Title: The Water Irises
Author: Hayden Thorne
Length: 7,338 words
Publisher: JMS Books
Genre: m/m historical YA romance
Hugh LaCaille’s quiet, scholarly life is interrupted one day by a wealthy but obnoxious businessman who hires Hugh as a tutor to his young son. Ignace Fournier is incensed Aubin’s passion for nature and poetry is a threat to his dream of seeing the boy grow up to be just as successful as his father in commerce. When Hugh finally meets Aubin, he realizes there’s a great deal more than what meets the eye as far as the boy’s concerned … particularly his curious and outlandish stories involving a strange kingdom found at the bottom of a pond filled with water-irises.
The most alarming claim Aubin makes touches on a special friendship he’s nurtured with the young ruler of that mysterious kingdom. Forced under time pressure to instill discipline into the boy, Hugh grapples with questions he’s never before faced, and he finds himself looking deeper into his heart for difficult answers … and even more difficult choices.
Hayden Thorne can always be relied upon to provide a well written historical YA book, and this one was no exception. It is taken, perhaps unusually, not from the view of the young 16 year old who features in the story, but from the view of his older tutor. LaCaille is a scientist who finds himself at a loose end when one too many bouts of illness cause him to lose his job. He’s taken on by businessman Fournier, who is at his wits end with his son, Aubin. Fournier wants Aubin to buckle down and stop dreaming about poetry and he gives LaCaille one month to turn the boy around. LaCaille is certain he can do this, until he meets Aubin and discovers something about the way he seems connected with nature.
In many ways this story is mostly about science verses nature. LaCaille sees everything from a strict scientific viewpoint, dissecting beauty into its component parts and I liked seeing how this view is gradually changed by Aubin’s enthusiasm for the beauty of nature and the sensual way he engages in all that he sees. There’s a paranormal element to the story which blends with LaCaille’s growth as a character when he’s forced to acknowledge that science cannot explain everything – another thing I liked about the story
There’s also a theme of commerce verses science as, with Fournier’s dry money-orientated world affecting both Aubin and LaCaille, creating an interesting three way character split. The story builds on that theme, adding to the tension in the story until a sweet and poignant ending. It was a happy end with a touch of bitterness for LaCaille, but one which left me satisfied.
If you like YA books and are interested in something unusual with a historical setting, I can recommend this one. One the surface it seems deceptively simple in the way it’s written but the story stayed with me and made me think deeper about the themes, which is always a good thing in my book!