Sandrine is a runaway. She’s running away from her husband, her father’s death, and scandal. The only person who can shelter her is Sandrine’s courtesan grandmother, Eva. But in M.J. Rose’s The Witch of Painted Sorrows, the Paris of 1894 turns out to be far from the sanctuary Sandrine hoped for.
Though she spent time with her grandmother in Paris when she was younger, Sandrine doesn’t know much about her family’s past. All she knows is that she comes from a long line of courtesans beginning with La Lune in the sixteenth century. Eva refuses to tell her anything other than that women in their family should not fall in love. Terrible things happen when the Verlaine women fall in love.
At first, Sandrine is too worried about her husband falling her from New York to do much else. Her grandmother’s secrets pull her own of her misery. An architect is cataloging Eva’s old house, Maison de la Lune, to turn it into a museum. Sandrine discovers an unknown artist’s studio full of sensuous paintings. And still, Eva won’t tell her anything about her family’s past. She just warns Eva to stay away from the maison.
It wouldn’t be much of a plot if Sandrine didn’t ignore all that well meaning advice. She goes back to the maison day after day, falling in love with the architect and in love with painting. Little does she know that she’s not becoming more assertive because she feels unfettered, but because Sandrine is being taken over by the spirit of La Lune.
It took a few chapters for The Witch of Painted Sorrows to win me over. At first, it read like just another romance with a bit of fantasy on top. Rose outdoes herself with the setting and the characters. Belle Époque France comes to life in this book. It’s the world of salons and the École des Beaux-Arts. Sandrine, the sheltered daughter of a banker, should be lost in the middle of the glitter. Instead, she’s right at home.
As Sandrine gets deeper and deeper into her family’s past, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next. Does La Lune deserve another chance at love? How will Sandrine get free of her husband? Can there be a happy ending for anyone? You’ll just have to read The Witch of Painted Sorrows for yourself.
I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 17 March 2015.