Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Hayden Thorne
Rating: 4.25 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 07/01/2016
Length: Long Novel (~ 100K+)
Genre: Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Drama, Fantasy, Gay Fiction, Historical, Mystery/Thriller
A dying young mother’s desperate hope for her child leads her to a fateful meeting in the clearing of an old wood. A meeting whose otherworldly purpose quietly and gradually takes shape as the child matures. A meeting that has left the wood under a dark spell, unable to rise up in fury to undo what it sees as a violation of natural laws.
Two families from old aristocratic lines agree to end the century-long and bloody feud that has left one side fading and the other flourishing. To achieve such an end, Laurent Veilleux, the youngest of his family, and Brys Lajoie, the last of his bloodline, are forced to marry though still strangers to each other. Marriages of convenience and political marriages are common among the upper-crust, and despite their initial reluctance and disdain, Laurent and Brys slowly allow themselves to open their hearts and minds to each other in hopes that somehow, by some miracle, love would eventually bloom between them.
But their union has awakened something, a fragrant and deadly shadow that leaves a trail of bodies in its wake. Healthy people suddenly fall ill and die after suffering long, excruciating declines marked by symptoms of poison. Plants and flowers wilt, butterflies and birds tumble to the ground dead, and it appears as though this murderous shadow follows the young couple everywhere.
To make matters worse, this threat seems to gather more strength when Laurent and Brys develop the emotional connection they’ve always hoped for. And somewhere in the French countryside, the woodlands finally emerge from the dark spell, unleash their fury, and seek justice for a past wrong, the trees’ reach spanning distances in search of the unsuspecting pair.
Inspired by the poison maiden legend from India, which Nathaniel Hawthorne also adapted in “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, ‘The Flowers of St. Aloysius’ is a gothic gay fairy tale set in an alternate universe nineteenth century France.
When I pulled up the technical details for this book I had to look twice because at first I couldn’t believe it was self-published. It’s quite an ambitious project to have completed without outside professional help, so props to Ms. Thorne for that.
I think my favorite thing about this title was the pervading sense of mystery and uncertainty. There were layers upon layers of detail, and everything made sense, but you had to pay attention to follow it all (which I prefer to being given answers outright). I didn’t have a grasp on Brys’ true nature until nearly the 50% mark, and no inkling about the “big bad” or their motives even later than that.
Also, although the story is indeed set in nineteenth century France, the summary pleasantly sells short just how alternate of an alternate universe we’re talking about here. I mean, there’s no electricity or running water, but the characters speak basically as they would in 2016, and neither same-sex marriage nor the biological impossibility of two cis men having a child warrants even the slightest pause in the narrative. I liked that dichotomy and felt that the modern touches helped the plot stay on pace.
The Flowers of St. Aloysius is, overall, a scary and fantastical long novel that I think most fans of gothic romance will enjoy.
I would like to thank the author for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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