Author: A.G. Howard
Publisher: Golden Orb Press
Length: 425 pages
Source: Review Copy from Author
A lady imprisoned by deafness, an architect imprisoned by his past, and a ghost imprisoned within the petals of a flower - intertwine in this love story that transcends life and death.
For most of her life, nineteen-year-old Juliet Emerline has subsisted – isolated by deafness – making hats in the solitude of her home. Now, she’s at risk to lose her sanctuary to Lord Nicolas Thornton, a twenty-seven-year-old mysterious and eccentric architect with designs on her humble estate. When she secretly witnesses him raging beside a grave, Juliet investigates, finding the name “Hawk” on the headstone and an unusual flower at the base. The moment Juliet touches the petals, a young English nobleman appears in ghostly form, singing a song only her deaf ears can hear. The ghost remembers nothing of his identity or death, other than the one name that haunts his afterlife: Thornton.
To avenge her ghostly companion and save her estate, Juliet pushes aside her fear of society and travels to Lord Thornton’s secluded holiday resort, posing as a hat maker in one of his boutiques. There, she finds herself questioning who to trust: the architect of flesh and bones who can relate to her through romantic gestures, heartfelt notes, and sensual touches … or the specter who serenades her with beautiful songs and ardent words, touching her mind and soul like no other man ever can. As sinister truths behind Lord Thornton’s interest in her estate and his tie to Hawk come to light, Juliet is lured into a web of secrets. But it’s too late for escape, and the tragic love taking seed in her heart will alter her silent world forever.
International and NYT bestselling author, A.G. Howard, brings her darkly magical and visual/visceral storytelling to Victorian England. The Architect of Song is the first installment in her lush and romantic Haunted Hearts Legacy series, a four book gothic saga following the generations of one family as - haunted by both literal and figurative ghosts - they search for self-acceptance, love, and happiness.
Protagonist: Juliet, who at a young age grew deaf after a terrible illness, now feels the fresh grief of losing her mother, and to make matters worse some viscount has his eyes set on her family home without any clear reason. Soon after her mother's funeral Juliet, overcome with grief and something unexplainable steals a flower from a grave simply marked "Hawk" upon returning home she finds that but touching the flowers petals she can see and, miraculously, hear the ghost of the man who's headstone is labeled "Hawk." Hawk remembers nothing of his life, only that he is in some way connected to Lord Nicholas Thornton, the man who seeks to by Juliet's home. In search of the truth of what happened to Hawk, Juliet grows closer to Lord Thornton and learns more about him and his connection with Hawk, her world, and her heart, will never be the same. I really, really liked Juliet as our narrator. She's a strong and intelligent girl and while she's a bit shy and reclusive at first as the story develops she comes out of her shell and grows into someone who's not afraid to show who she is to the world.
Romance: I am very split on this romance. It doesn't start as a love triangle at first, though there are clear markers in the story that practically scream at you that one is on the way, and while Juliet and Hawk stay more or less sequestered from the world their romance is incredibly compelling. Their chemistry is very well written and described and because they aren't tied down by societal expectations, Hawk being a ghost and whatnot, their romance blooms quickly yet, gratefully, still believably. Then Juliet follows Lord Thornton to his holiday resort to gain more information about hawks past and things really start to blur. Lord Thornton, a man, who in Juliet's eyes, only wants her estate, is shown to be kind and caring, while her spectral lover grows more and more jealous and possessive. I won't say who Juliet ends up with, but I will say that, despite all of my aggravation over this love triangle, by the end, I actually came around to why certain things had to be the way they were.
World Building: Going into this story I was fairly blind to the plot. I knew that it had some paranormal aspect to it and that is was a New Adult story by A.G. Howard so, having enjoyed her Splintered series as much as I did, I was all in. First off I love the historical aspect of this story. A gothic Victorian love story filled with ghost, secrets, and vengeance is more than enough to entice most readers. I love how vividly Howard can bring a world to life and on top of that it's a world virtually without any sound. One thing I kind of have to bring up is that I kept forgetting that Juliet is deaf since she is so adept at reading lips and can hear her spectral visitor it doesn't come up as often as I expected so during the times it does I usually found myself forgetting her deafness. Finally, if I have one large complaint about this book it would be it's pacing. It's not that the book is boring or anything, it's more that there are stretches where things could have gone smoother or faster. Things that could have easily been condensed. I found it hard to read the book as quickly as I normally do spending nearly five days just getting through the first half and after that, it did pick up though if I wasn't trying to get this review up by today I may have taken longer breaks every six chapters or so.
Predictability: There are surprisingly so many mysteries in this story. First is the most obvious which is what happened to Hawk that led to his premature death and what is his connection with Lord Thornton? The latter question we actually get answered within the first third or so of the book, though there are unseen mysteries attached to various parts of the stories. It's funny though early on in the story I had a theory of sorts, one completely and overly complicated, that explained something that wasn't even a mystery, more a general wondering, and funnily enough I was right, though the answer was much more simplistic than my convoluted theory. There were things though that I never quite caught onto and that gave me a great and wonderful shock to discover.
Ending: While this is the first in a series, it's not a traditional series. This is a series of companion novels tied together with a similar thread. That means that this book, for the most part, wraps everything up by the end of the book. Whenever I come across a book that wraps the story up I often consider the idealism in the ending, or lack thereof. While this book doesn't exactly have the most idealistic ending, I'd say that there were a few things that I felt were just a little too idealistic for my tastes, though I will say since this is a paranormal novel nothing's really impossible.
So, because of the slow pacing and slightly too idealistic ending I cannot in good faith give this book five stars, but that doesn't mean this story isn't awesome. If you're a fan of dark mysteries and with a Victorian setting I'd say this is the book for you!