Erica K. Cardozo
June 21, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

That’s Beauty as in the Beast’s better-looking half, the Disney movie, the Broadway musical, and the novel by Madame LePrince de Beaumont. In this updated, ’90s version, lovely Boston artist Alix Miller journeys in her father’s stead to a remote New Hampshire manse to paint one Lee Crompton, thus repeating history: ”For centuries…the aristocratic Crompton family has sat for formal portraits painted by Miller artists….long-nosed, high-browed, blue-eyed faces….” Um, not exactly. The reclusive Lee suffers from acromegaly, a real disease that causes the face, hands, and feet to overgrow hideously. Of course, inside he’s a peach: sensitive, gracious, a writer of popular mystery novels, even a feminist. Meanwhile, Alix’s photojournalist boyfriend, Mark, is — you guessed it — a handsome jerk. At least you won’t guess Beauty‘s ending — it’s only half fairy tale. Wilson has made her heroine modern. Alix — no cringing damsel — convinces a shy, self-hating Beast that he is lovable. And so he is, and she is; and the book, in spite of itself, is rather lovable too. B

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