At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

at-the-waters-edge“In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook).

Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.” – Goodreads

As a fan of Sara Gruen (before Water for Elephants, thank you very much), of course I was first in line when I learned of her newest novel, At the Water’s Edge (March, 2015). Praying that I would not be disappointed, I greedily began devouring her words – and things came to a grinding halt. It. Was. So. Sloooow. My heart broke. I gnashed my teeth. I very nearly wept, y’all. No way could I not like this book – it was Sara Gruen! How could she disappoint me?! Well, thankfully, she didn’t. Once I calmed down and continued reading further, things changed. More than changed – they bloomed. Bloomed into a gorgeous novel full of life, love, loss and the courage to grow.

When Maddie Hyde and her husband, Ellis, embarrass his socialite parents at the New Year’s Eve party of 1942, they are kicked out of their home and cut off financially. Ellis and his best friend, Hank, who are both unable to serve in the War due to medical reasons, decide to make their way across the U-Boat-filled Atlantic to Scotland to hunt the one and only Loch Ness monster – dragging behind them a protesting Maggie. Arriving to a cold welcome (Ellis’s father had preceded him in his own search years before and had not left a good impression on the locals), Ellis and Hank continue to alienate the inn staff and other locals with their drinking, carousing, and Ellis’s mistreatment of Maggie.

During her time at the inn while Ellis and Hank are off hunting Nellie, Maggie is busy going through a transformation: from meek, spineless and whiny, dependent on Ellis and Hank as her only friends,  to independent-thinking and strong-willed, growing close to staff at the inn as well as other locals. When a quiet yet desperate love begins to bloom between Maddie and the innkeeper, things get even more complicated as Ellis threatens to have her lobotomized for her noticeably defiant behavior of late (no joke, y’all!).

Did At the Water’s Edge live up to the fabulousness that is Ape House or Water for Elephants? No, not really. But it is itself an enchanting and romantic read with a guaranteed happy ending that will leave readers with a smile on their faces. Go and get you some, y’all.

At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: On sale now!

4 stars

Source: Random House/Spiegel & Grau {via NetGalley}

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

the-witch-of-painted-sorrows“Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there 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.” – Goodreads

Taking a turn away from her Reincarnationist series of the last few years, M.J. Rose has turned out a haunting new standalone novel for 2015: The Witch of Painted Sorrows. Staking her claim – once again – as one of the masters of romantic suspense, Rose weaves together romance, the supernatural and occult, and a dash of eroticism to create a sinister and spicy tale of love and fear in 1890’s Paris.

After the death of her father – for which she blames her own cold and cruel husband – Sandrine Salome flees in secrecy to Paris, seeking refuge with her beloved grandmother. She arrives, however, to find that many changes have taken place in her grandmother’s world – and that not all will be as she had expected. As she investigates, Sandrine embarks on a journey of self-discovery that will mercilessly thrust her into the world of occult-ridden Belle Epoque Paris. Experiencing changes she never expected, Sandrine begins having thoughts and urges that aren’t her own. But where are these unsettling feelings coming from? Things become more and more clear as she delves deeper into her family history and moves forward into a future of independence and power.

I don’t want to share too many details of the novel here; it would be easy to tell you the whole stinking story in just a few sentences. You’ll need to experience that for yourself, if you choose. As a fan of Rose’s Jac L’Etoile novels, I was familiar with her writing style and The Witch of Painted Sorrows did hold my interest as I read it, however, it’s not really  my style. I’m not really a “romance” or “supernatural” fan and don’t see myself turning into one anytime soon. That said, it is rumored that this novel is the first in a series, and if this is true then there is a good chance I’d read the next one to be published (I’m nothing if not thorough, y’all).

Oh, yes, I mentioned that this novel is somewhat erotic… Um, yeah. There is sex. Graphic sex. This is not my thing. I’m a total prude (let’s not even talk about when my BFF made me read the Fifty Shades trilogy). Not that I don’t approve, or that I think it’s inappropriate in any way – there’s nothing wrong with it at all; sex scenes just gross me out. They didn’t used to; it started a little over ten years ago. No idea why. I just cringe and gag and skip over the pages to the next part. Maybe it’s a Mom thing…? So… FYI, y’all. Be prepared.

Would I buy this book? Not for myself – but I would purchase it for a friend who was into the genre. Totally worth your time if this is your thang. Go and get you some!

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose: On Sale Now!

3 stars

Source: Atria Books {via NetGalley}