Second of three, this fine paranormal gothic continues the tortured journeys of estranged teenage lovers Jessamine Luxton, a healer, and Weed, an orphan who communicates with plants.
Jessamine, possessed by preternatural Prince Oleander, poisons both her father (a murderous apothecary) and—collaterally—a visitor, Mr. Pratt. She flees Hulne Cottage; Weed arrives, sets the scene of destruction afire and pursues her. Oleander, who malevolently subverts Jessamine’s innocence to engender his dominion, bargains her increasing submission for a vaguely promised reunion with Weed. She’s transformed into a dissolute poisoner-for-hire and laudanum-addicted prostitute. Enmeshed in a plot to assassinate King George in Italy, Jessamine arrives in Padua. Weed has journeyed there, too, after fruitlessly searching England. Seeking clues about Jessamine from the wise plants in the University’s Orto Botanico, he finds an extraordinary ally in the beautifully characterized Signora Baglioni, head gardener and keeper of a secret library of rare cross-cultural plant lore. Weed and Jessamine alternate narration, the pace of both accelerating desperately. Good and evil entwine at the King’s debauched costume party, and Oleander’s voice intrudes in a penultimate, riveting scene.
Promising Weed’s continued pursuit (and, hopefully, reviving the intriguing issue of Mr. Luxton’s poisoning), part three's sure to levy as much page-turning enthrallment as its predecessors. (Paranormal romance. 13 & up)