Mercedes Lackey is an old pleasure of mine that I'm only just rediscovering. She's most famous for her Valdemar books, a series with gazillions of books usually in trilogies, but she's written a lot of other things.
I pulled an all-nighter to finish this book, and I was doing Wiggles of Happy the entire time. I found myself alarming my cat by squealing incoherently as I turned pages.
What we have here is a brilliant gaslamp (steampunk but fantasy instead of sci-fi) reinterpretation of Beauty and the Beast. Rosalind Hawkins is left destitute by the death of her father, and has to travel across the country to take a tutoring job offered by the mysterious Jason Cameron. When she arrives she discovers that there are no children for her to tutor, and instead she will be translating old magic books for Jason because he has suffered a debilitating injury and is unable to read them himself.
Rose is a marvelous heroine, feminine and intelligent and vulnerable and resourceful. Jason is fascinating too, mysterious and larger than life, and undeniably sexy despite (or because of) his realistic flaws. The story is written mostly in third-person from Rose's point of view, but some sections switch to Jason's or Jason's secretary, Paul du Mond's. It was jarring the first few times, but I discovered that it allows the characters to plot individually and for us to know what's being planned without the characters knowing. The plot delivered on every promise it made, but using the plans characters made that were at odds, I never knew who was going to come out on top. There was a perfect blend of romance, mystery, and action.
The Fire Rose was immensely satisfying, detailed, and an utter joy to read. It is the first of Lackey's Elemental Masters series, all of which feature reinterpreted fairy tales in the same time period and system of magic, but not the same protagonists. I'd love to hear more about Rose and Jason, but I'm also looking forward to book 2, The Serpent's Shadow.
Some other Beauty and the Beast stories I found were Beast by Donna Jo Napoli, Beauty by Robin McKinley, Beastly by Alex Flinn, Belle by Cameron Dokey, and Rose Daughter also by Robin McKinley. These tend more toward "retellings" than "reinterpretations..." if you know of any more, let me know!
Buy The Fire Rose