Why I read it: I picked this one up for 99c after it was featured in the Dear Author Daily Deals post in November last year.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Some things should stay buried.
Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.
So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.
As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): A friend asked me to buddy read this book with her so, as is often the case, I started without reading the blurb or knowing much about the book other than that it was an historical m/m romance. So, the appearance of dark magic and rituals to bring people back from the dead came as a bit of a shock. In some ways, the book is in the same vein as The Magpie Lord. It isn’t the same book. The Magpie Lord is darkly amusing and Widdershins has a totally different aspect. It’s set in America – around 1890-something. Whyborne is a philologist (language specialist) for the Ladysmith museum in Widdershins, New England. He’s shy and socially awkward. One of the museum trustees, Mr. Rice, has commissioned Griffin Flaherty, a private detective, to look into the murder of his son. A strange book was posted to Mr. Rice by his son shortly before the murder and there seems likely to be a link. Griffin asked Whyborne to translate the book and they gradually become friends (and then lovers) and work together to solve the mystery.
I found the book to be more slower paced than The Magpie Lord. It wasn’t quite as compelling for me to read. I liked Whyborne and Griffin but they didn’t engage me like Stephen Day and Lucien Vaudrey did.
There was, however, a marvellous secondary character in the book. Dr. Christine Putnam specialises in Egyptology. She is Whyborne’s friend. She is blunt, outspoken and doesn’t give much of a hoot about social rules or propriety. She does, however, consent to wear skirts in the museum because she must. She is fierce and skilled with a weapon and acerbic in her wit. I liked her very much and I’m pleased to read that she also features in the next book in the series. In many ways, Christine stole the book for me. I liked her very much.
Some parts of Widdershins felt a bit derivative to me – one scene reminded me quite a bit of the ending of Titanic – but there was enough in there to entertain me and to encourage me to read the next book. Sometimes I watch a new tv show and I need to give it an episode or two to hit its stride. It kind of feels like that for me here. The ingredients are all there and, now that Whyborne and Griffin are a couple, I think they will have wonderful adventures together. I’m interested to see the development of the characters and the alternate Victorian (albeit in America) world Ms. Hawk has created. I have the feeling that a little more of this pair will turn me into a convert but I have not quite reached that point yet.
I do seem to be somewhat of an outlier however. It seems lots of peope adore this book. I liked but did not love it. But I am looking forward to carving out some time to read the next one.