The Vespertine

The Vespertine

by Saundra Mitchell

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It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

This book features a teaser chapter from Saundra Mitchell’s third novel, The Springsweet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547573854
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 03/07/2011
Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, was a 2010 Edgar Award Nominee, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick. Saundra lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two children.

Saundra Mitchell is a screenwriter and author. Her companion novels The Vespertine, The Springsweet, and The Elementals have been praised for their rich historical settings, evocative language, and heart-pounding romance. Her debut novel, Shadowed Summer, was a 2010 Edgar Award Nominee, a Junior Library Guild selection, and an ALAN Pick. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Broken Tooth, Maine
Autumn 1889


I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined.

The ballad notes of a quadrille lingered on my skin, remnants of a chaîne anglaise danced only in slumber. I heard a velvet voice against my cheek, and I burned in the dark and dreaming light of his eyes.

Morning had come, its watery brightness stealing shadows from the corners, but still I swayed.

Perhaps this once I could find my visions—my awful, eerie gift—without the fires of sunset. Perhaps this once I could abandon the vespers and go there on my own. To the place where I saw more than eyes could see. Where I knew more than minds could know.

Where I could be with him.

I had learned to do it for Zora, my sweetest friend—lost, and I was to blame! I couldn’t bear to wonder about her. I knew how I’d left her—wrecked and desolate, a shell because I’d cracked her open. I should have listened when she told me to bear it alone.

If some ethereal part of me counted sins, that part bore the darkest stain for the tragedy I brought her. Rocking until the floor kept time, I drew a breath elongated. I opened my arms to open my body.

If I could spill everything out, if I could but empty myself of sensation and thought, I could be filled again with the sight. If this were sunset, the visions would come. Through my mind’s eye, I would step inside someone else’s skin.

I’d walk on their legs, see with their eyes—whispers of all things to come. Until now I’d been too afraid to look for my older, wiser self. Today I whispered and rocked and rolled my eyes, hoping to see anything at all.

The need overwhelmed me, my breath rushing like wind, blood pounding in my ears—all distractions, terrible distractions. I begged through bitten lips, "Please, please, please . . ."

My skirts washed around me. I made fists of my hands, nails digging into the palms. If only pain brought clarity! Locked in this hopeless attic room, I flung myself at the desk. How viciously darling of my brother. He’d jailed me with pen and paper, but no one to write to.

I had nothing. I had no one.

Weighted by the ornate train of my gown, I climbed up. Only on my toes could I see the world outside, the first peach and plum shades of morning in the distance. Something heavy in me turned. I flattened my hands on the glass.

"Nathaniel, Nathaniel!" I cried, then seized by a terrible rage, I screamed. "How could you abandon me to this?"

I beat at the windows. I imagined my fists shattering the panes, shards making ribbons of my flesh. I tasted the blood. I felt the cold that would come of letting it course from me. This was no premonition, just dread hope.

Intention weighed my arms. I stood coiled. I meant to spring! To have it done! To end it all!

But my craven nature restrained me. The threat of pain made me a coward. I could only slap the glass uselessly. Ashamed, I pressed my brow against the wall and wept.

Then the attic door swung open.

Startled, I lost my balance entirely. The desk tipped over, and my skirts dragged me down like an anchor. In a shower of writing paper and unstoppered bottles, I fell to the floor. India ink splashed in black puddles, and my hands came up smeared with it.

August, my pale and angled brother, hauled me to my feet. His fingers bit through my sleeves, writing five hot points of pain on my flesh.

"What’s the matter with you?" he demanded.

"Nothing at all! I am fit and bright and sober as a priest."

With another shake, August asked, "Shall I send you to the sanitarium after all?"

"You should!" I shouted.

"Don’t test me, Amelia," August said, his voice rising. "I will beat the devil out of you. You have my word on that."

I couldn’t help but smile. "You can’t. You’d have to beat me dead. What will you do with your devil sister’s body, Gus? How will you explain me away?"

He answered me with a slap. It left a welt on my cheek, raised and burning, and all I could do was touch it gingerly—and laugh. Softly, but laughter all the same, for August was far more troubled by it than I.

Gray as wash water, he cast an accusing look at his hand.

I lay back, turning my eyes to the plastered ceiling to welcome a weary numbness. "Just poison my breakfast. You can call it a fever. Be done with me," I told him as I dropped to the bed.

"I doted on you once." Backing toward the door, August looked everywhere but at me. "I used to pull you about in my wagon."

"I’m much too heavy for your wagon now."

Taking out his key, August warned me as he once more locked me in, "Stay away from the windows."

Perhaps tomorrow, I thought, I shall be brave enough to put myself through them.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"[A] richly conceived historical romance. . . . Fans of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty will find themselves enchanted by this atmospheric tale."—Bulletin

"For teens who enjoy gothic romances, there is much to savor."—VOYA (5Q, 4P)

"Mitchell depicts Victorian middle-class society with real flair. Her descriptions of the girls ring vibrantly true."—Kirkus Reviews

"A lush, romantic tale blending the Victorian era with the paranormal."—

"This historical paranormal romance, taking place in 1889 Baltimore, is equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true. . . . An absorbing tale."—Booklist

"Sheer pleasure from beginning to end." —

"Written in a passionate, inviting voice, THE VESPERTINE is a rich, historical novel of otherworldly power, forbidden romance, and questionable motives. From the very first line, readers will be swept up in Amelia's plight to discover her own powers and find the courage to face her fears, her blossoming love, and even accusations of murder."—Aprilynne Pike, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Wings and Spells

"I savored every word of THE VESPERTINE; I knew it was an amazing book from the first page and I was entranced until the very last. Saundra Mitchell's descriptions are almost truer than truth—you feel them rather than know them."—Carrie Ryan, New York Times Bestselling Author of the critically-acclaimed The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves

"Dark and luxurious with rich, compelling characters and a perfect blend of the mysterious and the fantastic, Saundra Mitchell's THE VESPERTINE is Victorian gothic at its finest—at once evoking the lyricism of Bronte, the heart-pounding of Poe and a vivid, enticing voice that is entirely her own."—Sarah MacLean, Author of The Season and 9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

"Equal parts vivid period detail, gothic melodrama, and foreboding premonitions coming true . . . an absorbing tale of a headstrong and passionate (but not anachronistically so) woman seeking her future." —Booklist

Customer Reviews