dsDarker Still (Magic Most Foul #1) by Leanna Renee Hieber
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Library
Rating: starstarstarstarblank_star
Buy It: Amazon | IndieBound

I was obsessed.

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I’d ever seen–everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable…utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike.

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame.

I’ve crossed over into his world within the painting, and I’ve seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked–bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.

Review:

So this is like my perfect book.  Historical fiction + paranormal + interesting heroine = my kinda drug, you know what I mean?  Natalie Stewart is the daughter of an upper middle class father who is heavily involved in the new Metropolitan Museum of Art (which I love!).  Ever since her mother died, Natalie has been unable to speak, prompting her father to send her to an “asylum,” which is really a boarding school for deaf and mute girls.  At the beginning of the book, she comes home for a holiday and we learn that Natalie has has a connection with the supernatural since she was a child.  She calls it The Whisper, and it does exactly what it says on the tin.

We meet Evelyn Northe and her niece, Maggie, in the first chapter.  Evelyn is a wealthy widow who collects objects of occult value, because she is a spiritualist.  We learn that Evelyn knows sign language and can communicate with Natalie in way very few people can. Evelyn sees a kindred spirit in Natalie, one Evelyn doesn’t see in Maggie.  Evelyn and Natalie are basically perfect in the beginning of the book, all fire and curiosity.  Evelyn manages to buy the Denbury portrait out from under some of her enemies, Natalie begins seeing things, and everything starts getting weird.

This book has an Alice in Wonderland feel and that appeals to me too.  Natalie is pulled through the painting, into Denbury’s world.  He’s drawn to her as much as she is to him, and here is the first time I am yanked out of the story: she keeps referring to Denbury’s accent as “British.”  But…there is no universal British accent, is there?  There’s English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish accents, but what is a British accent?  So that annoyed me and when I mentioned it to my boyfriend, he said, “Well, is it ignorance on the character’s part?”  And you know what?  No, it isn’t.  Natalie knows Denbury is English, but she still refers to his accent as British.  Anyway.  That’s probably really picky of me.

The reason this book is four and not five stars is somehow Natalie went from badass who takes no crap to consistently “pressing her face into his lapel” so that Denbury can protect her.  She falls into the classic Victorian damsel-in-distress role really easily. Like she only needed to take care of herself until a man came along to care of her instead.  This book also has some interesting religion, and sometimes I wondered if it was preaching at me, but I find myself wanting to defend this book.  Natalie says some decidedly unfeminist things, typical of her time, but I took them that way–as a sign of her times.  She does a lot more than most women in that era, but she has some really traditional thoughts on love.  Let me be real: if a heroine talked the way Natalie does about men and love and bodies in a modern paranormal romance, I would be pissed and the book would probably lose another star.  Because of the time period, I feel like we can take Natalie’s immediate and dramatic declarations of love with a grain of salt.  I really see this book as legitimate historical fiction and Natalie’s conservatism and feminist failings are understandable because of that.

This is apparently a series, but the book doesn’t leave a ton of loose ends, so no cliffhanger.  I think the makeouts in this book are really, really hot and I love their formal speech.  I recommend this one to anyone who likes historical fiction, paranormal romance, English accents and pretty words.