by Anne StuartI love Anne Stuart. Her style may be unadorned even terse, her heroes may be alpholes, and her heroines may be limp dishrags, but she knows how to spin a tale. She grabs me and keeps me turning the pages, frantic to find out what will happen next, until the creepy/scary/disturbing climax. And I keep coming back for more.
The story is a southern gothic transplanted into the sunny hills of Tuscany. The linchpin is the mysterious death of aging, egocentric, hedonistic, over-the-hill Great Artist Pompasse (or as I soon started calling him: PompAss). Stuart does a great job of simultaneously making you feel his greatness as an artist, and his utter worthlessness as a human being. Carrying on with ever younger teenage mistresses (excuse me, muses!), keeping on his discarded
The hero keeps from being overshadowed by the dead PompAss by being one himself. I found him just too abrasive in the first half, constantly baiting the heroine until I starting wishing she would throw him out already. But it becomes clear he baits her because he wants her. He won me over in the second half with his growing feelings for her. A lot of the book is in his POV, so you really get into his head. Stuart did a good job with this too, you never feel like you're reading a woman's idea of what a man thinks like.
The heroine starts out limp but becomes more sympathetic as you learn she's pretty damaged. The hero's obnoxiousness works to get her out of her repression, and she's more lively in the second half. I ended up liking her and them as a couple.
There are some well-drawn secondary characters, who comprise the suspects in the death. Typical of a gothic, they include secretive servants and a crazy old bat (Pompass' first muse). Tumbled down old ruins, decaying vineyards, a storm or 2, and mysterious happenings all add to the gothic atmosphere. The denoument is ripe with hints of insanity and incest. Creepy!! Stuart plays fair, and a couple of throwaway lines early in the story turn out to foreshadow the rot at the heart of this family melodrama.
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|File size||1.3 Mb|
|Book rating||4.06 (303 votes)