When a character is messy and struggling but they have someone in their life who is just utterly and hopelessly in love with them (and the love is mutual) 🥺
To be honest, I struggled with this book in the beginning and considered giving up. I’m not sure if it was because of my issues with the audio (more on that below) or the book itself. But by the end, this was a firmly 4-star book and one that I was eager to keep listening to. Perhaps it’s one of those books that picks up speed and tension as it goes.
I think I kind of disliked the characters at the start, or at least, really didn’t get them and couldn’t find anything to grasp onto to relate to them or endear them to me. But somewhere along the way, they grew on me, and I started to care about them.
The publisher’s description calls this book “achingly romantic,” and I have to agree. The romance was kind of a partial focus, the other focus being on figuring out Ben’s father’s murder. I wouldn’t call this a romance book. But the relationship between Ben and Horatio was what stood out to me the most and what really got me hooked. Especially experiencing it through Horatio’s POV. That man was so hopelessly in love. He fell and has ever since been so flat on the ground you would need a spatula to scrape him up.
Horatio’s chapters also had some gorgeous writing in them. His was the POV I kept noticing for its beauty, so either it was coincidence, or the author did a great job of giving each POV its own unique style to match the characters. I suspect the latter.
It’s astonishing, in a way, how a man who is clearly running on fumes, drugged to the tits, obsessed with his ex, and investigating his father’s alleged murder still has the generosity to foresee that Horatio would not be merely addled with worry, but hungry as well. And to deposit himself exactly where Horatio could walk (or run) in a straight line to find him.
It’s actually very easy to love the man. Even if he’s never believed that.
To be fair, the love that had been between Ben and Lia was also beautiful. That letter he wrote, oof. Especially rereading it after finishing the book—right through the heart.
As far as the Hamlet retelling aspect goes, I don’t remember a damn thing about Hamlet, so everything that happened in this book was a surprise to me. I couldn’t tell you how closely this book does or doesn’t follow the original. I can only say I enjoyed this for what it was as its own story.
This book also had some diversity. Ben was neurodivergent, I believe had ADHD, but I can’t 100% promise that. Lia was a recovering alcoholic. Horatio was Indian. There was a m/m romance. I believe Horatio was gay, but Ben was I think mostly into women but just not overly concerned about the fact that he had slept with and was in love with a man.
My only real complaints are about the audiobook narration. Ben was narrated by Michael Crouch, Horatio by Raj Ghatak, and Lia by Imani Jade Powers. Michael and Imani were fine. It was Raj I had issue with. In what I assume was his natural English accent, he was fine. Lovely voice and narration. But all the American characters had this exaggerated, loud, grating, cartoony voice and way of speaking. And the completely different way that Michael Crouch sounded as Ben and Raj Ghatak sounded as Ben, it was like two different characters, the whole vibe and demeanor was different, and that made it so hard to get a grasp on his character. There was also Imani Jade Powers’s Ben voice, which was unassuming enough to not be a huge problem, but it was also kind of a different vibe, which just added another bit of kindling to the fire that was this voice debacle. So it’s not that the audiobook or the narrators were bad, it was more that the way these three worked together was jarring. I got more used to it as the book went on, but I do think it’s possible this contributed to my trouble getting into the book at first.
Anyway, I ended up very much enjoying this book and feeling quite a lot for these characters, their mysteries, their struggles, their feelings, and their bittersweet story.
Anyone who likes messy characters, hopelessly in love characters, love in general, Shakespeare retellings, neurodiversity, and pretty writing.