I am not a fan of historical stories, mostly because I get grumpy at the treatment of woman, who are very little more than adornments and possessions and daughters are a burden.
But also because of the even more prominent social inequality, financial inequality and of course in m/m the very real threat of prison or worse as punishment for being gay.
This book covers all of those points, portrait them, but also thumbed its nose at them.
We have clumsy, brilliant, repressed, wonderful and brave Dr. Percival Endicott Whyborne, a comparative philologist. He has a deeply ingrained picture of himself, bullied into him from an early age by his father and brother and continually put down by an asshat coworker.
Here I have to give a shout-out to Christine, I love her. Woman are often not portrait positively in m/m books and she not only bucks that trend but is a true pioneer of her time and an awesome friend.
Whyborne berates himself constantly, he is so accomplished and smart, but he just can't see it, he believes all those jealous and petty people instead.
“I was too gawky, too shy, too strange.”
“I didn’t want to be looked at. I wanted to be left alone, in my little apartment and my lonely bed, which remained cold even after I’d crawled beneath the covers.”
But he isn't like they tell him he is, it just takes him a long time to see that.
He's also still mourning his best friend, feels survivors guilt and guilt for not being able to save him, the boy he loved. He is ashamed and afraid of being gay. Always worried that he will end up in prison for his sexuality and constantly thinking he doesn't measure up despite all his brilliance and accomplishments he feels inferior.
“The full weight of his scrutiny fell upon me: judging, considering. I looked down and away, because any such judgment would inevitably find me lacking.”
But then private detective Mr. Griffin Flaherty comes into his life, or rather forces himself with gentle persistence into Whyborne's life.
He has his own demons and fears, although I wish I could have had a peek in his head too. But this story is told only from Whyborne's POV.
I could see that Griffin is smitten with Whyborne but of course the poor man can't believe it, he doesn't think he's worthy.
“I barely swallowed back a bitter laugh. Deserve me? Of course he didn’t—he deserved someone a thousand times better. Someone who wasn’t gawky and awkward and strange. Who could hold a normal conversation without stuttering, who didn’t constantly weigh every action, paralyzed by fear until it was too late to do anything.”
And as if the poor man's non-existent self worth wasn't enough there is a pretty interesting, creative , creepy and actually also very sad mystery they need to solve.
So I have to say, despite my reluctance to read an historical horror story, I am so glad I did and I am definitely getting the other books in this series.
I loved watching these two men compliment and complete each other. They are exactly what the other needs and deserves.
So if anyone is reluctant to read this because of the same issues I had, I say go ahead and give this book a chance, I am very glad I did.