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Despite having heard of Erastes, I had never read one of her novels before this one. That will change. If her other novels carry the same impactful storylines and diversity of characters as Mere Mortals, I have some great reading ahead of me.
Mere Mortals brings together historical fiction, romance, and mystery to provide a unique reading experience. It begins when the orphaned Crispin Thorne travels to the home of his secretive ward, Philip Smallwood, and there meets two other orphaned young men such as himself, Myles Graham and Jude Middleton. The three become close and eventually intimate companions because they live in isolation on Smallwood’s estate.
The euphoria of finding such a rich savior for three otherwise doomed orphans begins to break apart, however, as they learn more about their benefactor and the surrounding neighbors. We see the story through Thorne’s eyes, and each revelation builds toward a surprising climax. My favorite novels always keep me up at night. Needing my beauty rest, I aim to put the book aside at a particular time but then get lost in the story. I give myself ten more pages, then 30 minutes, and suddenly find myself finishing the novel well past my bedtime but incredibly satisfied that I spent time in the hands of a master storyteller. Erastes tricked me into such a nighttime sojourn with a compelling storyline and characters that you come to adore. I kept reading to find out why the three had been brought together to this isolated setting.
I do have one criticism, so let me dispense with it before giving more detail about what so engaged me with this novel. The book has too many editing errors. Enough to drive me almost mad at times. Whether the fault of the author, the editor, or the press, the book contained far too many mistakes that detract from an otherwise marvelous read.
Erastes particularly excels at creating a diversity of characters that jump off the page with unique personalities. No one person behaves the same way. Too often, authors rely on formulas that readers find over and over in the characters. Not Erastes. From an outgoing flirt to a confident and masculine-type, to a caring but mysterious doctor and a benevolent but too cautious member of the nobility, the novel includes it all. Crispin Thorne especially comes to life. We learn about his insecurities, private longings, and deepest fears. Every step with every character remains believable, even as they all flirt with their own ruin and desperately seek redemption.
The reader will also feel the historical context as if projected into the past. The formality of communications and societal expectations jump off the page. The English setting provides the ideal background for the danger and suspense. The remote island and mansion in which they come to reside especially comes to life, becoming characters in their own right. They at times provide the hope for a better tomorrow while pages later becoming a source of anxiety and eerie danger. The reader will literally feel the seclusion that propels so much of this mystery forward.
Erastes has hit the mark with this piece of historical fiction. Read it and love it. You won’t be able to put it down until you discover the fate of Myles, Jude, and especially Crispin as they grapple with their forbidden longings and dreams while at the whim of a crazed setting and background puppeteer.
Paperback, 9781590210437, 246pp