Tears of Tess wasn’t exactly the read I was expecting, but in the end I really enjoyed it and was impressed with what Pepper Winters accomplished here, and I’m so glad I read it. From the synopsis and author’s warning, I was anticipating something a bit grittier and more disturbing, but instead Tears of Tess read to me like a dark fairy tale—specifically, a version of Beauty and the Beast. And since I love fairy tales and believe that at their core they are very dark, adult, erotic stories, this really ended up working for me!I loved the way Winters developed this fairytale feeling through the setting, atmosphere and imagery of the story. The attention taken to the details of clothing, Q’s lavish mansion with its many hidden and mysterious rooms, and the French countryside setting that seems so tranquil but pulses with hidden dangers, all combined to create that lush fairytale feel. Q, of course, is the beast in this tale, despite his outwardly gorgeous appearance. The “beast ,” in this case, is the part of himself Q thinks of as monstrous; the author even uses the word “beast” to refer to him several times. And my favorite part of the fairytale imagery was the reoccurring motifs, including the use of seasons and weather (Tess’s last name is “snow,” and Q tells her she reminds him of winter), and, most of all, the birds. I loved the way the bird motif was integrated on so many different levels throughout the story.Now onto the part of the reading experience that did frustrate me somewhat…that was Tess herself. I really appreciated that the author made Tess such a complex character, and I identified with her a lot, but at the same time I became a bit exhausted by all the mental flip-flopping Tess did. Similarly, while I loved that Tess was a reflective character who really tried to understand why she had the desires and reactions she did, I felt the internal thought became repetitive at times. I was so glad that the author delved into the psychological depths of Tess’s situation, and so many of her observations were spot-on, but in some places I felt the same thoughts were repeated and I just wanted to move on with the story.As for the story itself, it absolutely kept my interest on several levels, both the practical question of how Tess and Q’s complex situation would resolve itself, and even more than that, the mysteries of Q’s dark past and internal struggles. While I did guess most of Q’s story before it was revealed, I still really liked getting the epilogue from his point of view. He was an alluring and very sympathetic character to me right from the beginning; I actually thought the author tried a bit too hard at times to make us see that deep down, he was a good man. Her characterization of him already convinced me of this, so I didn’t need to be reassured so often! As for the way the plot resolved itself, it was probably a bit unrealistic, but with the fairytale element to the story, I didn’t mind. I was happy with the way things wrapped up, and I am definitely excited for the companion book from Q’s point of view!Oh, and if you haven’t figured this out yet…this story is pretty damn sexy and romantic, too!