Wednesday, April 22, 2015


By M. J. Rose
Publication Date: March 17, 2015 Atria Books
Formats: Hardcover, Ebook
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Mystery, Gothic, Fantasy, Paranormal 

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Paris, 1894
"I did not cause the madness, the deaths, or the rest of the tragedies any more than I painted the paintings. I had help, her help. Or perhaps I should say she forced her help on me. And so this story - which began  with me fleeing my home in order to escape my husband and might very well end tomorrow, [...], is as much hers as mine. Or in fact more hers than mine. For she is the fountainhead. The fascination. She is La Lune. Woman of moon dreams. Of legends and nightmares. Who took me from the light  and into the darkness. Who imprisoned me and set me free."
Or is it the other way around?
The descendant of a line of celebrated courtesans, Sandrine Salome enjoyed a happy and sheltered childhood away from the scandalous conduct of her European lineage. Daughter of a wealthy banker and art collector, she grew up within the much more conventional upbringing of the New York good society: family mansion on Fifth Avenue, summer house in Newport, afternoon spent through the vast halls and endless exhibit rooms of the Metropolitan Museum. Versed in art, literature, and esoteric philosophies just like her open-minded father, she had bloomed into womanhood eschewing the idea of romantic love, - an inquisitive mind with a flair for arcane knowledge, oddly naïve and unsophisticated when it came to the matters of heart. Women of her social status were expected to marry well and raise a family in the calm oasis of their perfectly manicured homes, but if on one hand Sandrine could accept a loveless marriage to his father's protégé and junior business partner, on the other she could not endure an abusive marriage. After the death of her father, she flees New York to escape her husband's brutality and finds shelter in her grandmother's Parisian mansion.

Maison de la Lune is a  mid-eighteenth-century stone house loaded with mystical treasures and secrets. Once stage of lavish salons hosted by Sandrine's grandmother, a sensualist and courtesan herself, the four-story building is now closed for renovations, but its magical and elusive charm lures Sandrine to explore its niches and secret passages. Warm and responsive like a living entity, the ancestral home becomes the enclave of her sensual awakening, but it will slowly and irremediably lead her and her new lover Julien Duplessi, the architect in charge with the renovations, to a fatal discovery, one involving alchemy, occultism, and witchcraft. La maison, in fact, sits on the property of Lunette Lumiere, Sandrine's ancestor. A sixteenth-century courtesan who was said to be the lover of a famous painter, a painter herself, La Lune lived to be over one hundred and fifty years old. Always young. Always beautiful. Legend has it that she learned alchemy and that she had discovered what many before her had been searching for.

Spiraling through the opulence and the sensuality of a Belle Epoque Paris, The Witch Of Painted Sorrows is a flavorful historical mystery: a dash of paranormal, a dose of erotica, loads of suspense. Only, that suspense which I expected to be the dominant ingredient evenly spread throughout the pages was rather packed towards the end of the book. It took me a good half of the narrative, if not more, to really appreciate the intricacies of the plot. Good thing is that, by the final chapters, when I thought the novel had climaxed into a perfect adrenaline-spiking resolution, M.J. Rose managed to blow my mind with an unexpected twist. And all it took her was one sentence. While the action shifts into full gear only at the end, the most part of Sandrine's story is an exquisite, slow-simmering, and highly evocative portrait of the fin-de-siecle mood, with its  Bohemian cafes and cabarets, the literary alcoves and all the cultural contradictions of that era.

4 stars.

***Review copy graciously offered by the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased and honest opinion

About the book
Possession. Power. Passion. International bestselling novelist M.J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this erotic, gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris. Sandrine Salome runs away to her grandmother’s Parisian mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires. Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten – her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse. This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love and witchery.

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