Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hidden Pearls by Hayden Wand

For the wealthy and privileged in Regency England, life is filled with balls, beaux, and tea- and that’s no exception for Constance Steele and her large, unusual family. But when an unexpected letter sends her on a voyage across the Atlantic, her experiences affect more people than she ever could have realized. From the lives of her sister Margaret and cousin Jack, to the family dynamics of the prestigious Breckenridge clan, to a band of notorious pirates, no one could have guessed how her adventure would change them all… (GoodReads)
I'd waited for Hayden to release Hidden Pearls for months. She recently hosted her release party for the self-published novel on her blog, and one component of the release party was a giveaway. To my amazement, I won not only this beautiful book (I mean, that cover deserves to be in one of Rissi's Cover Candy editions) but also a bookmark full of sketches of the major characters, created by Hayden's sister Emily! Having received it on Tuesday, I immediately started reading it and, in between homework and other daily activities, finished it this past Saturday.

I feel like I should start with a disclaimer. I've reviewed a reader's self-published book before and, knowing that she would read the review (and that I “personally” -- as personally as you can get in the blogosphere, I guess -- knew her), I didn't want to be harsh or hurt her feelings. That being said, I know I should have been more honest about my review, so this review will reflect my actual opinions of the work.

I . . . I loved this book. I knew a remix of Pride and Prejudice and Pirates of the Caribbean was an ingenious idea, but after reading the novel for myself, I have to say a lot of it reminded me of Julianne Donaldson's Edenbrooke (though Edenbrooke doesn't have any piracy in it). While I wouldn't say Hidden Pearls is better than Edenbrooke -- the latter is the more well written technically speaking -- I will say that the plot elements are more surprising, more realistic, and in some cases more suspenseful than anything Edenbrooke has to offer.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of in Hidden Pearls, because Constance's family is indeed large. After we get past the first few chapters, though, Hayden starts to focus on only a few of these characters -- Constance, Jack, Margaret, etc. -- so we pretty much never get lost with them after that. A complaint I have is that with so many (relatively) POVs, there were a few instances of head-hopping (starting a scene in the head of one major character and then drifting to the head of the next major character before a line break). I can only recall two or at the most three or four of these however, which is definitely less than some traditionally-published books on the market today.

Constance herself was very well fleshed out, as were the other female leads, Margaret and Meredith. I believe Hayden based Constance on her own personality, and what a rich personality it turned out to be! The male characters weren't as diversely created, which is understandable because -- gosh, it's way harder than you think to write a believable male POV! I still loved them though (especially Art -- he was sweet and honorable and hilarious and exactly what I love in a hero).

Now onto plot elements. There were several twists and turns I did not expect Hidden Pearls to take -- so kudos to Hayden for taking what could have been predictable and making it otherwise! One of them (near the middle of the book) I found cliched, but I'm more at peace with it now that I've read the whole novel -- I feel like it wouldn't be complete without that character's presence. That being said, some of these plot twists could have been paced out better. There could have been a better sprinkling of clues with that one twist to which I just referred (I really don't want to spoil anything for you guys, so apologies for being vague) and another character, Grayson Howe -- he gets two scenes from his angle that I can remember, and while he presents a darned good Regency villain, there was just so much else going on that I felt like his POVs and activities got a little lost in the other characters' stories. His particular plot line is wound up nicely save for not being touched on as often as I thought it should be. To Hayden's credit, and partially because there are so many characters, it's not your typical three-plot story with the main plot line, the romance, and then some other thing interwoven in those two. There are multiple things going on at once; there's even a mystery of sorts at the root of the novel. (A mystery which I was so sure I'd solved but then found I was wrong!)

Like I said, there's a lot going on -- that includes three major romances. I mostly liked the way the two “underneath” romances were executed, but the main one didn't always come off well. Maybe it was because I had a hard time reconciling myself to Edward when Constance “met” him, and he just never presented himself as “deep” as he could have. What I did enjoy was Edward and Jack's hilarious conversation about love:
“When I'm with her, Jack, I feel so...protective. I find myself just wanting to make her smile, you know? And she's the only person I've ever met who can make every thought fly right out of my head just by looking at me with those big blue-green eyes of hers. Is that love?”
     Jack shrugged again. “How am I supposed to know? But it sounds pretty suspicious to me.”
-- Hayden Wand, Hidden Pearls
Technically speaking, there was a lot this novel could have improved on. One of the most typical mistakes was constantly using a verb other than “said” to describe a conversation. Readers (who are also writers), you might think that it's better to use more vocabulary, but sometimes simple is best. Using too many different verbs to describe a conversation distracts the reader from the conversation itself, which is against the point, eh? Another series I could compare this to is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. While certainly well-paced and well-characterized and well-plotted, Rowling was always making technical errors which in some cases really detracted from her books. If I could wish anything, it would be that Hayden had gotten this book traditionally published -- I'm 99% positive she could have; it's an amazing novel -- since she would then have professional editors at her disposal who would catch more pacing errors and technical issues, et cetera.

You might think now that I didn't actually love this book. Guys, it is a wonderful story and well worth your time. If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you'll know I don't usually do this, but I did mark this book as a “to read again.” Even if there were some distracting technical problems, there were also scenes where I thought Hayden was a genius (being serious here), and the whole novel is what I would describe as “adorable.” You should read it. Better yet, you should support Hayden and buy it here.


* * * * 4 stars


  1. Really nice review, Hannah! It is hard to write a review knowing the author is going to read it, and you've done a wonderful job of being honest, but not hateful. I added this book to my Goodreads TBR awhile back, but your review makes me want to read it more. :-D

    1. Thank you Grace! That's so good to know :) But -- this book does NOT deserve hate. It's a good one. I'm glad this review piqued your interest in the book because I know you're going to love it :)

  2. Fun review, Hannah. Someday I am so picking up Hayden's debut. I admire her for writing it and putting it out there. :)

    1. Thanks, Rissi! You really should -- it's well worth it :)


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