Beauty retells the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast.
The youngest of three sisters, Honour is intelligent and inquisitive; but when she asks her father to explain the meaning of her virtuous name, she is disappointed. What good is honour compared to grace and hope? Better to be called Beauty.
The baby of the family, Beauty is indulged by her father, a wealthy merchant who made his fortune as a shipwright, and by her sisters, Grace and Hope. As pretty as they are kind, Beauty's sisters love her despite her efforts to teach them Greek and Latin. Nevertheless, a loving and indulgent family can do nothing to dispel Beauty's certainty that she is a disappointment to her family. Undersized and awkward, Beauty is more at home among horses and books than at a fancy ball.
When the merchant's fortunes take an unexpected turn, the family must settle their affairs in the city and retire to the country. Hope's suitor, Gervain Woodhouse, proposes that the family venture north with him, where he is to take up a post as blacksmith.
Seeking a new life in the small town of Blue Hill, the three sisters, their father and Ger find an easy welcome. A small cottage tucked away among wooded hills becomes their new home, as unlike their fine house in the city as ever there was. Finding herself unsuited for housework, Beauty takes on the odd jobs that are too rough for her sisters and makes a name for herself and her horse, Greatheart, among the townsfolk.
After years of relative peace, news reaches the family of the return of one of the merchant's ships. Reluctantly, the merchant returns to the city to settle the matter. On his return, he loses his way in the enchanted forest that lies beyond Blue Hill and takes refuge in a seemingly empty palace. As the merchant prepares to leave the following morning, he sees an arbor of roses and plucks a single flower.
The Beast appears, angered by the merchant's offense. He demands reparation for the slight. The Beast tells the merchant that he will be set free, but must return within the month unless one of his daughters willingly offers to take his place.
Returning home, the merchant recounts his tale and bids his family farewell, but Beauty demands to go in his stead. Refusing to listen to her family's arguments, she resolves to tame the Beast. Beauty finds that the strangeness of the palace soon becomes familiar, and she welcomes the company of its lonely inhabitant.
After some time has passed, Beauty asks permission to visit her family and her wish is granted. She is given a week and a warning: when the week is at an end, the Beast will be dying. Almost too late, Beauty returns to find the Beast in a state of torpor. She professes her love for him and so breaks the enchantment that held him. However, Beauty must learn to see herself as she really is before she can live happily ever after; she must welcome both Honour and Beauty before she can esteem herself worthy of the Beast.