by Leanna Renee Hieber
17 year-old Natalie Stewart lives a privileged life amongst the New York art scene elite in the 1880's, thanks to her father's connections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because of the tragic loss of her mother at a young age, Natalie has not spoken in years.
Natalie becomes transfixed by a new painting of Lord Denbury, rumored to be haunted. With the help of wealthy, older patroness of the arts, Mrs. Northe, she and her father purchase the painting for the museum. Natalie is stunned to discover that she actually has the ability to cross over into the painting, where she learns that Denbury is trapped in the painting, while a demon wearing his form is terrorizing lower Manhattan, brutally killing young women.
The book is described as "The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and I honestly can't think of a better description. The tone of the book is unmistakably Gothic, through and through. The pacing is slow and mysterious. The romance between Denbury and Natalie is quite restrained. Much like Bram Stoker's Dracula, the story mainly consists of diary entries, mixed with a few letters and official police reports.
Natalie is taken under Mrs. Northe's wing as she struggles to regain her powers of speech. Mrs. Northe, who is a bit of a spiritualist with psychic powers, mentors Natalie as she begins to gain her own mentalist abilities. When Natalie theorizes that she and Denbury may be soulmates, which would explain their deep and immediate connection, Mrs. Northe delivers one of the best monologues on love I've heard in a long time:
Don't put stock in past lives. It's this life that makes the difference. And in this life there may be certain destinies, people you're meant to meet... But there is no sole person for another's heart. Souls cannot be broken and then completed by another. That's not healthy, nor wise. There are infinite possiblilites as there are infinite people and some matches better made than others... Just don't say that you'll die without the other one or that you'll never love again or that you're not whole - That's the stuff of Romeo and Juliet, hasty nonsense, and you know how well that turned out. There's magic about the two of you, yes. Just don't be desperate about it. That's where souls go wrong.The ending of the book kind of dragged for me. Everything comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion, but I felt that the follow-up with constable, who reads Natalie's diary, but finds he can't believe the tale within was unnecessary and a bit belabored. The book ends with a definite lead-in to a sequel, with Natalie and Denbury on the run together to Chicago. Fans of the Brontë sisters, or du Maurier's Rebecca will find a lot to like in this debut offering.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.