Review of A Thing of Beauty: A Dark Historical Thriller (The Sir Henry March Mysteries Book 1)


Author: Bianca M. Schwarz

Genre: Historical Novel, Romance

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My rating: 5 out of 5

Blurb: November 1819. To the ordinary observer, the wealthy Sir Henry March, cousin of a duke, seems a typical London gentleman. But to the Crown, Henry is a powerful asset, secret defender of the country. When he sees an injured girl stumbling down the side of the road, he must stop.
The stepdaughter of an abusive innkeeper, Eliza Broad is from another class entirely. But the moment Henry lays eyes on the spirited and beautiful girl, he feels a connection. To protect her, he takes her in to his home.
In Henry, Eliza finds a rescuer, handsome and kind beyond her wildest dreams. But danger is at their heels. On Eliza’s trail is one of London’s vilest and most notorious pimps, a man whose connections tie him to a dark world of sadism and treachery.
Can Eliza and Henry fight to protect England, their hearts, and their lives?

Review: Ms. Bianca Schwarz debuts with a fantastic, well-written novel filled with compelling characters, strong plot, rich detail. It doesn’t simply blend the thriller, the historical novel, the depravity and the beautiful romance that blossoms on its pages. A Thing of Beauty balances between the darkness and light, sadism and ecstasy, lust and love. It is a difficult task to keep up with so many themes but Ms. Schwarz handles it like a pro.

Maybe it was just my luck but whenever I’d pick up a historical novel that includes love story the latter one always dominates the plot. It would usually be more of a romance novel that has some old timey settings because it seems cool, I guess. I had that initial fear about this book but I was quickly proved wrong.

The story opens in a typical Cinderella fashion – a young and beautiful girl gets brutally beaten and abused by her predatory and rapey stepfather who tries his hardest to get rid of her. However unlike her literature predecessor Eliza Broad has backbone and decides to take charge of her own destiny. While she is running away from the arranged marriage with a brute who has his fair share of dead wives our heroine gets saved by a handsome, rich nobleman and war hero whose kind heart can’t stand the sight of an abused lady. Little does Eliza know that by taking that leap of faith with Sir Henry March she’d soon be drawn in a world beyond her wildest dreams filled with espionage, intrigues and darkness alongside with high society rules, education and her own sexual awakening.

I really loved both Eliza and Henry’s characters and their development over the course of the novel. She started as a naïve, virginal tavern girl who has never read book different than the Bible, a diamond in the rough. However she was also strong, naturally intelligent and curious about the world. Henry helps her grow and gives her the best of himself, his knowledge, experience, protection and what he hasn’t given to a woman for ages – his trust. As the blurb says he appears like every other London gentleman with too much money to burn and a reputation to match, a lover of pretty ladies and Covent Garden strumpets. Yet there is more than meets the eye with Sir Henry. He is also brave, perceptive and loyal to those who are close to his heart. The sensuality is vital part of his persona but be prepared. The mentioned reputation he has is a mere disguise to cover what he really does. That is another thing you should know about this book: nothing is what it seems in the world of A Thing of Beauty.

What I loved most about their relationship was that it was a slow burn instead of insta love or lust. First of all they were friends and kindred spirits. The more they got to know each other the more burning the chemistry between them grows till it reached boiling hot point. I actually cared for them by the time they became lovers and it doubled my pleasure with the erotic scenes. Trust me, Bianca M. Schwarz knows how to write good sex. You can expect a lot of sensual goodness and debauchery as the plot thickens.

The Regency period is expertly portrayed as a background by that talented author. She has all the details interwoven in the story, starting from the dialect, the lifestyle of the different classes, the current political and historical situation all the way to the fashion. The story had a wonderful feeling of place and time.

The novel is also a study of human nature and raises some very interesting questions about the psychology of victims and abused women forced into prostitution. It has its disturbing moments. But among the darkness, violence and intrigue there was also a lot of laughter, humor, wonderful secondary characters including Henry’s three friends and confidantes, his various servants and one hilarious modiste with fake French accent.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away. All I will say is that it is dynamic and keeps the reader constantly on the edge. A lot happens in A Thing of Beauty but there is also a lot more to be unveiled in the next books. The finale has a twist that I really didn’t see coming that would change your perception of the story.

So you have two strong leading characters, cloak and dagger mystery, a wonderful lover story that adds to the plot, political intrigue, cruel nemesis and unexpected turns. What are you waiting for? Buy your copy and immerse in the world created by Ms. Schwarz. You won’t regret it.

You can also read my interview with Bianca about her book and future writing projects here.

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