September 02, 1996 12:00 PM

by Susan Wilson

Once upon a time, Beauty and the Beast was just a fairy tale. Then the rich and powerful Disney company made it into a blockbuster animated feature. Broadway producers staged it as a musical. Now romance novelist Wilson has recast the classic story with a modern setting.

The beast here is rich, eccentric Leland Crompton, who lives in an isolated New Hampshire mansion in order to hide his ugly mug, deformed by acromegaly (a pituitary disorder). The beauty who enters his life, Alix Miller, is an artist whom he commissions to paint his picture because all his forebears had their portraits done by members of the Miller family. He plans, though, never to hang the work once it’s finished. If you can get past this setup, Beauty sails along, proof that a really good story can withstand almost any amount of hammering. (Crown, $16.95)

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