Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️++
Are you a puzzle builder? When you begin to build a puzzle, you can see the picture of the puzzle on the box lid, but the depth and breadth of that picture cannot be fully realized until all of the puzzle pieces are locked together. The journey of putting that puzzle together, piece by piece, is a journey in patience. As you lock those pieces together, you earn more and more of the puzzle’s truth, but it isn’t until the final piece is in place when the gravity of your achievement hits you. This process can be overwhelming; it can challenge the most patient of souls; and it can inspire pride in a job well done. That journey can be overwhelmingly difficult, yet the pay-off is great. In a way, Sierra Simone’s Harvest of Sighs (and its predecessors A Lesson in Thorns and Feast of Sparks) is like putting a puzzle together. As you read each of these carefully wrought, devastatingly beautiful books, you feel as though you are interlocking the puzzle pieces of the Thornchapel series together. However, the puzzle picture of it isn’t revealing itself easily. Sierra Simone makes her readers work for the treasures of her books, and like the journey of piecing a puzzle together, reading a book such as Harvest of Sighs and the others in the series feels like an achievement.
I have struggled to find the words to express my utter joy and despair in reading Harvest of Sighs. I’ve decided to settle on a list, the attributes of Harvest of Sighs that makes it a compelling, heady read. I want to warn you, though. Simone does not make reading this series an easy one. For this former literature major, however, the journey has been one that moves my heart and my brain; this series has forced me to delve into the recesses of my memory for the literary knowledge I have tucked away in a special chest, unused in some time. That remembering has made the experience of these books a zealous intellectual pursuit. So here goes…this is the best I can do right now, given that there are a few more missing pieces of the puzzle that is the Thornchapel seres:
- At its most basic level, Simone’s writing style is exquisite. Harvest of Sighs is not an easy read. This is not your “average romance” laid straight and bare for its reader. The word choice and syntax exist, in my opinion, to create the heaviness of the story. That’s right; this story feels heavy. Simone achieves this with the choice of her words, with its meter, and with its syntactical arrangement. It can feel oppressive reading Harvest of Sighs, but that also feels necessary to the articulation of Auden, St. Sebastian, Proserpina, Delphine, Rebecca, and Becket’s story. The lightness is found in the naturesque scenes, but Simone’s style evokes the depth and breadth of her story. And even her nature descriptors are heavy too. The profundity of her style leads to the significance of her story.
- The story itself is a twisty-turny Gothic charade. When you think you have each characters’ story determined, Simone changes the route, taking us over the cliff. Like Feast of Sparks, Harvest of Sighs, once again, leaves us standing precariously at the cliff. There is a bit of hope embued in the final two chapters of the story, but it isn’t much. Even then, when Door of Bruises, the final book in this series, is finished, the puzzle revealed might not be the one we want. Thus far, the picture is incomplete at best.
- At its most base level, the $exual moments are titillating and provocative, as is the standard for a Sierra Simone tome. Just like her other series, she pushes the boundaries of propriety, and you can’t help but feel as though you’re peeping behind the curtain to the adult section of your local video store (circa pre-2000s).
- The sexual politics and its marriage to morality is a centerstone to Harvest of Sighs. I’d like to think that Simone is challenging our heteronormative, Judeo-Christian values with this series (and the ones before it). I’m fairly certain she is. For this reader, it’s one of the many reasons I continue to read her romances. She’s pushing the boundaries of romance by challenging our mores when it comes to romancelandia. These are an inroads into opportunities for reflection and change. However, I believe it’s one only a few romance writers can accomplish, namely Simone.
- The poetry of her story is divine. In Harvest of Sighs, the harvest is the metaphor used throughout the book to elaborate on the characters’ freedom from societal stricture. Over and over in this book, Simone crafts “the harvest” into the erotic. As each character engages in a “harvest” of sorts, the story becomes upended, as the harvest dies eventually. You don’t read this level of style into many romance books. This becomes the intellectualism of her story. This coupled with her researched mythology and biblical allegories both confuse and challenge you to read more keenly.
Over and over again, I found myself seeking the pieces of the puzzle to Harvest of Sighs. There were times when it became difficult to find the right piece to fit the part of the puzzle of her story where I was working. And it was frustratingly glorious. Her challenge, her elicit way of storytelling, lends itself to raising the “picture” of romance. It feels necessary and provocative and intellectual in a way that sometimes romance doesn’t allow itself to be. I, for one, am impatient for Door of Bruises. I want to fit the rest of the pieces of the puzzle to the gothic tale of the Thornchapel series. The picture is still incomplete, but once it’s fully realized, I believe it will be a picture we have never seen and may never see again. Read this series; read Harvest of Sighs.
In love and romance,