In the dark allies of Victorian London, phantoms, ghosts, and demons alike haunt the city streets. A group of six are chosen as protectors known as, The Guard, helping keep London and the public safe from paranormal danger. The first night of their meeting, they are told of a prophecy who will be put in their path to strengthen The Guard and make them complete not just as a group but for one member in particular–their dark, brooding leader, Alexi Rychman.
In Leanna Renee Hieber’s para-romance, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, we meet the shy, meek, phantasm-like name sake: Percy Parker. She arrives at the London school Athens Academy feeling quite alone in the world. Percy is quite different from the other students at the academy: she is older, gifted in languages, has few ‘friends’, and unlike most of the normal world she can see ghosts. Looking much like a ghost herself, she spends most of her day ‘hiding’ behind veils, shaded glasses, and long gloves. She is a luminescent with her pearl white hair and alabaster skin…she glows like a ghost but yet is mortal.
When she meets Alexi, her terrifying mathematics professor. Though wickedly attracted to him, she knows her feelings can never become more than fantasy but yet she is strangely drawn to him, and he to her. Though gifted at languages, she cannot grasp math to save her life. Alexi begins tutoring her in math and slowly she reveals her nature to him….she discovers she is not alone in the world, like her Alexi can also see the ghosts who haunt the city.
Recognizing his growing regard for Percy and her strange talents, Alexi cannot help but wonder if she is the prophecy that was foretold to The Guard many years before. He takes his information about Percy to the other Guard members and they warn him the vision which appeared to them all those years before warned of an impostor and to beware of a false prophecy.
Another possible candidate for the prophecy appears to the group which suggest perhaps Percy is the impostor they have been warned against. The fate of The Guard rests in Alexi’s hands….the woman he chooses will either destroy or unite them.
I was really excited to read this book, I had it down to read for part of the Steampunk Reading Challenge this year but it seemed more like para-romance and gaslight fiction…or even a modern gothic romance, rather than steampunk and I was right. But either way I just really wanted to read the book….I needed another epic para-romance to tide me over until the next Sookie Stackhouse book comes out in May and since I love a good gaslight/gothic para-romance, this just jumped out at me…..and I was NOT disappointed :).
I had my reservations when I started the book, as I was a little confused by the whole prophecy thing and wasn’t sure what the role of The Guard was….were they ghostbusters, were they exorcists, what was their function? And I wasn’t sure how the whole Jack the Ripper storyline was going to fit in with the book…but I was quickly hooked on the story and could hardly put it down all weekend it was so good!!
I wasn’t entirely convinced about Percy being a strong heroine…she seemed rather weak and timid prone to fits of passion and romance but not the typical heroine or prophecy of traditional para-romance and fantasy novels. But it was a nice indulgence for me to have a damsel in distress who is waiting to be rescued by her knight in shining armor.
Hieber nailed the Victorian gothic romance tradition….the dark, brooding Alexi who seemingly locked his heart away forever….the unrequited love in The Guard group….the dark mystical, gaslit city that was Victorian London. It was all beautifully done in classic gothic romance, bravo! 🙂
I think what I loved most was her portrayal of Alexi. In an era that emphasized duty rather than passion, Alexi is the quintessential tormented…forlorn, brooding leader of The Guard. He is unique, clearly a leader whose charisma demands attention…he is also honorable and devoted to his profession…..but his greatest asset is also his prison. Though he longs to love, he does not feel he can let anyone in without hurting them so he locks his heart away….quietly wasting away doing his duty but at the same time suffocating in loneliness.
The term frigid defined the Victorian era….and like so many Victorians, Alexi does his duty unquestionably but yet can’t help but wonder what he is missing. Where is the passion, the love, the romance….the life? Until someone turns on a light inside him. For me he was truly an accurately depicted gothic hero.
The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker was certainly that…..strangely beautiful. A seductive, luminous, etherial tale surely to bring a smile at times to the readers face, and sure to light a burning blue light inside us all. If you are a fan of para-romance novels or fantasy/gaslight fiction this is a must read!
- Mass Market Paperback, 322 pages
- Published August 25th 2009 by Leisure Books (first published January 1st 2009)
- ISBN 0843962968 (ISBN13: 9780843962963)
This book counts toward: NA
- Hosted by: NA
- Books for Challenge Completed: NA
Recommendation: 5 out of 5, great para-romance novel!
Genre: pararomance, fantasy, gothic fiction, gaslight fiction,
Memorable lines/quotes: NA