Have you read Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine?* If so, and if you liked it, then you’re probably already looking forward to The Springsweet.

It’s quite different, but I strongly suspect that you won’t be disappointed. I wasn’t, at any rate. I loved it. Possibly even more than The Vespertine.

For those of you who haven’t** read The Vespertine, I have good news: if you like romantic historicals, you should give The Springsweet a go anyway. It’s a companion novel, but it stands just fine on its own.

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As for those of you who didn’t like it***, as I said, it’s quite different. If it was the slow build of The Vespertine’s pacing that got you down, know this: in The Springsweet, within less than 30 pages, 17-year-old Baltimorean Zora Stewart has already deliberately ruined herself (in the eyes of genteel society), headed off to the Oklahoma frontier to live with her aunt and been set upon by masked highwaymen. (She responds by shaking her fan and chiding them about their chosen career path. That was the moment I knew I adored her.) That’s all before she discovers that she, like her cousin before her, has Magical Powers.

That said, I’ll admit that Chapter One made me skeptical, which is a first for me and Saundra Mitchell. The opening line—“That I went a little mad, I could not deny.”—is fabulous, but after that, Zora gets so flowery about her grief that it’s impossible to read with an entirely straight face. After I made it through that bit—once Zora has a goal, her sharp-witted, ever-capable nature kicks in—my complaints ended.

While I went into this book expecting to enjoy it, I didn’t expect to be swept completely off my feet by the romance. But unexpected romance is all the more satisfying, isn’t it? There are three guys in the picture: a fiddling frontiersman, a dapper dude from Baltimore and Zora’s dead lost love. From the moment Emerson Birch (the frontiersman) appears, Mr. Fancypants never stood a chance—in my eyes****, or in Zora’s. It was refreshing to read a romance in which there were multiple parties involved, but that wasn’t a love triangle. Big points to Mitchell for creating a connection so strong that the reader can feel it even when Zora and Emerson are at opposite ends of a crowded room. Yowza.

A little bit The Luxe, a little bit Hattie Big Sky, and all swoon. Rowr.


*I did, of course, because: A) I’ll read anything by Saundra Mitchell, B) I’ll read anything that deals with spiritualism, C) I dig Gothics, and D) I love historical romances.

**And you’re waiting for... what?


****Full disclosure: I have a serious soft spot for guys who play bluegrass-y instruments. This is proof of my sadly shallow nature, but yes, I once dated someone purely because he played the banjo.

Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.