|A Thing of Beauty by Bianca M. Schwarz (cover)|
Goodreads Review 29th Oct 2015
Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
Further disclaimer: as an editor myself, I can be pernickety.
This historical novel, the first of a series (and rightfully too) is set after the Battle of Waterloo in the early eighteen hundreds. Eliza Broad, who escapes from her brutal and sadistic stepfather, is rescued by aristocrat, Sir Henry March (who reminds me a little of the Scarlet Pimpernel in the way he hides his true persona in society). Fortuitously, this very rescue provides leads for Henry in his undercover search for evil spy, De Sade.
Eliza turns out to be a plucky heroine, the equal to Henry, and they make a great partnership, along with Henry’s friends and employees (many who have been in the war against Napoleon with him) in their efforts to discover and foil De Sade’s sinister and sadistic plan.
I won’t say more about the story, although I should point out the erotic sex-scenes, though well written, would be x-rated if it were a film, as would the torture scene, but on the grounds of violence. I accept both as part of the story, but I think some might be very affected by them, particularly the latter.
When I first started reading A Thing of Beauty, the action filled prologue and Ch1 had me looking forward to a good read. Apart from a niggle that the local dialect of some of the side characters was not quite right, I started to empathise with the main character (MC), Eliza Broad.
I stalled briefly in Chs. 2 and 3. The sudden slowing of pace, the increase of ‘tell’ and (admittedly beautifully researched) passive description took me out of the story a bit, and had me questioning the role of Henry in Eliza’s life. They seemed to fall into a friendship too quickly, with no conflict between themselves or with the views of the society they came from. Certain things I’d think they’d question, they didn’t. The friendship didn’t feel properly explored, only referred to.
Saying that, though, when the action started, I stopped dissecting the writing and was drawn right back into the exciting scenes and mystery right until the end of the book. The action was tight, the wonderfully authentic, detailed description was interwoven with a fast paced narrative and I looked forward to picking up the book again whenever I had to put it down. I cared for Eliza and Henry and empathised with them.
At the end, there were some untied ends that I believe are deliberate, with the view to continuing the story in the next book, one that I’d happily read.
There was one detail I did feel was not answered and should’ve been: Where did Wilkins go?
[The reason I didn’t give the book another star is not because of the story itself, which I enjoyed, but because it could really have done with another edit. The problems of the above mentioned two chapters, the spelling errors dotted throughout and the point of view jumps occasionally took me out of the story. I did feel, at times, the point of view should’ve stayed with a single character for the whole scene, or chapter (the jumping around unsettled me), but it was not enough to detract from the overall story.]