Synopsis from Good Reads:
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.
Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.
I very impatiently waited for this book to become available at the library and unfortunately found myself very underwhelmed by it. I was expecting an honest-to-goodness mermaid story, but it focused much more on land and ghosts and curses.
Hester was a likable enough character, but I just never connected with her. She meant well and worked hard to figure things out, but she often came off as immature and even a little stupid. This is perhaps not completely her fault, though. The story is told in alternate timelines, which is one of my favorite styles, but it didn’t always flow well together here. As the reader, we make a lot of discoveries and connections in the 1800s timeline and Hester would make those same discoveries much later. Because of this, the pace felt off and the things that were big deals to Hester were already “been there, done that” for me.
I also didn’t care for the romance plotlines. Syrenka and Ezra had insta-love and so did Hester and Ezra (though I’m more ok with that since it goes along with the plot). There are hints of possible romance between Hester and her best friend Peter which are never resolved.
Overall, I found Monstrous Beauty disappointing. It did have an interesting premise and some original ideas, but it just wasn’t what I was expecting and the use of dual timelines did not work that well.