Review: A Hidden Beauty by Jamie Craig

Poetry drew them together. Forbidden love bound their hearts.

A student of letters, Micah Yardley wants one thing: To meet Jefferson Dering, a poet he’s long admired from afar. After hearing his idol speak at Harvard, Micah travels to Jefferson’s home in Wroxham, entertaining visions of discussing poetry over dinner and drinks. What he experiences exceeds anything he ever anticipated.

Jefferson finds Micah mesmerizing, passionate, everything he has ever wanted. But ten years earlier, caught in a compromising position with another young man, he exiled himself from Boston and proper society. Now Jefferson represses his desire out of respect for Micah, but his tumultuous emotions stir the restless ghost of Wroxham church—with deadly consequences.

Amid denial, desire, and the villagers rising panic, a single kiss is enough to change the course of their lives…and ignite the flame that could fulfill a generations-old promise.

Review by Alex Beecroft

To start with the outside, this is one of the most beautiful covers I’ve yet seen on an ebook; it’s moody, tasteful and sensual and, what’s more, it completely fits the contents of the book.  It might even be an illustration for a particular scene.

The cover sets a high standard and to my pleasure the book inside lived up to it.

Again, I’m pleased to find that the blurb is not at all misleading and does actually summarize what the story is about! I wish I didn’t have to be quite so impressed at both of these things.

This is a slow-paced, tender and beautiful love story between two poets, set – if I’m reading it correctly – in early 19th Century America. Micah is a young gentleman of good family, studying at Harvard, whose admiration for Jefferson’s poetry leads him to visit the man himself in his artistic exile. Micah’s innocence is such that initially he believes his infatuation is merely with Jefferson’s mind, his words, and the shock of discovering his own nature and his real desires is beautifully portrayed and very realistic.

One of the things I liked about the book was that it gave enough time for Micah’s journey of self-realization. Neither his innocence nor his eventual acceptance felt rushed or hard to believe. I also particularly appreciated the epistolary sections, where the different voices of the two men came across sharply. There’s something very charming about reading their love letters.

The slow and careful development of the relationship also allowed time for the forces of society to be amply ranged against the two men. I enjoyed – in a sort of masochistic way – the feeling that, slowly but surely, the jaws of intolerance were closing on the burgeoning love story. By the end I was on tenterhooks as to which force would come to the point of action first. The slow but sure build up of tension almost certainly contributed to the fact that the sex scenes in the book are some of the best I’ve read. By this time we know exactly how much they mean to both men, and some of that awe and wonder comes across, making these scenes truly intimate rather than merely voyeuristic.

However, the sex is also one of the things where I felt the balance of the book was just that little bit off. For my own tastes, there was slightly too much sex in the last quarter of the story. I found that it got in the way of both of the threats the couple faced – the threat of exposure, and the increasingly violent threat of the ghost in the church.

Speaking of which, to me, the ghost and his spooky doings felt a bit shoehorned in. I found myself far more aware of how dangerous it was for Micah – with his powerful father and vigilant tutors who already suspected Jefferson of homosexuality – to move in with Jefferson, than I was of the danger of the ghost. I was waiting for the long arm of the law to reach their idyll, and for the last minute flit to the safety of the wild West, all of which were looming deliciously on the horizon. But instead we had a church burning and the laying of a ghost. I daresay that it was metaphorical or thematically important and I wasn’t paying attention, but I felt it was a bit of a sidetrack.

Oh, and one other quibble; it took me a while to realize that Micah was an innocent young man who didn’t understand his own desires, because I was lead into error by the first sentence:

Prior to his journey, Micah Yardley would never have considered anticipation as the ultimate aphrodisiac.

I have to admit that I spent the first chapter and a half thinking that he was a worldly and debauched young aristo who had come into the country to corrupt a timid poet. Whether this was accidentally misleading, or a deliberate, amusing irony, I’m still not sure. It made for a strange twist in the head a couple of chapters in, which did leave me feeling a little seasick.

Apart from those few things, however, this is a book I really enjoyed – a book I felt immersed in with delight – and one that will go up on my favourites shelf to read again often.

Buy: Samhain

One Response

  1. Sounds fab! I must get it!



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