Title: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
Author: Leanna Renee Heiber
Publisher: Dorcester LoveSpell
Rating: 4 ½
Percy Parker knows she’s different. Snow white from head to toe, with pale silver-blue eyes, she has no illusions that she is beautiful. When she begins Athens Academy, she catches the eye of a moody, handsome professor, Alexi Rychman. As they fight their untoward attraction to one another, Alexi can’t help but believe the girl is the long-missing member of the mysterious supernatural protectors of Victorian England (and every other century), the Guard. But the rest of the Guard believe another woman, Miss Linden, is the long-awaited seventh member. When all hell threatens to break loose, the truth will be revealed. Is the seventh member, the goddess incarnate, unusual Percy or the beautiful Miss Linden?
I’m a fan of Ms. Hieber’s. I stalked her at Romantic Times this year unapologetically until I had a chance to go and fan-girl at her feet (okay, so maybe I was slightly more dignified than that…). I was so excited to get a chance to review Strangely Beautiful and the follow-up, The Darkly Luminous….the title is really long, so I’m just calling it DL.
Percy is a really strange looking girl. Stone-white from her hair to her toes, she’s used to being the outcast. She’s sort of quiet and unassuming, and spends a lot of time wrapped up in veils and coats and her own self-pity because she’s just so sure she’s hideous. Every once in a while she has a spell of confidence and sort of breaks out of that rut. When moody professor Alexi Rychman takes an interest in her lack of interest for mathematics and starts to give her private lessons that take a fairly quick turn toward a Victorian-era-level of naughtiness—when Alexi isn’t dramatically pushing her away or when she’s not waxing philosophical about her defects.
While Alexi is passively discovering awkward little Percy harbors the very traits of the goddess reincarnation he’s been searching for whom he’s been searching for years, his only friends, the other members of the Guard, are pretty sure the seventh member is a chatty, beautiful young woman who hints at having psychic abilities. They all but fall in love with Miss Linden, while Alexi tortures himself over his affection for Percy. Although he insists Percy is the one they are searching for, they can’t accept that someone as young as she would be—again, despite the fact she can talk to and hear ghosts, falls into fits when she sees paintings of mythical events, and pukes up loads of pomegranate seeds AND gets burned by a charm she possesses that happens to be like the most significant symbol of their order), and all but force Alexi to choose Miss Linden and reject Percy on all levels.
All that said, I loved this book. I had to fight my natural cynicism towards romance novels because of the ignore-the-obvious choices the characters made—hey, it’s a novel. Without the drama, there’s no story, right?—but once I got over that (note: that’s entirely MY issue, NOT the author’s) it was easy to get swept away by this story. The setting is unique—it’s dark and surreal and fascinating, definitely not something you find in many romance novels. Hieber writes beautifully and crafts the story and the characters consistently. I couldn’t wait to read the second novel.
If you’re looking for a truly unique, strangely beautiful paranormal romance, pick up Ms. Hieber’s debut novel!