When author Leanna Renee Hieber says she wants to be “a gateway drug for nineteenth-century literature,” she means it! Because her new novel Darker Still definitely oozes with all the sensibility and style of a 19th century novel!
New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart’s latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing…
Jonathan Denbury’s soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.
Hieber has created something new that feels like something old that fans of 19th century literature will adore. From the writing style to the fashion to the swooning over a simple touch: Darker Still bears all the markings of a novel written centuries ago. Yet Hieber also manages to breathe fresh live into the genre, injecting a mix of spiritualism and paranormal intrigue into a 19th century romance.
I have to confess, I’m not actually a fan of 19th century literature — and so, at times, those qualities made it difficult for me to read Darker Still. Yet I love gothic thrillers, and these elements are what really drew me into the novel. As Natalie found herself puzzling through an almost Jack-the-Ripper-esque murder mystery, I was eager to keep turning the pages!
There were moments when reading Darker Still when I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop: for a twist, another hurdle, a double-cross. Yet nothing ever really came to fruition. I know Hieber has plans for a sequel, and I suspect some of the layered intrigue may unfold in a second book — but it definitely felt as if this first book was lacking a little bit more depth. In some cases, things just worked out too well. (Not that I oppose good fortune and happy endings … it just felt too easy at times).
Still, if you love 19th century lit, and lament the fact that 19th century authors are dead and gone and no longer publishing new work, Hieber has done you a great service. It’s almost as if she has channeled the past when writing Darker Still.
Darker Still is in stores Nov. 8th.