Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden 
night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires. Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse. This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love, and witchery.

The Witch of Painted Sorrows is the first book in the Daughters of La Lune series. It opens with the first person narration of Sandrine Verlaine. After the death of her father, she learns her husband played a part in his death, and she flees to her grandmother in France to escape his cruelty. She arrives in Paris on the doorstep of her grandmother's mansion only to find it vacant and under renovation. Her grandmother, a famous and successful courtesan, welcomes her. But as Sandrine becomes more and more involved in art and comes under the influence of a spirit of one of her ancestors, her grandmother struggles to keep Sandrine safe. 

Just like M.J. Rose's other novels, this too has a dark, sad tone. I did enjoy the supernatural, ghostly element that gave this book a gothic feel, but sometimes, because I am a historical fiction purist, some of the events that occurred in the book did not strike me as believable. Her grandmother was first depicted as a strong, popular woman, but later in the book, her mental state deteriorates to such a degree that I felt it wasn't believable. Nevertheless, the story was engaging and kept me reading to the very end. I enjoyed the first person narrative even though I sometimes did not fully engage with Sandrine. Perhaps it was because she didn't take matters in hand, and instead, waited too long and let things happen to her, especially in the matter of her estranged husband. From the start, I also disliked her lover, Julien Duplessi, likely because he struck me as an opportunist and a man of low morals.

Despite these issues, there is still much to laud. The writing is good, the story keeps moving forward at a steady pace, and the plot is very interesting. This was definitely a fun, engaging read! 

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