Some things should stay buried.
Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he's ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.
So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn't believe are real.
As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin's rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne's iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin's secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?
Whyborne is a scholarly loner, who spends his days working at the Ladysmith Museum and his nights staring longingly at an image of his dead childhood friend. He has no social life beyond his one friend, Christine, and no plans for anything in his life to change. That is until detective Griffin Flaherty turns up, requesting Whyborne translate a mysterious book and offering more flirtatious comments than poor socially awkward Whyborne knows how to handle. The book is a grimoire - magic is afoot! And the two are drawn into a fantastical investigation with monsters and spells, and closer to each other in the process.
Whyborne is adorable. He's the bookish, socially awkward hero type, who discovers magic and an adventurous side as he falls in love. He's a virgin hero, having sworn off sexual and romantic adventures since the tragic death of his childhood friend, and is very unsure of himself throughout his developing romance with Whyborne. Despite his self doubt, though, he's no push over. He's loyal and determined to do the right thing, no matter the cost to himself.
I have mixed feelings towards Griffin. On the one hand, he's a delicious flirt, making the build up to his and Whyborne's relationship undeniably scrumptious. But on the other hand, he's keeping quite a few secrets from Whyborne. Given how much we feel and understand from Whyborne's perspective (it's written in 1st person from Whyborne only, and his narration is painfully honest about his feelings), by contrast Griffin is a difficult hero to feel close to. While we know everything Whyborne is thinking, Griffin is much more of a closed book. Whyborne really has to push for Griffin to share and, even once he has, there's always the sense that he has more secrets. I struggled with this, especially at the resolution of the conflict, since I still felt like I did not entirely trust him.
The world building in this novel (and the rest of the series) is far from perfect - some things are insufficiently explained or inconsistent - but the adventure storyline is nonetheless very exciting and had me on the edge of my seat. I wish the romance conflict had been more than a distrust/miscommunication storyline, however, the romance is very steamy and I loved the way this was woven into such a compelling fantasy adventure.
I also have to mention Whyborne's friend Christine. Because she is the best. She's perpetually frustrated by the men of her acquaintance and endlessly saving the day. She's my hero.
My friend gifted me this book ages ago, but for whatever reason I only recently picked it up. I don't know why it took me so long to start, but it only took me a day to read... and then under a week to finish the next three books of the series. There's something very compelling about the adventures of Whyborne, Griffin and Christine that reminds me a little of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk series, though perhaps with a little less consistency of world building, but a lot more sexy times. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes The Ministry series (and the like), but who'd also enjoy a little more romance and a lot more down and dirty with their fantastical adventure tales.
Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk is a historical fantasy romance, released on November 23 2013.
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