A Hidden Beauty by Jamie Craig

Blurb: 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: For some reason I missed all the hints that this is a historical story, so that came as a surprise to me. I’m usually not too fond of historicals, for the one reason that I can’t wrap my head around the attitude of those past times. The religious zeal and homophobia, which go so well together, are just too much for me. This is exactly one of those stories I usually shy away from, but I’m glad I got it without knowing this.

The story is set in or shortly after 1839. The date is never stated but the mentioning of the Daguerrotype makes this clear.

After Micah seeks out Jefferson and they get separated for the first time the novel turns to become a temporary epistolary one. I always enjoy those, because the reader learns what’s going on on both sides from both points of view in that sort of old fashioned way. After a brief re-unification the epistolary manner is being picked up again for a short time, until Micah and Jefferson get together for good.

Micah is a very innocent, poetic young man who finds to himself and his personality during the course of the story. This is done beautifully, not rushed at all, in fact the story begins very slow and stays that way all the time. It is sensual and really brings the characters to life. The relationship between Jefferson and Micah develops gradually and grows deeper while they are being separated. No hasty sex scenes and quick shagging here.

When Micah leaves Boston he eventually has come to terms with his feelings for Jefferson and at the same time has found to his true self. He was extremely courageous to leave his family and Harvard behind, given the situation with his father and his well meaning and meddlesome professor. I expected one of them or both to turn up at Jefferson’s doorstep any minute to drag little Micah back to his healthy uncorrupted familiar environment. The same with the villagers. In my mind the pitchforks and torches were already being collected.

Even though the atmosphere was not menacing I was constantly feeling worried about who might be coming along exposing Micah and Jefferson as sodomites. As it happened the threat to separate the two eventually became real and both had to make a tough decision. The book ends on a positive note, but nothing is totally resolved. I prefer to envision them heading west, away from Micah’s stuck-up family and Wroxham’s uncaring and God fearing denizens.

The paranormal factor does play an important part in the book that can’t be ignored, but it is not the main plot; the focus lies on the development of the two men’s relationship.

If you like sensual stories with increasing tension, loving characters and intense feelings, get this! For me it is definitely a keeper.

Available at Samhain Publishing

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