Title: The Flowers of St. Aloysius
Author: Hayden Thorne
Length: 363 Pages
Category: New Adult, Historical, Gothic Romance
At a Glance: Another amazing book from Hayden Thorne that will stay with me long after I’ve finished.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: 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.
Review: When it comes to alternate historical fiction, Hayden Thorne can do no wrong. Whether it’s young adult fiction or the new adult fiction she has been writing recently, there is just so much wonderful within the novels.
This story has a similar style of writing as the author’s previous alt. history books in that they are high quality and incredibly engaging reads that suck the reader in and do not let go. However, there are also new elements. As with her previous novel I had reviewed, Guardian Angel, Thorne has shown that the heat level can be turned up and the characters can have incredibly passionate, romantic moments. Every scene between Brys and Laurent left me fanning myself—they were intense.
Speaking of Guardian Angel, there is a brief nod to that story in this book when the characters refer offhandedly to the magic of their world. While magic is present to some degree, it takes different forms depending on the area of the world. While Guardian Angel is set in England, The Flowers of St. Aloysius is set in France, so the magic takes a different form.
Moments of this book are incredibly creepy, but in that delicious way Thorne writes. While I was creeped out, I wanted to continue reading to find out what happened. I wasn’t terrified as much as I had been in previous books, but that wasn’t the point. Instead, you follow Brys and Laurent as they are forced into an arranged marriage with each other to further their parents’ goals, and while they learn to navigate their marriage, tragedy strikes the family. Not only must they learn to love each other under less than ideal circumstances, but Brys falls ill often, and strange things begin to happen at their home.
The affection that slowly grows between Brys and Laurent felt real to me. It was not rushed in any way; in fact, it felt completely organic. They had moments of passion and lust, but Brys had, and held to, his principals. I also enjoyed seeing Laurent grow in his role as Brys’s husband. While he wasn’t my favorite character in the beginning, by the end I adored him and his careful attention to Brys.
I would love a story that mingles the worlds of Guardian Angel and The Flowers of St. Aloysius. I’m not sure how it would happen, but it would be cool seeing all of the characters meet and interact. Either way, in this alternate universe that Hayden Thorne has set up, I want more, and so should you. Thorne is quite simply the best gay alternate history writer I know, especially when it comes to younger characters and new adults. I have officially come to the point where if I see Thorne’s name on a book, and I discover it is alt history, I don’t even need to read the synopsis to know I’m going to love it.
If you’re a fan of alternate history, Hayden Thorne, arranged marriages, magic, revenge, nature, or any combination of the above, check out this book! I eagerly await Ms. Thorne’s next creative enterprise.
You can buy The Flowers of St. Aloysius here: