Title: Desmond and Garrick (Book 1)
Author: Hayden Thorne
Buy Link: Buy Link (Second Edition)
Genre: LGBTQ Young Adult, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Novel (244 pages / 67,000 words)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A very well written, extremely quirky, and original vampire story that will be a great setup to a series, but is a bit slow as a standalone novel.
It’s 1815, just after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and Garrick Mortimer is a scholar extraordinaire, an underemployed and starving genius. Desperate, he agrees to sign on as tutor to Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of a vampire family living in Yorkshire. Desmond, who’s suffering terrible heartbreak caused by another boy’s callous treatment of him in school, rebels against Garrick’s attempts at educating him and does everything he could to chase Garrick away, which proves to be a greater challenge than he first believes.
When Desmond’s older brother returns from Italy for a visit, bringing with him a small group of talentless and self-absorbed poets, his (and Garrick’s) world turns upside-down, mainly when he meets Leigh Blaise Sherbourne, a vampire poet who seems to detest Desmond and also harbors secrets regarding his past. Throw into the mix a desperate mother’s plea for grandchildren, a family-owned torture chamber, a curious cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle, and a grumpy family magician, and Garrick finds that life in the Hathaway household is a great deal more than he bargained for.
Garrick Mortimer is a scientifically minded gentleman. That is to say his mind is only geared to science. Yet only those who will bow down to scientific masters and pay their dues are ever accepted as the geniuses that they are and make a living locked in their labs. Garricks admits that he is a genius already, and as such, has no need for such horrible business as not studying what he wants to. Yet, he’s starving, and though he’s had several offers to tutor various youths throughout England, he’s turned them all down because he cannot stand company that is not as suited to learning as he is. Yes, Garrick believes that to brow-beat English youths with learning is beneath him, and he would do much better with his time to starve. Yet, after a while he is getting hungrier and hungrier. He can no longer think of excuses to send home for money. Then, like kismet, he receives a letter from Mr. Hathaway – Gentleman Vampire, offering a tutorship position to his young vampire son, who has become restless and difficult after his expulsion from school. This, thinks Garrick, is a prime opportunity. No one has ever made a scientific study of vampires and written a treatise of their account. Therefore, he posts his reply, packs up his books, sends his letter home announcing his new employment, and sets off to his new position. So what if that position affords him food? He is off on a truly important scientific study.
Desmond Hathaway, the youngest son of the Hathaway vampire clan is glum. Prone to flights of fancy and extreme melodrama like all of his brethren, he watches the bloodred sunsets from his favorite tree and pines after his lost love Phillip, who has just written his last letter to Desmond to ask that he please stop writing to him every minute, as he has work to do at school and they are no longer to remain friends, he having mistakenly taken up with a rabblerousing vampire and has now seen the error of his ways. Admittedly, Desmond is heartbroken, thinking Phillip his one true love. Now, all he has to pass the time is watching his sister throw herself off the roof over and over, weeping over her tragic literary heroes and playing with the Judas Chair in the torture room. Apparently his parents are out to torture him, because they have announced that though his older brothers were allowed to follow their fancy into disputably inappropriate vocations, they are going to parent him right. They have hired a scientifically minded fellow to finish his education (even though no vampire ever finishes their education), and give him a healthy dose of logic and discipline. Bemoaning having to learn from a mortal tutor and trying every possible disruption into his studies that any vampire could think of (like how many different places one could hide as a bat), does not get Desmond very far — as all the things that usually send mortals running and screaming make his new tutor Mr. Mortimer exclaim in wonder. There is only one bright spot in the future — his brother is returning home with his cadre of artists and poets and maybe one of them will make him his boyfriend and whisk him away to travel the world writing dreadfully morose prose. Yet, when the group arrives, his brother’s friends frighten him. And one in particular, Mr. Sherbourne, has taken an unnatural interest in him.
You can see, just from the way I’ve described this book, that it is written really, really well. Its incredibly inventive, original, and snarky at the same time. The way vampires are protrayed as creatures at the mercy of their emotions made this vampire tale very different from most. Just the descriptions of the “cottage-abbey-and-quarter-castle” that the Hathaway family is purosefully knocking down so they can live in ruins and the setting of the moors and countryside are enough to set this story on a different course. I won’t go into all of the little details, just to say that they make this story come alive and they are very plentiful. Each page I turned found some new descriptive element of the different way the mortals saw the world to the way the vampires looked at it and all sorts of zany characters. One of the advantages of the writing is that the format actually follows the typical prose of a 19th century novel. To many, this might be a drawback and it certainly slowed the pace of the story considerably, but in an effort of authenticity (though how authentic a story about vampires can be I’m not sure), it was wonderfully written. At the same time, it did make the pace of the story slow. If I hadn’t been able to see how masterfully Hayden Thorne wields words onto the page, I might have gotten a bit bogged down in the excess dialogue in the sitting room and the long descriptive paragraphs. It helps to know these things going into this book, I think. Don’t expect when you pick up this novel that you will be getting a swift and steamy read. It is about a gay character, however it is a YA book rated for teens age 14+. As the genre of this story, it is about teenage angst. Normally, this would drive me batsh*t crazy, but it Desmond is written with such a deft pen and over-the-top dark humor, that I ended up loving to read about it. Also, and this was my fault, but despite the glaring 1 on the cover of the book, I actually didn’t realize that this was the start of a series until I started getting along in the story and wondering why not much was happening. With that said, I am very much looking forward to the characters. Not only do I want to know what happens in the story, but I’ve found myself really caring about the characters (grating though these vampires can be on the nerves after 200+ pages).
I don’t think this series is for everyone, although my opinion might change after reading the sequels. If you truly enjoy historical novels, that is, not novels only set in the past, but the actual format of a historical novel you might love this book. If you like or can force yourself into a slower pace, then the wonderfully set-up world in this book will grab you and pull you in. I still have mixed feelings about this story. On the one hand, I often had to put this story down because the emotionally unbalanced vampires started to wear on my nerves, but I always went back after a little break. The amazing writing and the characters themselves, however difficult to deal with, were so entertaining. This is definitely a story that you will either love or hate. So please, in the interest of deciding if this one is for you, comment if you’re unsure and tell me why and I’ll let you know what I think. Or, to get a taste of the prose and its unique style, try reading the excerpt on the publisher’s website. For those of you who have read this story, please let me know what you’ve thought. More than most reviews I write, I really want to know how my opinion fares to other readers on this one.
On a sidenote, props to the cover artist. This is one of the best book covers I’ve see in a long time