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A Hyacinth for His Hideousness, by Tharah Meester

A Hyacinth for His Hideousness, by Tharah Meester

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Book Info

Book Series
Ascot Crime and Drama, Book 1
About the Author
Tharah Meester discovered very early, that a good romance novel not only raises your heartbeat, but can also cause a tingling sensation in your stomach. Not much later she realized, that this feeling is strongest, when she writes those stories herself.

By now being an author has become her dearest passion and beyond that her career having written more than 25 short stories and novels. Her most beloved genre is Historical Gay Romance, where she most of the time resides in her fictive world of Farefyr, that she created with her husband. Together they live with their much-loved dog in a small city in Austria.
Publication Date
June 18, 2020
Available Formats
Kindle, KU
Pages
383
Content Warning
father-to-son beatings/abuse, one beating from husband-to-husband, uninformed consent
ASIN
B089ZVYR5K
Following a public humiliation, Hyacinth Black is on the verge of being beaten to death by his father. Of all people, the man who is commonly referred to as ‘Your Hideousness’ comes to his defence; but his intervention has a price. Hyacinth must marry his rescuer.

Since the murder of his brother, Gavrila Ardenovic has been on the trail of a secret society, but in the city where he is only mocked, he has few allies. Therefore he keeps his distance from others and is used to suppressing any hint of emotion.

Will lies and intrigues prevail or can Hyacinth succeed in battling the shadows of the past and break through his husband’s cold-hearted façade?

This romance novel is set in an alternate-universe Victorian Era without magic or other fantasy elements.

Editor review

1 review
Great Potential
Overall
 
4.0
 ** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **

 A Hyacinth for His Hideousness (Ascot Crime and Drama, 01)
 by Tharah Meester, Ian Notsnall (Translator)
 POV: 3rd person, dual POV


 A Hyacinth for His Hideousness is a romantic, mysterious historical novel about one man finding his confidence and fighting his personal demons, while a young man discovers his heart and courage. It's a sweet, intriguing tale that is woven throughout a few weeks of intense drama and romance.

 ~

 Breakdown:
Characters: ★★★★☆
Plot: ★★★★☆
Writing: ★★★☆☆
Editing: ★★★☆☆

 I was eager to read this, just from seeing the cover. Then I read the blurb and – having been on a Historical kick lately – it was right up my alley. I'm sorry to say it took me a lot longer to get round to reading than I'd hoped, as some work commitments railroaded me.

 The first 5% of the book has a few issues, but my rule of thumb for reviews is two-fold:
  1.  if I'm not intrigued by the characters/plot by 5%, I might DNF
  2.  if they do intrigue me, I give it until 10% to impress me.
 With this book, I was pulled in by Gavrila from the first, and only minorly intrigued by Hyacinth, early on. They were what kept me reading, and the intrigue over Gavrila's back story and the story of his brother's murder. I kept reading, first and foremost, to discover the answers to those secrets.

 The more I read, the more I saw the bones of the story and appreciated the depths of the book.

 The story does have some triggers, especially in the first 5% of the book. There is no warning over this, so I'll just do a quick rundown of the extent to which they appear, to join the list above. As someone who reads a lot of historical stories, these are common in the genre. None of it is intensely described on page, only referenced to, with a minor description of the type of abuse.

  •  Hyacinth becomes a rent boy to help his family financially
  •  Hyacinth's father is abusive, verbally and physically. In the first 5%, he does attempt to kill Hyacinth by strangling him, after he's exposed as a rent boy, publicly.
  •  Vrila marries Hyacinth to protect him from shame, and his father's beating. But, he's cold at first, and beats Hyacinth with a belt when he thinks Hyacinth has destroyed precious items.
  •  There is a touch of dub-con in the fact Hyacinth is a virgin, but doesn't tell Vrila on their wedding night. Vrila isn't gentle with him, but Hyacinth gives consent for their wedding night, so it's kind of an uninformed consent between two strangers.
  •  There is a history of family-abuse in both Hyacinth and Vrila's lives
 ~

 The book is HUGE, however there is an intricate mystery plot to be explored, investigating and finding clues. There is a romance that takes our main characters from two strangers to two husbands who have fallen in love. That takes time, and I liked the way the romance was explored; slowly, with care, and through little touches, looks, and a slow increase of affection. The mystery was well handled, as well. It was slow in some places, to allow the romance to blossom, but there were hints and clues in every act, every encounter, every word that was spoken.

 I love that this was an alternative version of a historical world, because it meant that gay marriage was accepted, and welcomed. No one looked down on them for being two married men, except those who were “old-fashioned”, and I enjoyed how it added another element to the story.
 The book is slow-paced, giving the characters room to breathe, time for us to learn about them and their behaviours, their personalities, and time for two strangers who rushed into marriage to learn about each other. I'd rather have that than a rushed insta-love relationship, so the slower pace worked for me. Especially as I didn't warm to Hyacinth immediately.
 When it comes to characters, I fell in love with the mysterious Vrila immediately. I liked how brash and blunt he was, that he didn't pander to social acceptance, and fought for Hyacinth. I am a sucker for irascible main character, with a dark past and demons, who is mysterious in many ways, and doesn't believe he's worthy of love. That always draws me in.

 In turn, it took me time to warm to Hyacinth, who sometimes came across as childish in his behaviour. He wasn't a well-off member of the society class, but acted and read like someone who was only one rung from living on the streets. However, he wasn't presented as such in the first 5% (or on the cover) where he came across as rich, part of society, and well established with good social standing. I would have much preferred if he'd been a street rat that Vrila dragged off the street, to protect and save from harm, and then I could have much more easily, and quickly, believed in his characterisation. The way he was ignorant of food, cooking, basic skills; most society would recognise potatoes and vegetables, but Hyacinth didn't even recognise these simple things, or know how to read and write. His history of being abused and unwanted by his parents only accounts for part of that ignorance.

 I think part of the problem with Hyacinth was that he was immediately thrown into a harrowing situation...before we were able to know him and feel sympathy or concern over his fate. If we'd seen a bit more of Hyacinth before the shaming event, I might have bonded with him more, because I would have been connected to his character enough to worry, to fear for his safety, to care that he was in this awful situation. But, I think this was rushed to get to the main crux of the story, which demands Hyacinth and Vrila work through their mystery and romance together.
 For side characters, I think Sergei – Perkovic – was my favourite, right from the start. He was a homeless man with spirit and snark, who pushed Vrila, and supported Hyacinth. His story was sad and touching, but he was strong despite all he'd lost, never losing hope. I loved him from start to finish.

 ~

 While I loved the central story – the mystery and the romance – the execution was shaky.
 I feel the flow was hampered either by the translation, or because it needed another round of edits. There were short, chunky sentence, uncomfortable phrasing, and small things that could have been fixed by an editor or Beta reader who was well versed in reading historical stories. Someone to give it a bit of polish, to help it transition into a more seamless story.
 The cover is deceptive. It implies there's a rich, aristocratic character, but none of our main characters actually fits that. Vrila admits he's not wealthy enough to send Hyacinth to university without assistance. Hyacinth can't read/write or take care of himself. In fact, the main cast are poor, with Vrila and Hyacinth living off his military pension.

 I didn't believe the circumstances that led to Vrila buying Hyacinth's marriage. He was shamed in public for prostituting himself, with no evidence. Though he cried, it could have been at the accusation not because it was true. But no one dared doubt it, question it, or protest. Vrila was the only one who demanded evidence, but everyone else was too happy to have this public exposure shame Hyacinth, and have him expelled from society. Historical/Victorian shame often came through snubs, with people whispering and shunning them, with a public cut and prolonging the pain of the insult. Why wouldn't he marry one of his “suitors” to save his family, rather than turning to the streets? Why would he turn down “suitors” instead of turning to prostitution? It didn't add up, and I began to wonder if the word “suitor” was being used instead of “john/client” which made it more confusing. Normally, in this sense, a suitor is someone trying to marry you.

 There were some issues with the editing that made it choppy, where movements, behaviours and positions were left unexplained. Transitions between movements weren't always described. We're told Vrila takes Sergei into the house and to the “bar” before there's any explanation of the room – which comes pages later – to describe in Hyacinth's POV the details of the room.

 Other editing problems:
  •  some of the fluidity seems to have been lost in translation; the word choices and flow are stilted and unnatural.
  •  the story flits between historical and modern speech for about the first 10%
  •  sentences have the wrong words italicised, e.g. “At least he was hoping” for new insights.” It happens often and sometimes hampers the meaning of the sentence.
  •  over-explanation – “the moniker 'Your Hideousness.' His striking ugliness was the reason.” – that doesn't need to be explained; it's self-explanatory.
  •  backwards quotation marks, e.g. “Your first one?“
  •  misspelled words – saliver, flinche
  •  slips of omni-present POV = within Vrila or Hyacinth's POV, we see a sentence of someone else's thoughts “It wasn't lost on Howard that they were keeping important details from him.”
  •  there are too many names = Sergei goes by Sergei and Perkovic; Gavrila goes by that name, Vrila, Gavrii, and Mr Hideousness; Hyacinth goes by his name, Mr Black, Mr Ardenovic. It's difficult to keep track of the story with 8 recurring characters, each with multiple names.
  •  some information is give too late – it takes 3 pages to learn that Howard is a policeman
  •  Hyacinth's characterisation is inconsistent, stating he's part of society and nobility, then later referring to him as a guttersnipe
  •  the world-building is slim. We're never told where this takes place. I'm assuming it takes place in Germany, because the titles were previously released in German, but it would be nice to have a little clarification, even if it's a fictional world.
 I haven't read the original German edition, so I can't comment on whether the translations were faithful or not, or whether the faults existed in the original story or were a product of the translation. What I can say is that the faults aren't extensive. Yes, they are frequent, but they're not so overpowering as to hide the story or the character, or overshadow the main writing style, which is good. It just needs a little attention from a historical editor, who could give it that final boost into becoming a “great” rather than “good” telling of the story. The plot has the potential to be the prior, but the execution leaves it loitering much closer to the latter, and it doesn't need to.

 ~

 I never like to end on a negative note, but I always try to point out anything that could help the author, critical points to consider in the future. At the same time, I loved the book and enjoyed the storytelling.

 My favourite parts were the characters. Vrila and Hyacinth grew together, both as individuals and as a couple. I loved their progress, their learning experiences, how nothing was perfectly smooth and they had to fight through various trials to find their way. I loved Sergei and how his story unfolded, and was a great friend. The same goes for the lovely Seymour. I felt sorry for Laurent.
 I'm hoping the next book will be Tornwauld, who thoroughly intrigued me, as a small character with a big personality and huge possibilities. I wouldn't say no to seeing more of Vrila and Hyacinth again, either, even if only as side characters.

 I want to give the author MAJOR props for ignoring and defeating some of the most common pitfalls and clichés in novels, especially of a historical nature. A dying man manages to give a final message but dies before revealing who killed him? – squashed! The author bravely took the move of letting the character tell who killed him in his final moments. Someone being threatened into leaving their lover and being stupid enough to actually do it, to protect them? – ignored! The author boldly let this character run straight TO their lover, and confess everything, instead of taking the threat to heart and running off without a word. I couldn't have been happier about that, because those two clichés have ruined so many good books for me. This one avoided all those traps, thank God, staying true to the characters and their nature.

 The ending was perfect. The romance was lovely. The mystery was intriguing. It was everything I could have hoped for, in a historical story, and not only provided a complete storyline with depth and purpose, but it crafted a romance with care and attention. Although there were some issues, I feel it's more a problem of translation and transition than a problem with the author's work or writing style. I'm excited to read more of their work, and to read more of this series.

 The story is...unconventional in the best of ways. I'm honoured the author trusted me to read it and supply a review. I'll be buying every future book in this series.

 ~

 Favourite Quotes

 ““Besides, you do enough.”
His young husband’s thin eyebrows creased in disbelief. “So, what is it then that I do?”
You make me laugh; you’re kinder to me than anyone has ever been before; you cause my heart to race and bestow on me a strange, unfamiliar feeling of affection, not to mention my desire; you are at my side when I need you; you… are here.
“Enough.””

““I prefer a hyacinth to any other flower, I just didn’t know it back then.””
EW
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