This book totally surprised me. I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did, though I was hoping I would. So I was delighted when this was my initial reaction:
Yep. This was one giant dark truffle of deliciousness. I started it one day, and about two chapters in decided I wanted to just sit down and devour it all in one go, so I waited for a weekend day and did just that.
First of all, don’t go into this book expecting something it’s not. This is a gothic historical romance. Period. It doesn’t try to have the next greatest plot twist. In fact it has some of the traditional YA tropes (it’s a NA, btw) that usually drive me to distraction or leave me throwing the book across the room. However, popular plot devices are popular for a reason. They resonate with a large percentage of the human population on some intrinsic level. That doesn’t mean we don’t get tired of them, particularly if you read a lot. What seems new and exciting to someone who reads 2 books a year may seem bland and unoriginal to someone who reads 200. Authors CAN, however, come up with new twists on the tried and true tropes of literature and A.G. Howard has done just that. ANYWAY. Climbing off my soapbox now.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD…but nothing too horrible, I promise!
As soon as the book starts, we’re thrown into a very melancholy, VERY Victorian atmosphere. I almost put it down, honestly. I wasn’t in the mood for another book where the heroine simpers and flutters and nearly passes out when the hero gets within 6 inches of her. But I was intrigued…and let’s just say, while yes, the time period is Victorian, the romantic intensity is SO NOT.
There are a few scenes that left me literally fanning myself. Not just because, um, hot bearded guy, either. The history between Juliet and Hawk is just so sweet and it gives so much more intensity to every scene between the two of them. It’s amazing, and heartbreaking, sweet, and at the same time simply smouldering.
The characters in this book are amazing. I was attached to them ALL. I hated A.G. Howard about halfway through for making me care about them ALL, because I wanted to be able to choose. Yes, there is a love triangle in this book (that was the spoiler). Maybe I should have guessed that from the blurb, but since it said ghost…you know…how can you…well. All I can say is well done, well done indeed. I was several chapters in before I was sure that was what was happening, and by that point I was so intrigued and invested that I couldn’t stop reading!
A.G. Howard writes IN COLOR. I swear I could see the colors, the fabrics, the clothes she described just spilling out of the pages. It was amazing. This is the first of her books I’ve read, so I’m not sure if she just always writes that way or if it was a feature of this particular book, but I loved it. I’m not a “clothes person,” but damn if I didn’t want to reach out and touch some of the dresses Juliet was wearing.
The plot is…well, gothic. Semi-tragic. There were SO MANY layers and so many half-truths that about 3/4 of the way through I just wanted to SCREAM because I was just as confused as poor Juliet, whom everyone seems to think needs “protecting” in the form of an elaborately built scheme to keep her “safe.” Geez Louise, people. Our young heroine is deaf, yes, but copes remarkably well and is no shrinking violet, even if she sometimes acts the part. There’s the love triangle. At first I was skeptical, and then I was sympathetic, and then I was panicked, because these two guys…well, they get ALL the hearts. AT FIRST. Then one starts to be controlling, manipulative, and demanding and my little gun-shy heart ran away screaming…but I still felt so sorry for him and wanted him to have a happy ending.
Now, the problems. First, as soon as a guy comes into her life, Juliet loses all focus on everything else, even when at first she had a relatively big goal regarding her estate. She just tosses it all aside for TWU RUV.
I’m sure we’ve all been there, but I hate it when that’s one of the first things to occur in a book. Especially in cases like this, where, as a true Victorian female, Juliet has been sheltered and taught that women shouldn’t have sexual desires like men, and then she just falls into the arms of the first man that waltzes across her path (it takes 149 pages). Le sigh. But ok, it’s a romance. Forgiven…ish.
Then there are a few times when the dialogue sounds like it was supposed to be description. Because honestly, who describes their hair color as “My hair is the warm glimmer of golden coins beneath the sun,” instead of just “My hair is blonde (golden, yellow, fill-in-the-blank-with-one-word)?” Ugh. It was just overkill for me…the flowery descriptions were great, but in dialogue it was just a bit too much.
My hat is off to A.G. Howard for not giving her book the traditional happily-ever-after ending. Oh, there’s plenty to be happy about, don’t get me wrong! But it’s definitely bittersweet, and by being so it’s much more realistic and makes me even more excited for the next one!
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. I love Juliet and *bleep*. They’re giant dark chocolate truffles and I want to eat them.