cover image Marvelous


Molly Greeley. Morrow, $28.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-324409-2

Greeley (The Heiress) draws on a 16th-century episode that inspired “Beauty and the Beast” in her moving if overwrought latest. In Tenerife, a hairy baby boy is found abandoned at a church and taken in by a woman who has seen most of her family killed or captured by the Spanish conquerors. Given the name Pedro, he’s subjected to other children’s taunts and known as La Bestia. Later, he’s abducted by pirates, sold at the market, and finally, at roughly 10 years old in 1547, taken to Blois. At the French court, Pedro studies French, Latin, Greek, and Italian, and his scholarship astonishes the courtiers and makes King Henri proud, thus securing Pedro a place at the court. Pedro’s marriage in 1570 to Catherine, 17, is rocky at first, as she’s forced into the union to clear her merchant father’s debt and turned off by Pedro’s appearance. Greeley nicely develops the gradual bond between Catherine and Pedro, which blossoms into unconditional love, though the story tends to drag and the writing is prosaic (faced with news described as wind that “whips like a storm,” a character cannot “stopper his ears against it, cannot deny its stormy force”). Readers who enjoy retold fairy tales may want to take a look. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (Feb.)