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This review is also available on my blog, Bows & Bullets Reviews
You would think that after all they went through in Darker Still, Natalie Stewart and Jonathan Whitby, Lord Denbury, had earned a reprieve from the dastardly spirits that wish them harm. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Their plan to get away from the negative magic, taking a vacation of sorts with Jonathan's old friends turns out badly when they realize that Samuel, Jonathan's pal, is unwittingly involved in the society that trapped Jonathan in that painting. So now, our dear Lord Denbury is back to London to do some investigating and Natalie is going back home to deal with a very upset father. It's obvious something new is afoot and that the old demon is not yet finished with out lovely couple. Can they finally defeat this foe or will their inevitable doom come sooner rather than later?
Natalie is a feisty heroine determined to save Jonathan (and herself), regardless of the cost. She has finally regained her ability to speak, though her voice does still desert her on occasion, but she's lost a bit of her fire. She's still haven't the clairvoyant dreams, predicting things she hopes never come to pass, and she's terrified they'll never be free of this mess. All she wants is to have a normal(ish) courtship with Jonathan, then marry and have that happily ever after that we all dream about. But the demon that possess Jonathan is still haunting her, along with the new nightmares about resurrection.
Jonathan was just as charming as all the British lords in historical romances normally are. Proper, with a hint of the rake hiding beneath the surface. It's hard to not feel sympathy for him, after being locked in a painting for years and now having to impersonate the monster who trapped him there, it's a miracle he doesn't lose his mind. He's obvious affection for Natalie is so cute. I adore him. He's definitely on my list of swoon-worthy males.
The side characters are all interesting in their own right. Mrs. Northe with her paranormal abilities and saving the day tendencies is a character I'd love to know more about. Her life with her late husband, her youth, and all things past because I feel that would be an intriguing tale. Rachel, who can't speak or hear people, but hears spirits speaking to her, is also fascinating. This poor girl gets tormented in these pages, but they'll sort it out. Then there is Nathaniel Veil. ::swoons:: He's plagued with melancholy. He is an actor and playwright, starring in a play about the sadder things in life, doing versions of Poe and the like. He's so flirty! If Denbury wasn't perfect for Natalie, I'd be throwing myself onto Team Nathaniel straight-away!
What this novel really excels at is the luscious writing. Hieber is a master of this beautiful style of writing that captivates you. Maybe I'm biased because I spent my teenage years devouring historical romance novels, but there is just something magical about this time period and Hieber always manages to do it justice. The novels only real fault is I feel like it was trying to tackle too much in just one short book. We've got the Natalie/Jonathan romance, then Jonathan impersonating a demon, Rachel being used for nefarious purposes, demonic possession, resurrection, and more. I feel like we should have focused a bit more on the resurrection than trying to look at the larger picture just yet. Also, it seemed like this one was just a tad more religious than the previous one. It didn't feel pushy, just Natalie's Christian faith was more prevalent than before.
It does suffer just a bit from middle book syndrome, not quite living up to Darker Still's awesomeness, but it's still completely enjoyable. Jonathan makes it worth it, not to mention meeting Nathaniel. This isn't exactly what I was expecting, but a bit more. It contains that mystical quality that I loved in the first one. It has love, adventure, and a bit of humor, what more can you want?