Indie Next Pick • Library Reads Pick • People Magazine Pick • Boston Globe Pick of the Week
Called an “elegant tale of rare depth and beauty, as brilliantly crafted as it is wondrously told” by the Providence Journal, The Witch of Painted Sorrows “melds the normal and paranormal in the kind of seamless fashion reserved for such classic ghost stories as Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw.”
New York socialite Sandrine Salome flees an abusive husband for her grandmother’s Paris mansion, despite warnings that the lavish family home is undergoing renovation and too dangerous to enter. There Sandrine meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing architect who introduces her to the City of Lights—its art world, forbidden occult underground, nightclubs—and to her own untapped desires.
Soon Sandrine’s husband tracks her down and an insidious spirit takes hold: La Lune, a witch and a legendary sixteenth-century courtesan who exposes Sandrine to a deadly darkness.
“M.J. Rose has a talent for compelling writing, and this time she has outdone herself. Fear, desire, lust, and raw emotion ooze off the page,” says the Associated Press. In her instantly absorbing tour de force, Rose imagines Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul” dramatically underwritten by a tragic love story and a family curse that illuminates the fine line between explosive passion and complete ruination.
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The Witch of Painted Sorrows
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, in a duel, in the Bois de Boulogne at dawn—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 of 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?
“Your questions,” my father always said to me, “will be your saving grace. A curious mind is the most important attribute any man or woman can possess. Now if you can just temper your impulsiveness . . .”
If I had a curious mind, I’d inherited it from him. And he’d nurtured it. Philippe Salome was on the board of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and helped found the American Museum of Natural History, whose cornerstone was laid on my fifth birthday.
I remember sitting atop my father’s shoulders that day, watching the groundbreaking ceremony and thinking the whole celebration was for me. He called it “our museum,” didn’t he? And for much of my life I thought it actually did belong to us, along with our mansion on Fifth Avenue and our summerhouse in Newport. Until it was gone, I understood so little about wealth and the price you pay for it. But isn’t that always the way?
Our museum’s vast halls and endless exhibit rooms fascinated me as much as they did my father—which pleased him, I could tell. We’d meander through exhibits, my small hand in his large one, and he’d keep me spellbound with stories about items on display. I’d ask for more, always just one more, and he’d laugh and tease: “My Sandrine, does your capacity for stories know no bounds?”
But it pleased him, and he’d always tell me another.
I especially loved the stories he told me about the gems and fate and destiny always ending them by saying: “You will make your own fate, Sandrine, I’m sure of it.”
Was my father right? Do we make our own destiny? I think back now to the stepping-stones that I’ve walked to reach this moment in time.
Were the incidents of my making? Or were they my fate?
The most difficult steps I took were after certain people died. No deaths were caused by me, but at the same time, none would have occurred were it not for me.
So many deaths. The first was on the morning of my fifteenth birthday, when I saw a boy beaten and tragically die because of our harmless kisses. The next was the night almost ten years later, when I heard the prelude to my father’s death and learned the truth about Benjamin, my husband. And then there were more. Each was an end-ing that, ironically, became a new beginning for me.
The one thing I am now sure of is that if there is such a thing as destiny, it is a result of our passion, be that for money, power, or love. Passion, for better or worse. It can keep a soul alive even if all that survives is a shimmering. I’ve even seen it. I’ve been bathed in it. I’ve been changed by it.
Four months ago I snuck into Paris on a wet, chilly January night like a criminal, hiding my face in my shawl, taking extra care to be sure I wasn’t followed.
I stood on the stoop of my grandmother’s house and lifted the hand-shaped bronze door knocker and let it drop. The sound of the metal echoed inside. Her home was on a lane blocked off from rue des Saints-Pères by wide wooden double doors. Maison de la Lune, as it was called, was one of a half dozen four-story mid-eighteenth-century stone houses that shared a courtyard that backed up onto rue du Dragon. Hidden clusters like this were a common configuration in Paris. These small enclaves offered privacy and quiet from the busy city. Usually the porte cochère was locked and one had to ring for the concierge, but I’d found the heavy doors ajar and hadn’t had to wait for service.
I let the door knocker fall again. Light from a street lamp glinted off the golden metal. It was a strange object. Usually on these things the bronze hand’s palm faced the door. But this one was palm out, almost warning the visitor to reconsider requesting entrance.
I was anxious and impatient. I’d been cautious on my journey from New York to Southampton and kept to my cabin. I’d left a letter telling Benjamin I’d gone to visit friends in Virginia and assumed that once he returned and read it, it would be at least a week before he’d realize all was not what it seemed. One thing I had known for certain—he would never look for me in France. It would be inconceivable to Benjamin that any wife of his could cross the ocean alone.
Or so I assured myself until my husband’s banking associate, William Lenox, spotted me on board. When he expressed surprise I was traveling by myself, I concocted a story but was worried he didn’t believe me. My only consolation was that we had docked in England and I had since crossed the channel into France. So even if Benjamin did come looking, he wouldn’t know where I’d gone.
That very first night in Paris, as I waited for my grandmother’s maid to open the door, I knew I had to stop thinking of what I had run away from. So I re-focused on the house I stood before and as I did, felt an overwhelming sense of belonging, of being welcome. Here I would be safe.
Once again I lifted the door knocker that had so obsessed me ten years before when I’d visited as a fifteen-year-old. The engravings on the finely modeled female palm included etched stars, phases of the moon, planets, and other archaic symbols. When I’d asked about it once, my grandmother had said it was older than the house, but she didn’t know how old exactly or what the ciphers meant.
After standing at the door for a few moments without gaining entry, I lifted the hand and let it drop again. Where was the maid? Grand-mère, one of Paris’s celebrated courtesans, hosted lavish salons on Tuesday, Thursday, and many Saturday evenings, and at this time of day was usually upstairs, preparing her toilette: dusting poudre de riz on her face and décolletage, screwing in her opale de feu earrings, and wrapping her signature rope of the same blazing orange stones around her neck. The strand of opal beads was famous. It had belonged to a Russian empress and was known as Les Incendies. The stones were the same color as my grandmother’s hair and the highlights in her topaz eyes. She was known by that name—L’Incendie, they called her, The Fire.
We had the same color eyes, but mine almost never flashed like hers. When I was growing up, I kept checking in the mirror, hoping the opal sparks that I only saw occasionally would intensify. I wanted to be just like her, but my father said it was just as well my eyes weren’t on fire because it wasn’t only her coloring that had inspired her name but also her temper, and that wasn’t a thing to covet.
It wasn’t until I was fifteen years old and witnessed it myself that I understood what he’d meant.
I let the hand of fate fall again. Even if Grand-mère was upstairs and couldn’t hear the knocking, the maid would be downstairs, organizing the refreshments for the evening. I’d seen her so many nights, polishing away last smudges on the silver, holding the Baccarat glasses over a pot of steaming water and then wiping them clean to make sure they gleamed.
Certainly Bernadette, if it was still Bernadette, should have heard the knocker, but I had been waiting more than five minutes, and no one had arrived to let me in. Dusk had descended. The air had grown cold, and now it was beginning to rain. Fat, heavy drops dripped onto my hat and into my eyes. And I had no umbrella. That’s when I did what I should have done from the start—I stepped back and looked up at the house.
The darkened windows set into the limestone facade indicated there were no fires burning and no lamps lit inside. My grandmother was not in residence. And neither, it appeared, was her staff. I almost wished the concierge had needed to open the porte cochère for me; he might have been able to tell me where my grandmother was.
For days now I had managed to keep my sanity only by thinking of this moment. All I had to do, I kept telling myself, was find my way here, and then together, my grandmother and I could mourn my father and her son, and she would help me figure out what I should do now that I had run away from New York City.
If she wasn’t here, where was I to go? I had other family in Paris, but I had no idea where they lived. I’d only met them here, at my grandmother’s house, when I’d visited ten years previously. I had no friends in the city.
The rain was soaking through my clothes. I needed to find shelter. But where? A restaurant or café? Was there one nearby? Or should I try and find a hotel? Which way should I go to get a carriage? Was it even safe to walk alone here at night?
What choice did I have?
Picking up my suitcase, I turned, but before I could even step into the courtyard, I saw an advancing figure. A bedraggled-looking man wearing torn and filthy brown pants and an overcoat that had huge, bulging pockets, staggered toward me. Every step he took rang out on the stones.
He’s just a beggar who intends no harm, I told myself. He’s just looking for scraps of food, for a treasure in the garbage he’d be able to sell.
But what if I was wrong? Alone with him in the darkening courtyard, where could I go? In my skirt and heeled boots, could I even outrun him?
He was so close now I could see the grime on his face and hands. Smell his putrid odor. From the way he was eyeing me and my luggage, there was no doubt he was planning something. If he tried to grab my suitcase, I couldn’t fight him off. At least a foot taller than me, he was also broad-shouldered and thickset. It was my fault—I hadn’t stopped to ensure the porte cochère was locked behind me.
I fumbled in my bag for my keys. Little did it matter they were to our Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City. The familiar feel of them brought on a wave of sadness, but I fought it off. My immediate situation required acting quickly.
Jangling the keys, I pretended to use them, all the while feeling his eyes on my back.
Holding my breath, I waited to hear his retreating footsteps. But there was no such sound.
So I called out, as if to my grandmother’s maid, that it was all right, I would get the door myself.
I knew the beggar understood me. Even though I’d grown up in America, my father had taught me to speak French with an accent as good as any local’s.
When I still didn’t hear the stranger’s retreating footsteps, I called again to Bernadette that she should tell my husband or the houseman to come down, that the lock was stuck and I needed help with the suitcase.
Finally, from behind, I heard a sound. At last. The tramp was leaving. But no! I was wrong. He was laughing. And coming closer.
“There’s no one home,” he called out.
With my hand still on the doorknob, I half turned. “Get away from here before you get in trouble.”
“Everyone who lives here has been gone for over a week.”
“You’re wrong. They are all home. Someone is coming now, so you should leave while you can.”
The beggar laughed again. “Moved out. Saw them myself. The fancy madame and her maid and her manservant. Valises and boxes galore.”
“You are mistaken. They are all here upstairs, and my husband—”
“You may have a husband. And he very well might have been here . . . so very many women’s husbands come here . . . but if yours was here, he’s long gone.”
He took another step and reached out for my suitcase. At the same time leering at me with an expression that suggested he might decide to take more than my luggage.
I was frozen, unable to move, to run, to scream, or to make any effort at all to help myself. My shoulder pushed against the door as I twisted the doorknob, willing it to somehow magically open and give me entry. I might as well have been standing in front of a stone fortress. I was trapped. Powerless again.
And then something changed. I felt a surge of anger. A refusal to accept what seemed so inevitable.
“Get away from me,” I shouted as if my words were a weapon.
The vagabond laughed at me, knowing better.
Indeed, nothing should have suggested that my words were a force to be reckoned with except my sense that they were. I let go of the doorknob, shouted at him again to leave, and when he didn’t, outrage and anger and frustration all mixed together, and from a place that I didn’t know I possessed, determination and fearlessness rose up. I pushed the man away from me.
“No!” I shouted. And again, “No!” in a voice that was unrecognizable to me.
Something inside me refused to accept what was happening.
The surprise attack sent the stranger sprawling, and he slid down the steps into the gutter. I hadn’t known he was carrying a knife until I saw it fall from his hand onto the cobblestones. It lay there next to him, glinting in the street lamp’s light. Rushing, I grabbed it just before he did.
And then I felt the man’s fingers wrap around my ankle and grip it tightly.
I kicked free. And then kicked again, the toe of my boot making contact with his nose, or his chin or his cheek—I couldn’t see, but I heard a sickening crack.
He let out a primitive howl far louder than my own shouts. Blood began to trickle from his nose. He writhed in pain.
Who was I? I did not know the woman capable of this. What were the limits of her abilities? I only knew that she was fighting for her life, and that unlike me she thought her life was worth fighting for.
“You whore,” the man bellowed as he began to rise up. He was looking at me so differently now. Before he’d appraised me as if I were a prize waiting to be claimed. Now I deserved punishing. It was there in his expression of fear mixed with hatred.
“Give me back my knife!”
“Don’t come any closer to me or I’ll use it,” I shouted back. My father had taught me how to use a pistol, but for me a knife had no use other than cutting the chicken or beef on my plate.
But I sensed this new woman I’d become knew how to wield one.
Suddenly the door of the mansion next to my grandmother’s was flung open, and a man rushed out, yelling as he ran down his steps. He brandished a pistol.
“Who is there? What is going on?”
The would-be thief cast one glance toward the newcomer and his weapon and took off. In seconds all that remained of him was an echo of his wooden shoes clattering as he ran away.
The knife fell from my hand with a clang as the energy drained out of my body, and I sank to my knees.
“Are you hurt?” the man asked in an impossibly familiar voice.
Slowly, I lifted my head and looked at him. It had been ten years since I’d been in Paris, but my grandmother’s next-door neighbor had hardly changed. If there was more gray in his hair, I couldn’t see it in the dim light.
“Mais oui,” he said, surprised and confused as to how I might know him.
In those same ten years, I had changed. Grown from a hopeful young girl of fifteen to an aggrieved twenty-five-year-old woman.
“Sandrine! Oh my. Are you hurt?”
“My foot. My ankle is twisted, that’s all . . . but I . . . I . . .”
“You are in shock. Come, let me help you inside. My wife will get you some dry clothes. We’ll take a look at your foot.”
I looked down, almost surprised to see my dress and shawl were completely soaked through.
“But my grandmother, where is she?”
“Come inside first. You need dry clothes and a glass of wine. I will explain.”
He put his arm around me and started to walk me away from my grandmother’s house toward his own.
“My luggage,” I said.
“I’ll come right back and get it,” he said. “That man is gone. It’s safe for a few moments. This normally never happens. The porte cochère is kept locked when the concierge goes out. That fool must be drunk again.”
We walked down the few steps from one front door and up the few steps to the other. All the buildings here had been built at the same time, and had similar layouts inside. But whereas the vestibule in my grandmother’s house was ornate and lavish, the inside of the professor’s house was elegant and subdued. I had been here before, all those years ago, and like the owner, it did not seem to have changed.
He sat me in a velvet, deep-cushioned chair in the parlor despite my dripping clothes and called up to his wife, who, hearing the racket, was already halfway down the stairs.
Madame Ferre was dressed in a camel silk afternoon dress with cream lace at the throat and wrists, and her once glorious chestnut hair was shot through with gray. But she was still lovely, with warm brown eyes that my grandmother said showed how guileless she was.
“You can always tell how wicked a woman’s life has been by the light in her eyes, Sandrine,” she used to tell me, and then she’d look into my eyes and say: “I see good, only good, in your honeyed eyes, mon ange. Stay like that, Sandrine. Don’t become like me. Don’t light any fires . . . Too easily the flames leap out to lick and burn you.” And then she’d smile in that coy way she had and kiss me lightly on my forehead as if blessing me.
But I never quite believed her because, as much as she admired women like Madame Ferre and my mother, I knew Grand-mère regarded their lives as boring.
“What is all the racket about, Louis? I didn’t know you—” And then, seeing me, Madame Ferre stopped talking.
“It’s Eva’s granddaughter, Sandrine,” the professor told his wife.
“Of course it is,” she said as she took me in her arms and began to fuss over me, pulling the sodden shawl off my shoulders and brushing my wet hair off my face. “You poor child, soaked to the bone. What on earth happened?”
Her kindness, the warmth of their home with the flickering fire in the hearth, and all of its familiarity brought me close to tears, but I held back. It would not do to cry in front of these two people.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Henri must be at the café again,” the professor said. “We need to do something about him. He left the porte cochère open, and that beggar who has been hanging around all week came after her. I need to go get her luggage before some other malcontent makes off with it.”
“What did he do to you, dear?” Madame Ferre asked in a low voice once her husband had left the room.
“He only grabbed my foot. I twisted my ankle getting loose.” I was still shivering, half from cold, half from shock. How had I been able to fight that man off? I’d never done anything like that before.
“You are freezing and can catch your death this way,” Madame Ferre said as she helped me to my feet. “You need a warm bath and dry clothes.”
My ankle gave way under me, but she had me by the elbow and kept me standing upright. “Can you hobble upstairs with me? How bad is the pain?”
I tested it. “As long as I’m careful, it’s all right,” I said. I wanted the bath she was offering more than I cared about the twinges.
I allowed myself to be escorted up the staircase and into the bathroom, where I sat and watched as Madame Ferre drew a bath for me, loaded it with salts, and then helped me out of my clothes.
While I soaked, she left to get me some of her things to wear, and when she came back ten minutes later, her arms full of clothes, I realized I’d fallen asleep in the warm water, which was now growing chilly.
Madame Ferre opened a large bathsheet and held it up as I stepped out of the tub. Then, wrapping me in the towel’s softness, she proceeded to rub me dry.
Her motherly kindness was very welcome but also awkward to accept.
The Ferres had three sons and a daughter. When I was fifteen, my parents took me on a tour of the continent and, when they went off to Russia, where my father had business, left me to stay in Paris with my grandmother. During that spring I met all the Ferre children. Their youngest son, Leon, was eighteen and a sculpture student at the École des Beaux-Arts. We became fast friends.
Many afternoons, Leon and I would go to the Louvre, where, as part of his schoolwork, he was modeling a copy of a sculpture by Canova of Cupid reviving Psyche, who lay unconscious on rocks. The artist had captured the moment just before the winged god kissed Psyche awake.
The eroticism in the marble masterpiece fueled the growing attraction between us. For hours at a time I would sit and watch Leon model, awed by his talent, stirred by— What was it?
What is it ever that ignites that first spark? All I knew was that I was sure there would never be anyone like him in my life again, and I wanted to soak up every minute with him that I could.
Sometimes I’d imagine feigning a faint so that Leon would stop his work . . . come to me . . . bend over me and touch me with his lips, reviving me the way Cupid was reviving Psyche. Oh, how I fantasized about his kisses.
At first my grandmother assumed our friendship was charming and innocent, but as the weeks passed, she suspected our growing passion and began to spy on us. When her suspicions were confirmed, she went to his parents.
We were forbidden to see each other alone after that, which only made us more determined.
I bribed one of my grandmother’s maids, Marie, to sleep in another servant girl’s room. Marie’s window, which was large enough for a man to crawl through, faced a narrow alley that our house and Leon’s shared. That night, after midnight, he sneaked out and came to me through the window. We met three more times that way. On the third night Grand-mère found us.
I was naked, and Leon was wearing his shirt. We were wrapped in each other’s arms, kissing, when my grandmother pulled us apart. Ignoring me, she grabbed Leon by the arm, dragging him out of our house and to his own front door. I wrapped myself in a blanket and ran after them, crying, begging my grandmother not to say anything to his parents, that it was my fault, not his.
When the professor came to the door and saw Grand-mère, eyes ablaze, holding his practically nude son, he understood exactly what had happened.
Saying nothing, he reached out and slapped Leon.
Leon accepted the blow. His head fell forward. He began to gasp for air. Within moments he dropped to his knees on the stone cold steps as he desperately tried to breathe. And then Leon fell, still gasping, onto his side.
I screamed and ran forward, but my grandmother stopped me from going to him. She held me in her arms, held me as if just holding me was going to make everything all right, but it didn’t.
The professor raced inside—to get his son’s medicine, as it turned out—but by the time he returned minutes later, there was nothing he could do.
Leon died of an asthma attack in his father’s arms. He died while I stood there, helpless, watching in horror.
I don’t remember what I did after that, but I’ve been told I was ill for days: burning up with a fever and delirious. All I could think was that if Leon hadn’t been with me, if we hadn’t sneaked off, he would never have died. It was my fault. It was because of my passion, my hunger, my joy of being with him, of wanting more of him touching my breasts and whispering behind my ear . . . It was my fault for wanting to feel his lips bruising mine, for wanting to taste his sweet mouth . . . for craving the sensations building inside of me that I’d never felt before and that were so glorious . . . feelings I couldn’t get enough of. It was my fault because I wanted his fingers teasing me . . . touching me where he shouldn’t . . . making my heart quicken . . . making magic. It was my fault for not wanting to be a girl anymore but to come to life as a woman as I lay under him. It was that desire in me, those needs, that killed the first boy I’d ever kissed . . . those cravings that were responsible for the first man I’d ever loved dying.
I vowed never to allow myself those feelings again. There was no good to come of them. In my delirium I saw myself as a succubus, one of those demon women I’d read about in the mythology books my father gave me. Evil beings I’d had nightmares about.
Now, ten years later, there I was, naked in Leon’s mother’s boudoir, and she was pulling a silken chemise over the same skin that her son had pressed his lips to.
How had her husband been able to abide bringing me into their home? How could they not hate me? How could Leon’s mother and father show me such kindness?
“There,” she said as she buttoned a dress up in the back. The fabric smelled of a fine, expensive perfume, and I felt cosseted and safer here than I had felt in weeks.
“Madame Ferre, can you tell me where my grandmother is? Why is the house dark? Why are the servants all gone? She never travels this time of year. Is she . . .” I was afraid to even say the words out loud. “Is she all right?” My voice broke as I asked.
My father was dead. I’d left my husband. And if Grand-mère was gone . . .
“She’s fine, Sandrine,” Madame Ferre said. “Your grandmother is planning a renovation. She’s taken an apartment not far from here so she can supervise the work. Come, finish getting dressed, and I’ll get you something to eat, and then we’ll take you to her.”
“There’s no need to do that, Bridgitte.” I recognized the rich honey-toned voice and spun around.
There was my grandmother in all of her glory. Blazing orange hair, fire opals at her ears and around her throat. A burnt-orange silk dress with black lace trim swirling around her.
I expected her to greet me the same way she used to when she visited me in New York, with open arms and joy, but the woman standing in the doorway was frowning.
“Sandrine, didn’t I tell you never to come back to Paris? This city is poison for you.” Her voice was tense and tight. “Why didn’t you listen?”
And in those last four words I heard something I’d never heard in her voice before—fear.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I looked at this book and was interested to read it. I started reading and thought"Why did I pick this book"? So I kept reading and I am glad I did. This story is strange and twisted. There are suicide, a runaway, a French courtesan and if you believe-ghosts. Sandrine hears her husband Ben tell her father he stole money and signed his name to it. Spoiler. She runs to France to stay with her Courtesan grandmother. She meets Julien, an architect, when he works in their house. They find a hidden area in the attic. Here is where the ghost and occult come into play. Sandrine's grandmother goes to a clinlc from worrying about Sandrine. Then her cruel husband comes to Paris. Major Spoiler. She tries ways to get away from him. You will have to give this story a chance. M J has another good story under her belt. Please give it a try. Enjoy! I have this book for an honest review for NetGalley.
A very different story set in 1890's Paris, France. Sandrine flees New York and an unhappy marriage to seek refuge with her grandmother in France. She finds it puzzling that her grandmother is resisting telling her the reasons why she's moved out of her home and refuses to tell Sandrine the story of her ancestress, the woman called La Lune. Behind her grandmother's back, she feels compelled to visit the home and many mysterious happenings occur. It's a real page-turner of a tale - but I don't want to give too many details for fear of ruining the elements of surprise and discovery for future readers. I truly enjoyed it.
Drawn in by story that kept reader interested in its progression. Last chapter changed completely, turning hero to an unknowing dunce, heroine gone, replaced by dead witch. Ending horrible.
This is the first book I've read by M.J. Rose. I was drawn to this book by the setting, the cover, and the hint of paranormal. I honestly didn't know what to think of the writing style at first, but without realizing what was happening, the story pulled me in. Beautifully written with vivid details of time and place, The Witch of Painted Sorrows draws the reader into its pages with mystery, melancholy, and in the beginning, a touch of romance. I can't say that I personally enjoy stories where the characters in the main relationship are married or involved elsewhere; I don't like the dishonesty, but it fit with the story. In truth, the grandmother became my favorite character. I liked her color and passion for everything; in real life, she'd be a force to reckon with. The pace was a little slow in places, but the description was interesting enough to keep me reading through those parts. M.J. Rose is a remarkable talent and I plan to try more of her books.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A courtesan, a grand daughter, some witches/ghosts and 1920s Paris, France made this book a REAL interesting read! Sandrine escapes her home of New York to her grandmother's of Paris hoping to start new and reconnect with the grandmother that didn't play a big role in her childhood, but raised her father who she gravely misses. Sandrine arrives to Paris - scared and alone, but with some interactions in Paris she becomes quite a different person. Watching Sandrine's character evolve was enjoyable, but I didn't completely fall under the spell of why these changes occurred. I love ghost stories, but this one went a little too far and above and beyond what I tend to enjoy. The other aspect of the book I loved was the painting. I loved reading Sandrine as she explored the painting side of herself and learned about the contemporaries of 1920s France. I did appreciate how the paintings in Sandrine's grandmother's home intertwined with the mystery at the heart of the story.
I have followed M.J. Rose and read her very intriguing novels. I love her evolving growth in the story depth. She is now sucking you in and taking you into the pages of this novel. The characters are unique and lovely. The ancestral haunting had me turning the pages well into the early hours until I was done. Please jump into Rose's carriage and ride this story with her!! You will want more and more!!
I wanted to enjoy The With of Painted Sorrows much more than I did. I really felt like the building of the story was beautiful, and that we were given so much background, and this is what drug the story down. I read on and thought.... at any moment this will just break out and be fantastic... but it never did. I am not familiar with the history in the time period written so I can't speak to that part of the weaving of the story. I will say, it was fascinating to hear so many artists and to imagine a time when they were alive and get to read about them in this capacity. We meet Sandrine as she has run away from her husband after she finds he was never the man she thought and he played a role in her fathers death. She runs to Paris, and her Grand-me¿re only to be coddled as incapable of making her own choices. Her Grand-me¿re lies to her and withholds information that would alter the course of her life, all to protect her. So of course Sandrine does just the opposite. Her behavior becomes that of someone else and the only person to see this is a Rabbi and he just kind of throws it out there. I feel like the book was more about the history than the story. I had higher hopes for the book. It just didn't pull me in. B&N wont allow me to rate halves, so I rounded up. I rated this 3 and a half stars, and I usually don't give halves. I couldn't in all honest say this was a 3, and I couldn't say that it was a 4. It's right there in the middle. If you are interested in a book that is history heavy, then this book is for you.
I felt this moved slowly at times. But, not enough to make me quit reading. I'm not tempted to read other books by this author. But, out is a well told story.
Are you kidding me? How did this book get four stars? The character development was non-existent, the plot dragged and was utterly predictable. What a disappointment.
First off, I don’t do much erotica. But, I hate to miss something good, so every once in a while I will give one a try. :-) The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M J Rose is just such a book. I feel this isn’t hard core erotica, but most definitely an adult book. I think it is more about the horror. I was very surprised at how much I loved this dark supernatural story of possession. Sandrine has left her husband and is hiding at her grandmothers place in Paris. These women characters are not your typical ladies of the 1800s. They refuse to accept the status quo and want more. Paris is not good for Sandrine, especially after she sees Maison de la Lune, her grandmothers home. Sandrine cannot stay away and proceeds to defy her grandmothers request that she stay away. As M J Rose describes Sandrine observing her surroundings as if to paint them, it made me think of myself doing the same thing, only as a photographic opportunity – forms, shapes, light and dark. When M J describes Monsieur Duplessi talking about studying a tree for inspiration for designing a house, I couldn’t help but let my smile over Sandrine turn into a big grin. I felt I was destined to read The Witch of Painted Sorrows. I have a passion for trees and believe if I look long enough I will see so much more than leaves, branches and roots, like looking at a cloud and deciphering what shape is hidden inside. Again, I can relate to looking for design, form and lines, light, dark and shadows. Gothic novels can be hit or miss with me and I was surprised at how involved I became with the story. The Witch of Painted Sorrows has so many elements that interest me. Back in the day, women were expected to be and act a certain way. Sandrine loved dressing like a man, being her own person and having freedom to do what she likes. Witches. Ghosts. The Grimoire. Evil. Possession. Keeps getting better and better. The historical elements are detailed and the vivid, well developed characters had me so involved in their lives, that I read The Witch of Painted Sorrows from beginning to end in one sitting, even though the beginning was a bit slow. The steady pacing kept me curious, but I didn’t feel that sense of urgency that makes me race through the pages. The story is wrapped up neatly and there is no cliffhanger. I received an ARC of The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M J Rose in return for an honest review.
I was given this book to review by NetGalley. When I read the overview I was definitely intrigued and excited to get started reading! This book was so amazing and suspenseful I couldn't put it down! Set in Paris in the 1800's when the occult was starting to garner a huge following. Sandrine who is shy and demure flees New York after a devastating loss and some unfortunate news about her husband and his gambling problems. She finds sanctuary at her grandmothers in Paris but she finds that her grandmother has moved out of the home Sandrine remembered from the summer she spent there when she was 15. This makes her increasingly curious about what her grandmother is really up to. And from the moment Sandrine steps into that house,Mansion De La Lune, something happens to her. She becomes more bold with the opposite sex, and she has a desire to paint like she never has before. I loved this book!! It was beautiful and spellbinding. I recommend this for adult readers. It is definitely not a young adult book lol I really really need to buy this book on all platforms! It was definitely that good!
The Witch of Painted Sorrows was beautifully written. There was suicide, love, lies, seduction, even murder. This us a must read.
Captivating. Absolutely captivating. I am a huge fan of M.J. Rose! Her books are absolutely perfect for fans of historic Gothic. Her writing is extraordinary. She doesn't just tell you a story she weaves together an atmospheric tale of the occult. Sandrine is running away from her brute of a husband after learning some of his dark secrets. She goes to her grandmother who is a famous courtesan in Paris. Her grandmother is hiding why they are not staying at her infamous mansion. Of course, Sandrine investigates what her grandmother is hiding. What she finds in an upstairs hidden room may just be the answer. The Witch of Painted Sorrows is fabulous! It's dark, it's eerie you don't just read the story you are there with Sandrine as she becomes possessed. You watch her slowly change into someone she wasn't...I simply couldn't put this book down. The deeper I read into the story the faster my heart was racing. Suddenly, you are no longer reading Sandrine's story but also La Lune's. My goodness this novel has everything! It's gothic, historic with a touch of sexy. I absolutely was spellbound. Highly recommending!
I can appreciate a good ghost story, and The Witch of Painted Sorrows does not disappoint. It's historical, cultural, artistic, mysterious, supernatural, suspenseful, seductive, passionate, erotic...shall I go on? Author M.J. Rose writes with a dark and gothic tone, and I honestly didn't expect to like this novel so much but I was intrigued from the first chapter. I don't want to spoil any of the storyline because how it all plays out is part of the big reveal at the end, so I'll just say that I enjoyed The Witch of Painted Sorrows and would recommend it to fans of gothic fiction. Also, if you have access to the audio version, it is well-done and the accents helped transport me to the characters' country and time. Check it out! My favorite quote: “Love,” I wanted to shout, “was the only reason to do anything, the only value worth living for, a goal truly worth making any sacrifice for.”
M. J. Rose transports you to another time and place and it is always a sensory pleasure. This book is one of the best. I won't do as others do and tell the story of the book before you have had a chance to read it; however, get ready for love, lust and spirit possession. Enjoy!
The Witch of Painted Sorrow is a story about love, possession, a family curse and art, all set to an extravagant and spellbinding backdrop of Paris, France. Rich with suspense and breathtaking beauty that is sure to possess and hold you tight from beginning to end.
This is a masterfully crafted romantic suspense that definitely stands out amongst the sea of novels in the genre. She sets the scene well, drawing in important historical elements from the time, bringing a sense of realism to the novel. This is brought even more to life by the enchanting cultural elements of the belle époque Paris. Rose melds this with paranormal and erotic elements that will blow you away. Her smooth and straightforward writing brings a sense of foreboding to the tale. Rose creates some well-developed characters that readers will either love or hate. The main character is a strong individual with a difficult past. I enjoyed the fact that she continues to grow throughout the novel. She changes based on the events that she’s lived through. Rose surrounded her main character with individuals that really allowed her to shine. The emotions that these characters evoked were fantastic. It brought the novel to the next level. The suspense throughout this novel kept me ploughing forward, while the unique storyline kept me on my toes. It was an intriguing start to Rose’s new series, but I will warn that the ending does leave you wanting more. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
MASTERFUL! VERDICT: Masterfully combining a threatening mix of historical fiction, suspense, paranormal and romantic elements, MJ Rose manages once again to lead her readers into an irresistible world. The magic of art is luscious and rich, but it can be also extremely dangerous. You have been warned, now enjoy! You know a book is really good when it’s in a genre you usually never read, and yet as soon as you open the book, you get totally glued to it, as another blogger said about this same book. And you just can’t stop flipping the pages. This has been my experience with two previous books by MJ Rose: Seduction and The Collector of Dying Breaths. And no, I usually do not read nor like paranormal themes. But with one exception for MJ Rose. She did it again with her latest, The Witch of Painted Sorrows, and I’m really thrilled to present it to you today. What’s really fascinating in this book is how the author manages to mix historical fiction, with extremely solid background research (ah, the descriptions of Paris!), the world of art (more awesome descriptions), suspense, paranormal elements, and some romance as well. I challenge you to name me another author who can pull it all together as she does. The book opens in Paris in 1894. After some dramatic family event, Sandrine, in her twenties, judged safer for her to leave her violent husband in New York, and to flee discreetly to her grandmother’s in Paris, where she hopes he won’t be able to trace her. She has great memory of her grandmother’s wonderful house she visited ten years earlier. But when she arrives, the house is empty. And the dark street is iffy and full of threats. Not the best of Parisian welcome… Sandrine finally manages to locate her grandmother in another place, but can’t understand why she seems to prevent her from entering this house. What could be in it? Of course the brave and curious Sandrine is not going to let herself ordered round. With the help of Julien, an architect working in that intriguing mansion, one day she explores…A really cool, Gothic place à la Manderley... It’s the beginning of a total change in her life, full of discoveries and threats. She will actually soon discover that her life and the life of those she knows are even in danger. Will she have the strength to face these dangers, to survive them, or rather decide to live a more subdued but safe life? The book is very sensual, and not only with sex, but also with the rich world of senses, with amazing scents and perfumes, and the colorful world of painting. You will meet famous painters, and enter the most prestigious art school in Paris! The book presents a profound reflection on the magic of art at all levels of the expression… A fascinating level, as far as the art is concerned, is the place women were allowed to occupy in it in Paris at the time. This is also the Paris of courtesans, of salons, culture, music, the opera, and the occult, attracting so many people, especially artists, at the end of the 19th century –the review I recently posted on Floats The Dark Shadow is another great illustration of it. All these themes are developed by the means of key locations in Paris (including famous restaurants and the infamous lake under Opéra Garnier!), evoked with fantastic details that make you believe you are really there as you read.
The Witch of Painted Sorrows is the first work in author M.J. Rose’s new series, The Daughters Of La Lune, and took me on a literary journey unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was magical, rich, sensual, suspenseful…truly amazing. Sandrine Salome is set adrift and bereft with the loss of her beloved father. His loss leads her to reevaluate her life and her marriage and sends her to her grandmother’s mansion in Paris. There was an unexplained pull she felt to that mansion and now with more reasons to leave New York than to stay, she knew there was no better time to explore this deep yearning to return to the home she visiting once years earlier. ¿¿Unfortunately the welcome Sandrine receives upon arriving was not what she had expected. Her grandmother had temporarily moved out of the opulent mansion that had been calling to her. Even more shocking was her grandmother’s warning to avoid stepping foot in that dwelling. It was cursed, her grandmother explained, by the courtesan and supposed witch who had originally owned the home. There was evil lurking and a force that should not be tampered with. But Sandrine wasn’t about to listen to such absurdities and instead, visits the home behind her grandmother’s prying eyes. It’s in those visits that Sandrine stumbles across art and painting supplies. Those supplies will turn Sandrine into an artist who will change the way women were perceived in the art world during that time. It’s also in those visits she meets a handsome young architect and begins an affair that will prove to grow into something Sandrine never expected…especially when the witch becomes involved in their relationship and tries to take over Sandrine’s very being. Where to begin? How can I even begin to convey how much I adored this book and how consumed I was with Sandrine and the witch, La Lune? There was so much to love. First off, Ms. Rose’s writing is just exquisite. Rich with description and detail, reading her stories reminds me why I started reading for pleasure in the first place. Sandrine is a wonderful character with a slight defiant streak that leads her to so many amazing, and sometimes scary, experiences. At first she doesn’t believe that La Lune is anything but a silly old myth, but soon realizes it truly is much more than that. She deviates from accepting to denying the witch’s hold on her. In turn, that had me fluctuating between being worried for Sandrine and wanting La Lune to get her own version of a happy ending, Of course, I wasn’t sure how that would play out and that also had me worried. Thankfully, Ms. Rose beautifully tied it all together and left me so happy with how it played out. Julien, our charming architect, is equally enjoyable. He’s kind, smart, understanding and caring. I think he and Sandrine make a wonderful couple and, with the tests they face with La Lune and her interferences, made me appreciate their relationship even more. Adding to the rich characters is the allure of the unknown. With talk of seances, spirits, possession, alchemy, and sometimes even the dark arts, I was enthralled with each page I read. Finally, I have to again mention the beautiful and rich prose in which Ms. Rose writes. Though I’ve never been to Paris, I felt as though I was there, walking though the streets with Sandrine. I could picture in my mind’s eye all of the clothing and stunning jewels Sandrine and her grandmother wore. I could smell all of the perfumes and scents. I could see all of the colors Sandrine painted with. That, is a gift to me and one a writer gives to a reader that I cherish. Thank you, Ms. Rose, for The Witch of Painted Sorrows and for once again taking me on a wonderful journey within the pages you so masterfully have written.
This is the first book I've read by M.J. Rose and it certainly won't be my last! I enjoyed every minute of this book! It was beautifully written and so detailed you feel like you're in Paris in the 1890's. This is a gothic tale filled with the supernatural and passion and lots of sensuality. Sandrine Salome arrives in Paris to seek refuge from her husband, she goes to her grandmother's mansion to find it locked up, her grandmother tells her that it's under renovation, but Sandrine suspects that her grandmother is keeping something from her. Sandrine is drawn to the mansion, she dreams and thinks about it constantly. One day when she goes to the mansion she meets Julien who is her grandmother's architect. She feels a pull toward Julien and he introduces her to the Paris nightworld, where she finds a world of passion and mystery. Sandrine's grandmother wants her to leave Paris right away saying it is a dangerous place for her, but, it's to late for Sandrine, the mansion has her in its thrall and is not letting her go. This is a highly entertaining read, it has erotica, witchcraft, possession, mystery and suspense that will keep you turning the page!
I have for a while now wanted to read a M.J. Rose book. The stories in the books have intrigued me and I love the covers for them. I was quite glad when I got the chance to read this new one and to be part of a blog tour. Sandrine Salome has left her husband and fled New York to take refuge at her grandmother's house in Paris. But she discovers when she gets there that her grandmother is planning to turn the house to a museum and she also forbids Sandrine to visit the house. But she can't help feel drawn to the house and one day she defies her grandmother and goes to the house and there she meets Julien Duplessi, the architect that is to turn the house to a museum. With Julien Sandrine feels something she hasn't felt with her husband; passion. But will the passion ultimately destroy her? Because the women in her family are said to being under a curse; that they should never love anyone that that will only lead to destruction... I was quickly drawn into the story of this book about courtesans, witches, possessions and passion. It was an intriguing story and very beautifully written. Sandrine starts out as a young woman in mourning for her father and for her failed marriage, but as the story progress she changes, she starts to paint and it consumes her. But as she learns more and more about her family's story about La Lune, the famous courtesan she slowly starts to lose herself to La Lune. Was La Lune a witch? A woman desperate to live again century's after her death? Sandrine's grandmother tries everything to keep her from the house, from painting. Everything that has to do with La Lune, but Sandrine is in love and love is the very thing that La Lune feeds on... As I read on I soon got a feeling of doom about the ending. I just knew that this book couldn't end happy and the ending was...let's say I really want to read the next book in the series! In the end I just want to say that I’m I enjoyed reading The Witch of Painted Sorrow very much and I’m looking forward to read the rest of the books in this series and other books that M.J. Rose has written.
M.J. Rose breathes to life a glimpse into the beauty and mysticism of 1890s Belle Époque Paris. With her beautiful prose, M.J. Rose paints a portrait nearly as striking as the artwork hanging in the Louvre. The breathtaking cover of The Witch of Painted Sorrows promises, in itself, something mysterious, yet stunning in a gothic, artistically erotic backdrop. “I did not cause the madness, the deaths, or the rest of the tragedies any more than I painted the paintings.” It wasn’t only the style that was admirable. The flaws in each character, Sandrine, her grandmother, to Julien each had such humanness that they were tragically beautiful or rather beautifully flawed. Even when I didn’t really like every choice the characters made, it only served to make them more real in the end. If you enjoy books related to France and beautiful historical fiction with elements of love, magic, and art, The Witch of Painted Sorrows is a book to read.
1890’s Paris is the setting, and Sandrine Salome is running to her grandmother’s home in Paris from an abusive husband in New York. While her grandmother insists that the family home is also dangerous, she does welcome Sandrine, and tries to protect her from all that would harm her. In the process, there are family secrets to unravel, a possible possession, her delving into her, until then, erotic fantasy life and the ever-menacing threat of her husband’s return. With great skill, M.J. Rose incorporated lavish detail and historical fact into the story’s background, giving readers an easily accessible series of visual references, bringing Paris to life. Exposing readers to areas that may have been unfamiliar, adding in art, the occult and a menacing spirit that is threatening Sandrine’s psyche and life, the twists never stop coming to add details and depth, as well as increase the tension. With the introduction to Julien, Sandrine’s eyes are truly opened: he is an architect with a taste for the bohemian freestyling life of art, sex and even dabbling in the occult. Sandrine’s fascination with this new life that feels so freeing is not without difficulties and secrets, but allows her growth beyond her own limited imaginings. Rose uses language and phrasing with care and precision, evocative and lush, each sentence builds the story, the characters and the tension as a collision of old, new, corporeal and spiritual elements fight to gain supremacy as Sandrine discovers a new life and desires. Erotic moments enlighten Sandrine’s outlook, and provide a solid example of her changing personality, but whether it is truly her breaking free, or the spirits taking over, that is yet to be determined. Multiple generations, outlooks and perspectives span time to come together to culminate in a story that is difficult to put down. Wholly engaging, with twists and tensions galore, this is a wonderful example of historical fiction with a thread of romance and the supernatural. I received an eArc cop of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The Witch of Painted Sorrows is the first book in the Daughters of La Lune series. It opens with the first person narration of Sandrine Verlaine. After the death of her father, she learns her husband played a part in his death, and she flees to her grandmother in France to escape his cruelty. She arrives in Paris on the doorstep of her grandmother's mansion only to find it vacant and under renovation. Her grandmother, a famous and successful courtesan, welcomes her. But as Sandrine becomes more and more involved in art and comes under the influence of a spirit of one of her ancestors, her grandmother struggles to keep Sandrine safe. Just like M.J. Rose's other novels, this too has a dark, sad tone. I did enjoy the supernatural, ghostly element that gave this book a gothic feel, but sometimes, because I am a historical fiction purist, some of the events that occurred in the book did not strike me as believable. Her grandmother was first depicted as a strong, popular woman, but later in the book, her mental state deteriorates to such a degree that I felt it wasn't believable. Nevertheless, the story was engaging and kept me reading to the very end. I enjoyed the first person narrative even though I sometimes did not fully engage with Sandrine. Perhaps it was because she didn't take matters in hand, and instead, waited too long and let things happen to her, especially in the matter of her estranged husband. From the start, I also disliked her lover, Julien Duplessi, likely because he struck me as an opportunist and a man of low morals. Despite these issues, there is still much to laud. The writing is good, the story keeps moving forward at a steady pace, and the plot is very interesting. This was definitely a fun, engaging read!
3 Stars I have mixed feelings regarding this book. I was so excited to read this book since the description held such promise. I saw that this book was set in Belle Époque Paris during the late 1800s and it just sounded wonderful. I thought that it was beautifully written with wonderful detail in many ways. I also found myself waiting for something to happen and thought the book seemed to drag in some places. Sandrine goes to Paris to be with her grandmother and to get away from her husband in New York. When she makes it to her grandmother's home, she finds the house empty and learns that her grandmother is now staying in a different location. Sandrine is drawn to the house and meets Julien, the architect that her grandmother has hired, at the home. It becomes quickly apparent that something strange is happening as Sandrine seems to know things that she shouldn't know and acquires new skills with an alarming speed. Sandrine is a character that did not elicit any feelings from me. I didn't like her or dislike her. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that I know her very well. Her character seemed to change so much with dramatic personality differences. These personality changes makes sense in regards to the story but it also prevented me from connecting with the character. The only character that I really liked with Sandrine's grandmother but her role diminished as the book progressed. I believe that some readers will have issues with the relationship between Sandrine and Julien since they are both in other relationships. Sandrine has left her husband but has not done anything to permanently end the relationship and Julien is engaged and plans to continue with his plans to marry. The attitude that a spouse should look the other way was common at the time and plays a large part of this book. The setting of this book was wonderfully detailed and vivid. There were so many beautiful descriptions found in this novel. I loved the descriptions of the painting and learning about Sandrine's ancestor. I did find myself ready for something to happen at many points in the book. I think that the story did get a little overwhelmed with the description at a point and the pacing could have been better. I think that this book is quite unique and manages to bring so many wonderful and unexpected elements together in one story. This is the first book by M.J. Rose that I have had a chance to read. I am still undecided about whether this is a series that I will continue with future installments. I received a copy of this book from Atria via Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.