Fans of Victorian gothics can get another fix with this new twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Framed as a “diary” confiscated by baffled 1880 New York police, the story finds Miss Natalie Stewart entranced by the portrait of tragic young Lord Denbury. She soon learns that Denbury did not commit suicide as reported but still lives, trapped inside his portrait. She allies herself with Mrs. Evelyn Northe, a wealthy and knowledgeable spiritualist, in an effort to battle the demon that has imprisoned him and to release Denbury from the evil magic cast upon him. Natalie, however, is mute, having lost her voice at age 4, when her mother died. But surprise! Natalie can enter the portrait to meet Denbury face to face, and when she does, she can speak. Of course, she and Denbury instantly fall in love, thrilling to every accidental and forbidden touch and building up to the all-important, breathless goal of Victorian gothic romances: The Kiss. Although she follows most of the conventions of the genre, Hieber applies some real imagination to the story. Her depiction of the dark magic involved and of the demon’s murderous activities adds some good suspense and stands out as the strongest element of the novel. Characterizations work fine, although none surpasses two dimensions.
A good romp for those who enjoy the genre, with some effective suspense. (Paranormal romance. 12 & up)