My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Have you ever read a book that had all the elements you like in a story and yet you couldn’t get into it? That is what happened to me with Leanna Renee Hieber’s book, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.
First, the things I liked. I liked:
- That there was a cast of characters with differently personalities. That usually shows me that the author isn’t cookie cutting her stories.
- That the story was steeped in mythology.
- That it was set in the Victorian age.
- That there was a character in a wheelchair (being an amputee I have a soft spot for disabled characters.)
- That the heroine was a fan of Shakespeare and a reader. (I tend to like books with quotes from literature.)
- Second, what I found lacking.
The Victorian age was one of strict social rules of conduct and yet the best stories about this age are the ones that show someone ignoring those rules and being human. About people with wants that drive them and with passion that overwhelms them. However I found the hero and the heroine in this story weighed down by the social rules of propriety and they never showed any “zest for life”. I was bored by both the moody Professor Rychman and the whimpering Percy Parker. While most of the story is about the budding romance between these two, I found their courtship flat and unemotional.
In addition, while I usually love that there is a diverse group of supporting characters (see above), the other six key players in this story run in and out of scenes leaving very few clues about their true nature or their emotional depth. While the six proclaim that they are friends and supporters of Rychman, they only ever seem to torment him and gossip about him behind his back. I don’t want friends like that in my life and I don’t want that for the hero of my stories either. I’m sure Hieber intends to have a book for each of these characters, however this wasn’t enough of good first impression to make me care about them and look to them in the future as a source of entertainment. Although I believe several of them are a lot more interesting than Rychman who seems to have no sense of humor.
Regardless of these downfalls, I wanted to finish this book. I had hope that it would turn into something more. The writing was descriptive but I found myself skimming paragraphs looking for what really mattered. There seemed to be an overwhelming amount of the book that told me what I should have been thinking instead of showing me characters in action. It was like watching a movie that is mostly internal dialogue.
I think Hieber is a decent writer. I have hope that Hieber will someday write a truly gripping story but this wasn’t it. There is hope there in the mystery of this book; it has a lot of room for growth. I just hope that the author spends more time on her characters and less time on the plot points. Readers need to care about the characters to want to know what happens in the book. I never found myself caring about Rychman or Parker and so it never mattered to me how it ended.