I owe a bit of an apology to Bianca M. Schwarz today as I sit down to write my review of her book, A Thing of Beauty. In my ignorance, I imagined it to be a romance and assumed it would fit within the tidy confines of a “set” recipe for romance. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good romance, especially everything Julia Quinn. All Ms. Quinn has to do is type the word “Bridgerton” and I’ve got my iPad fired up and ready to hand out 5-stars…and I don’t give out very many 5-star reviews! So I really do enjoy some romance, but most days I need more story to go with the romance.
But I digress…back to A Thing of Beauty. I did this novel a huge disservice by assuming it was strictly romance. Having finally finished this wonderful novel, I have to say that I’m not sure what genre to fit this book into. It has a little something for everyone: Romance, Intrigue, Mystery, Suspense, History…it has everything! And it doesn’t fail to deliver on each of those elements!
One of my favorite elements of this novel was the characters — I simply loved the characters, particularly Eliza and Sir. Henry. I love the relationship that they develop. Sure, their relationship is romantic and, for those who enjoy spicy intimate scenes, you won’t be let down; but it’s a relationship based first and foremost on respect and friendship. They are equals in a way that most book couples aren’t.
To delve a little more deeply, I fell in love with Sir Henry’s character. He’s basically what I think every woman looks for in a mate. He’s strong, yet sensitive. He’s protective, yet not smothering. At first glance, he’s fearless and yet he’s secure enough in his manhood to admit he’s afraid or openly show tears. And he has a moral compass that guides his actions. Simply stated, he’s awesome!
Now, I’m sure to get some flack for this, but the novel I can most closely relate this title to is the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. No, it’s not set in Scotland — and no, it doesn’t have the King of Men, Jamie Fraser. What it has in common with Gabaldon’s books, though, are strong leading characters who respect each other completely. It has a sense of time and place, a lot of history thrown in, and no small amount of intrigue and mystery. In those elements, I think the comparison is fair. What it doesn’t have is time travel and Jamie. But I think readers who enjoy the relationship between Outlander’s Jamie and Claire will find much to recommend the characters of Eliza and Henry.
If readers find they enjoy A Thing of Beauty, they’re in luck. The author has left it open for further editions to follow; and I think I heard she’s already working on followup editions. As for myself, I can’t wait to read what next adventures await Eliza and Sir Henry, because surely there must be more in their future! They’re just way too good together not to have a followup title.
Overall, I give this title and enthusiastic 4.5 stars because — as my dear friend Jamie McLachlan likes to remind me — for those of us who are stingy with our 5 stars, sometimes there are titles that are still worth more than simply 4 stars. A Thing of Beauty is definitely in that class.