Beauty's Kingdom

writing as A.N. Roquelaure. Viking. (Sleeping Beauty, Bk. 4). Apr. 2015. 368p. ISBN 9780525427995. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698182776. EROTICA
In this 20-year follow-up to Rice's provocative "Beauty" trilogy (ending with Beauty's Release), Queen Eleanor's kingdom, comprised heavily of legalized sexual slavery, has fallen into confusion and borders on disrepair as the Queen and her son, the Crown Prince, remain noticeably absent. When news surfaces that the pair are dead, the fabled Sleeping Beauty and her husband, Prince Laurent, are called upon to return to the kingdom where they were once slaves, this time to rule. After much consideration, the couple enthusiastically accept but with major changes in mind, the most remarkable of which is that all sexual servitude throughout the kingdom be rendered voluntary. As their ideas are implemented, Beauty and Laurent are welcomed into the beloved world they'd believed was lost to them forever. Written under the name A.N. Roquelaure, Rice's lush prose is elegant and enchanting, reminiscent of classic historical fiction in its lyrical structure and elaborate description. The wide array of characters allows for a shifting perspective and episodic nature that prevent the novel from becoming stale yet also serves as a bit of a whirlwind for readers unfamiliar with the earlier installments.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of the "Beauty" series and for folks interested in a sensual, slower read.

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