DARKER STILL by Leanna Renee Hieber
Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
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.
This book was so much fun. A historical paranormal mystery with a perfect sense of place and rich setting, Darker Still draws you into Natalie Stewart's world and keeps you flipping pages. The book opens as Natalie comes home from a school for the disabled and starts trying to finding her way in the world, in spite of her muteness. But the part of herself, and her past, that she's long tried to deny comes bubbling to the surface when she sees the enigmatic painting of Jonathan Denbury.
I really liked the way the story was told through journal entries. It connects so well with the story-telling tropes of novels from a similar period, like how Wuthering Heights and Dracula are narrated. It only amplified the tone of the story, completely immersing you in the period. At the same time, the characters are still relatable enough for it to feel like a modern story.
And yeah, can't forget to mention that there are some super passionate scenes in this book!!! But with that fabulous sense of restraint and decorum of the period. The mystery and action builds throughout. Loved, loved, loved it.