Charles d'Harcourt is a French prince with no principality. However, it doesn't stop the Vandermeer's from matchmaking him with their daughter, Louise. And as far as Americans go, the Vandermeer's would be the typical tycoons of their time - eager for a marriage match with nobility.
The Vandermeers were rich. And although Charles wasn't quite poor himself, owning property and operating a successful parfumerie, Charles nevertheless jumped at the thought of marrying an American eighteen year old when Harold P. Vandermeer offered him a boatful of ambergris. According to the story, ambergris is basically a sperm whale's feces used as a perfume fixative… and worth more than gold to a perfumer like Charles. But though he is of noble birth, rich and possesses a fine physique, Charles is also disfigured - but, of course, romantically so! His one eye is blind and had been badly scarred, he also has a bad knee (which swells to a size of a cantaloupe at times causing him to limp and use a cane) - yet still the women come after him. Nonetheless, Charles possesses a fair amount of vanity though he doesn't entirely think of himself as handsome… more like handsomely rich.
Louise, on the other hand, is heart-stoppingly beautiful. And as heart-stopping beauties always claim to be, Louise is also lonely. She is aware that people are either envious or attracted to her looks and care naught for her as an individual. So, Louise successfully educates herself by learning mathematics and a handful of languages - to balance herself out, so to speak. She's also aware that she's a brat. Louise is spoiled, beautiful and intelligent and she feels can afford to be mean to others, when necessary.
When Charles accidentally sees Louise on the same ship that he is traveling on, he assumes another identity and finds many ways to court her in the dark to hide his disfigured self. Louise easily falls in love with her "Arab" lover - he understands her loneliness and is careful to cultivate Louise's friendship by encouraging her to share confidences with him. When the ship arrives in France, however, Arab Charles disappears and Louise is left with no choice but to marry her prince.
Judith Ivory once again introduces characters that are unique from any other's heroes and heroines. Charles is the "beast" who seduces Louise secretly and falls in love with her himself in the process. He is confident in his abilities to please women, in his intelligence, and in his stature as a man… but... Louise puts him in mind of his physical deficiencies - even though he more than makes up for it as a totally besotted alpha male romance hero! Louise is the perfect reverse of Charles - she's physically perfect and beautiful… and to make it even worse, she's also intelligent (not to mention rich)!!! So, what is her problem, you say? Frankly, I don't know… but all these "faults" make up a very independent, sassy, and witty heroine! Ms. Ivory is successful in making characters and stories that are distinctive and a delight to read - and Beast is no exception!