the beast people, and to the surprise of Senset, he brings a prisoner. Senset learns her brother plans on sacrificing the beast to their god Ra-Horakhty, and being a naturally curious young woman sneaks into the dungeon to see the beast.
She learns the prisoner is not a beast, but a man named Aram. Senset cannot let Aram be sacrificed, so manages to help him escape. Soon after, an emissary from another land appears at her father’s court, not just any emissary, but none other than Aram, who is the brother of the king of Habir. Aram is to arrange a treaty between the two lands and ask for Senset’s hand in marriage. Before she knows it, Senset is married by proxy and on her way across the dessert to her new home.
On the journey to her new home, Senset questions Aram about their culture and the man who has become her husband, and learns she will never see his face; he has worn a golden mask since birth.
Senset soon falls in love with her new husband and her new land; she quickly learns the language and customs and does her best to fit in with her new people. Michael also falls in love with Senset telling her the story of why he wears the golden mask. But this is a difficult time and a difficult land, Senset and Michael will soon not only find their love for each other tested but their beliefs and loyalty as well.
Set in a time of gods and mystery, Bride of the Beast tells a story of love gained, lost and gained again. We travel back in time to AEgys, a land that bears a large resemblance to the Egypt in the time of Pharaohs. Habir is a thinly disguised Israel and the people are very much the early Jewish nation. The story is rich with Jewish customs and religion, so well told that the reader can see the temples, hear the sounds of the street vendor and smell the food being prepared. We travel from the jungle across the dessert, and learn strange and mystical stories of curses and redemption.
Senset is a brave young woman, she doesn’t fit the mold of the women of her culture, and she is curious and stubborn at times, a modern woman. Michael is a strong man, fiercely loyal to his God and his people; he will do anything to protect both. He is a tortured man, living with a curse not of his doing. Aram is a strong general, he is happy not being the oldest born and loves his brother as much as himself. I have to admit, I liked Aram better than Michael, and I don’t know why I just did.
Having read other of Ms. Sweeney’s work, I was totally taken aback by this story. I love the time we find ourselves in, I’m totally fascinated with the history of the Middle East and Ms. Sweeney does a wonderful job bringing it to life. The paranormal aspect of the story fits right into the beliefs of the time and her telling of the Jewish religion’s origins and beliefs was well done.
I did have a small issue with how fast Senset actually fell in love with Michael and Michael with her. Michael I can almost understand, since he was in love with the idea of Senset when he heard of her from his brother Aram, but since Senset was not the usual compliant woman, it seemed a stretch how fast she fell. Other than that one small issue, I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys going back into a time of chariots and the land where history began.
Review by Penelope Adams
Member of the Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Now that the reviewers have read each other’s thoughts…
Well Penny, Today we are discussing Bride of the Beast, by Toni V. Sweeney. We both have read other writings of Ms. Sweeney, and I see that this one took us both by surprise. What a switch on so many levels, no? And not in a bad way.
I know, I actually had to go back and look at the other work we read to make sure it was really the same author. I know you were very moved by the references to the Jewish culture. Not knowing as much as I should about it, I still found it interesting. Some authors fall into a trap when writing about religion of becoming preachy and sacrificing the story, but I felt Ms. Sweeney did an excellent job of combining the two.
The story was so well interplayed. I know you mentioned you thought Senet fell in love with King so soon. I felt she fell in love with his brother first, then his story of the curse melted her heart. It was then so easy to look at this good man and how could she not love him…? Her heart was so in the right place to be his queen. The story of the curse was Moses on the Mountain… Did you realize that? I am certainly not the most religious person, and many of you know that, but the little I know of the Old Testament was there. The customs of being a Jew were there more so. That’s where I found it the most heartwarming. So let’s get back to the story… Our author has written a wonderful story of love and trust.
Yes, I got the reference to Moses, her interpretation was interesting. Most definitely a story of love and trust, but also a great historical tale as well. I loved the little twist of paranormal she threw in there, it wasn’t too much to swallow up the story, just enough to fit into the time period and the beliefs of the time. Aram was willing to sacrifice so much for his brother and his people, I couldn’t help but fall for him. I wouldn’t have minded getting to know more about the kingdom of AEgys and the people from the coast. I realize neither were the focus of the story but they were there just enough to peak my interest.
One could fall in love with Aram. I so hope he now can get the love and family he so deserves. I wonder if there could be a sequel??? Do ya think? Also Senet’s brother Prince Horem. It was so touching that he had a ‘first wife’ and was so in love with her that he needed no other, not even his concubines. These are questions I think I will pose to the author.
So many wonderful characters to wonder about, how about Michael’s sister, she is getting married soon. I would most definitely love to see a sequel.
Good night Gracie.
Thank you Penny, and Thank you Toni V. Sweeney for a great read!!!!
Good Night George
And now for a Q&A with Author Toni V. Sweeney:
What drew you to this time and place to set the story in?
Two photographs I saw on www.fotolia.com. I was looking for a specific jpg and came across this picture of a desert warrior with a burnoose-type garment wrapped around his shoulders and covering his face. The wind was sweeping the ends of it up into the air. Later, I came across a picture of a girl wearing the elaborate eye make-up of the ancient Egyptians and wearing a khat (headdress). I was so intrigued by both these photos that I started trying to weave a story around them.
Will there be a sequel?
I doubt it. The story is pretty much complete now.
Do you usually write stories of this kind?
I’d never tried any kind of Biblical or ancient Egyptian story before, but I wanted it to be as authentic as possible within the boundaries I’d set for why an off-shoot of the Egyptians and the Hebrews were in this particular place at this particular time. I did a lot of research, then changed some of it a little to allow for the fact that, since neither people were in touch with the country of their origin, they would’ve probably changed their customs and laws somewhat in the intervening generations.
What do you like writing the most?
In genres? Fantasy first, then SF…all with romance thrown in, of course.
What is your next project?
I’m finishing Book #8 in the Adventures of Sinbad series. This will be the last novel in the series.
Thank you for your time… We truly enjoyed your book and look forward to your next submission!