- A Hyacinth for His Hideousness, by Tharah Meester
A Hyacinth for His Hideousness, by Tharah Meester
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.
The first 5% of the book has a few issues, but my rule of thumb for reviews is two-fold:
- if I'm not intrigued by the characters/plot by 5%, I might DNF
- if they do intrigue me, I give it until 10% to impress me.
The more I read, the more I saw the bones of the story and appreciated the depths of the book.
- 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
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.
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.
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.