When the temp agency calls offering David Evans a placement as an office manager for a therapist, he is quick to accept the position. David needs the money to help provide treatment for his elderly aunt, and it doesn’t hurt that the doctor has a super sexy voice. When he arrives at the job, however, David meets Dr. Alun Kendrick in person. Alun is super surly and unpleasant and makes it clear he has no interest in having David working for him.
Alun is the former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court, now turned psychologist for the supernaturals of Portland. Alun was cursed and forced out of Faerie, leaving him with a large scar and severe facial deformities. But he does his penance by helping other supernaturals and secrecy is paramount to their safety. There is no way he can have a human like David around his office.
Alun assumes his disfigurement is more than enough to scare David off, but David is determined to stick it out. He isn’t bothered by Alun’s appearance; his personality, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. But David’s cheerful attitude and determination to hang in there no matter how much Alun pushes him away leaves the men eventually settling into routine at work. And when David makes it clear he is interested in Alun, Alun slowly begins to let down the barriers to being with David and letting himself have some happiness.
But even as the men have found their way together, challenges from the faerie world begin to put them both at risk. Between requirements for Alun to return to Faerie to pledge fealty to the Queen, learning more about David’s family and his past, and threats from those who want more from David than he can give, safety for the men isn’t coming easily. Alun is determined to protect David, even if that means taking himself out of the equation for David’s own safety. But David isn’t willing to give up on his man quite so easily…
Cutie and the Beast is the first book in E.J. Russell’s Fae Out of Water series and it really is an adorable delight. The story is fun, creative, and really entertained me from start to finish. Russell provides some great world building, and Alun’s office is the perfect way to get to know more about the supernatural world and the various creatures that inhabit it. We meet werewolves and dragon shifters, druids and vampires, along with learning more about the fae and the Faerie world that is a big focus of this story. I will say that early on things are a little bit confusing as we meet various supernaturals and learn about their roles, but as the story continues, this becomes easier to absorb and I liked how Russell ends up incorporating all these various side characters into key parts of the story.
As you can probably guess by the title, this book also has a “beauty and the beast” theme as Alun has severe facial deformities as a result of his curse. This is one of my favorite tropes so I was excited about this one and Russell does a nice job with it. Unlike many of these tales, David really doesn’t need any adjustment time as he quickly accepts Alun’s appearance, but struggles with his temperament. But I do love how David is the one person who sees past Alun’s looks and sees inside to the man underneath. I like how being with David helps Alun not only begin to forgive himself for past mistakes, but also accept himself and realize that he can have (and deserves) happiness.
As I said, this is the first book in the series and it appears the other books will feature Alun’s brothers Gareth and Mal. We meet both men here and they have fascinating stories and so I am really excited to see them developed in future books. So this is a really enjoyable start to a fun paranormal series. I really loved the tone of this one and the world building is really interesting. I am definitely excited for more.