Belle’s adventures didn’t end with Beauty and the Beast. A new book picks up on the next chapter of the Disney heroine’s life. The Queen’s Council: Rebel Rose, the first book in the Queen’s Council series, from Emma Theriault opens the door after happily after. It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle and the Beast, known as Lio in his once again human form, are enjoying life in their castle in the province of Aveyon. But they can’t stay sheltered. Belle has a new position and she must find her way while politics explode in France.
She definitely found the adventure she sang about in the Disney animated movie. Theriault tells Nerdist, “Very early on in Rebel Rose, we learn that despite marrying a prince, Belle has not taken the title of ‘princess.’ Ruling a kingdom she spent her life longing to leave is not something she can readily reconcile. It’s a touchy subject between her and her husband, but she is adamant that she will serve their principality best by remaining, simply, Belle. And then the French Revolution begins, and her world turns upside down. Suddenly, hers is one of many competing voices advising the prince, and Belle has to learn how to make herself heard in a world that would rather silence her. Her journey is one of discovering how to use her voice, her power and her privilege in ways she may not have considered before.”
Belle brings the perspective of a commoner to the table, which is not a point of view many nobles have. If she’d hadn’t met the Beast, Theriault explains, Belle would be marching for change along the rebels. “But now she occupies a position of power, however reluctantly, and so she must do what is best not just for herself, but for all the people of Aveyon,” Theriault explains. “It is a burden she never anticipated having to bear, but she refuses to be silenced or dismissed. Until change is enacted in her kingdom, Belle knows she is the only voice Aveyon’s commoners have.”
And speaking of Belle’s voice, Theriault had no challenges imagining Belle in pre-revolutionary Paris. The challenge came in balancing her place as a commoner and royalty. But Belle’s convictions are firmly in place. Theriault says, “She has a very clear sense of what is right and what is wrong, so that made my job easier. I knew the conflict at the heart of Rebel Rose would arise from her dedication to doing what is right, even if that path is the more difficult one.”
In the below exclusive excerpt from Rebel Rose, Belle wanders off on her own into Paris. There a startling vision confronts her…
She lasted an hour before slipping away from Bastien’s home.
Belle didn’t think of it as escaping. She wasn’t a prisoner and Bastien’s staff hadn’t been expressly told to keep her inside the walls. But still she snuck away from the mansion like someone guilty of a crime far more serious than boredom.
Even Lumière had been roped into keeping watch over her, but she dispatched him with a request that he find her Paris’s best macarons, knowing his devotion to the task would keep him away for a few hours at least.
The July heat made the air sticky and the scent of urine and smoke almost overwhelming, but she was happy to be free of Bastien’s monument to excess. She didn’t have a destination in mind; she was only seeking an escape. She worried if she stopped, she’d come to realize that what she was trying to escape was her new life. So she kept her feet moving and her mind as blank as possible.
She stepped lightly over puddles of refuse, weaving through crowds of peddlers and shoppers, dodging the fast-flying carriages of the rich, hunting for something she couldn’t quite explain. She had left Bastien’s home without a purpose, but now her steps felt guided by some unseen force. Instinct, she thought, though that didn’t quite fit either. Something tugged at her, and she meant to find out why.
The edges of her vision became hazy as she plunged deeper into the city. Paris was not a place that Belle knew well, and she walked through the streets with an unearned determination, her sights set on something she didn’t fully understand. She wondered why it didn’t frighten her, but Belle had always been achingly curious about the unknown.
The city felt different than it had when they rode their carriage through it. It felt different still from yesterday’s afternoon in the gardens of the Palais-Royal. Dressed in the plain gown that rendered her all but invisible once more, she was free to roam where she pleased, but gone was the wonder she had held on to from her childhood. Now Belle knew of the cracks and fractures, of the unrest brewing like a sickness in the crowded underbelly of the city. People seemed to gather on street corners and down alleys in numbers Belle had never seen before. The groups were made up of peasants and sans-culottes, people dressed in rags and those clothed in finer garments. Whispers filled the air. The city was on the cusp of something Belle wasn’t sure she wanted to be a part of.
She turned onto a quieter street and stopped midstride as though frozen. She looked around, trying to ascertain what had made her come to rest. The buildings were old there, and seemed to stretch and lean over the road, stopping the sun from reaching her down at the bottom. The air was surprisingly cool, and there wasn’t another soul in sight—a rarity in a city such as Paris. The silence and stillness struck her more than the chaos she had left a street over.
She turned to the shop immediately in front of her and felt a calmness settle in her bones. She was meant to be there, though she couldn’t tell what sort of shop it was from the outside. She walked toward the entrance, her steps tapping on the cobbles and echoing through the street, and reached for the brass handle. At her touch, the door swung open and a bell chimed overhead. An errant breeze picked up behind her, ushering her into the shop.
The first thing she saw was her own face in a hundred different reflections. It was a jarring thing, to see herself so completely from every angle, some distorted and stretched, some cloudy with age, some only as reflective as glass. She watched as her expression shifted from confused to quizzical.
Belle had wandered into a shop of mirrors.
She looked around for a shopkeep or other customers, but she was alone, and for some reason, that put her at ease. She stepped farther into the shop and let the door close behind her, ringing the bell above it once more. It was hard to determine the true size of the room, but it felt small even as beaming arcs of light danced across the space.
Belle walked over to some shelves in an effort to escape her own gaze but found they displayed a collection of smaller handheld mirrors, each with different, beautifully engraved frames. She was drawn to a silver one that reminded her of the mirror Lio had given to her when he was the Beast, the one that had shown her a vision of her ailing father. Belle’s pain had been enough for the Beast to free her, setting them on a path that would end with a knife in his back and the destruction of the curse that shackled the kingdom.
Remembering the moment she lost the Beast was not easy for Belle. She had loved him. She loved Lio too, and though of course they were one and the same, it felt different somehow. The moment the Beast closed his eyes for the last time changed her. And though there were some happy memories from those enchanted months before, she didn’t like to think of her time as a prisoner in the castle she now called home. But still the mirror seemed to call to her. Her heart raced as she reached out and grasped the silver handle, raising it up to eye level, half expecting it to show her a vision. But the mirror remained inert—it was not enchanted, and Paris was not Aveyon, and the curse had long been destroyed.
She breathed a sigh of relief and even allowed herself to feel silly for fearing a simple object, moving to put it back where it belonged just as a noise from behind startled her.
Belle was surprised to hear a young voice, and even more so a woman’s. She spun to find the shopkeep—a woman only a bit older than she was, dressed in a sturdy gown and practical apron. Her skin was pale but warm, her long hair the color of rich honey, her blue eyes striking in their depth. The shopkeep looked on expectantly.
“Bonjour,” Belle returned. “I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“Of course not,” replied the woman, looking down at the mirror Belle still held in her hand. “What brings you to my shop today?”
Belle was unsettled by the woman’s manner—she spoke as though she already knew the answer to her question but was only asking to seem polite. Belle turned her attention back to the mirror, feeling foolish for allowing the object to frighten her. “To be honest, I didn’t mean to come here at all.”
“Is that so?” asked the woman absently. She looked at the mirror and back at Belle. “You’ll have more luck if you make a request of it.”
Belle’s stomach twisted at the thought. “A request?” But she knew exactly what the woman meant. The mirror from the curse hadn’t done a thing until Belle asked it to show her father to her, like it was a conduit for magic. She took a step away from the shelf, but the woman placed her hand on Belle’s shoulder, sending warmth through her.
“Much can be discovered in the reflection of one’s heart’s desire.”
Her voice was warm and clear, and the words were a comfort to Belle, though she distantly thought she should be more fearful. A strange quietude had enveloped her, leaving room for the burning curiosity she should have buried. She held the mirror aloft once more and tried to think of a worthy question. She didn’t need to see her father this time—she knew Maurice was safe, his letters had said as much, and so was everyone else she and Lio had left behind in Aveyon. She tried to think of something that would be useful to her, something that would set her on a new path. There was so much uncertainty in her life, and now she had a chance to find answers.
The woman was close to her now. “Perhaps, madame, you would like to know what life has in store for you.” Her voice barely reached above a whisper.
Of course. “Show me my future,” she demanded. It was precisely what she wished to know.
She wanted to see herself content in Aveyon, happy in her new life with Lio by her side. She thought if she could see that version of herself, then it would be easier for her to strive for it, even when she was restless for something more.
The mirror came alive in her hand as glowing tendrils of green light leaked from the surface onto her skin, just like the mirror the Beast had given her on the balcony of the West Wing. Her reflection faded from view, replaced with a vision of the castle she now called home. But there was something wrong. In this vision, Aveyon was burning.
The Queen’s Council: Rebel Rose will be available on November 10, 2020 wherever you buy books. It’s available for pre-order now.
Featured Image: Disney