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The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell is a confection of a Victorian Gothic romance which contains lots of swoon-worthy elements: a late-19th Century Baltimore backdrop, young ladies of a slightly daring nature, lovely balls in society mansions, supernatural surprises, and…deathly visions.
Miss Amelia van den Broek of Maine travels to Maryland to spend a summer with her well-heeled relatives in order to improve her marriage prospects. She becomes especially close to her cousin, Zora, and their friendship blossoms with shared intrigue and social adventure. They quickly become confidantes as romantic prospects begin to appear around them.
Upon her arrival in Baltimore, Amelia meets and becomes enamored of a magnetic and quite ineligible bachelor artist. By society’s standards, this is a completely unacceptable and forbidden attraction, which doubles its enticement for her. Amelia also finds that she has a strange ability: she can access clear and accurate visions of others’ futures. What begins as a simple “parlor trick” quickly becomes much, much more complicated, as she realizes that her visions, some of which are ruinous and dark, are sought by those in the community wishing to know their fates. Reputations, lives, and the course of true love hang in the balance.
The Vespertine contains voluptuous prose and enough breathless (yet chaste) romance to satisfy anyone looking for a period love story. But there’s more than that: a shadowy and rebellious mood colors the novel and gives it bit more “bite” than one might expect! The Vespertine will be one of my highlighted selections at our upcoming Holiday Book Fair, scheduled for December 1st and 2nd in the Helm Lobby.
Cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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