Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

Darker Still: A Novel of Magic Most Foul

by Leanna Renee Hieber

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402260520
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 11/08/2011
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 163,944
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Raised in rural Ohio and obsessed with the Victorian Era, Leanna's life goal is to be a "gateway drug to 19th century literature." An actress, playwright and award winning author, she lives in New York City and is a devotee of ghost stories and Goth clubs. Visit www.leannareneeheiber.com

Read an Excerpt

June 1, 1880

Sister Theresa handed me this farewell gift with such relief that it might as well have been a key to her shackles. I'm a burden to her no more. Someone else will have to glue her desk drawers closed and exchange her communion wine for whiskey.

But now I trade the prison of the asylum for another. The prison of home.

Oh, I suppose I ought to clarify the word asylum, as it has its connotations.

The only illnesses the students of the Connecticut Asylum have are those of the ears and the tongue. The mute, or the deaf, are not the mentally ill. Those poor souls are cloistered someplace else, thank God. We had enough troubles on our own.

But now that I'm home, a prison undercurrent is here too. The desperate question of what is to be done with me lingers like dark damask curtains, dimming the happy light of our dear little East Side town house. For unfortunates like me, firstly, a girl and, secondly, a mute girl, life is made up of different types of prisons, I've learned. If I were a man, the world could be at my command. At least it would be if I were a man and could speak.

Every night I pray the same prayer: that I may go back to that year of Mother's death and startle my young self to shake the sound right out of that scared little girl. Maybe I'd have screamed. A beautiful, loud, and unending scream that could carry me to this day. A shout that could send a call to someone, anyone, who could help me find my purpose in this world. But since that trauma, I've yet to utter a word. Not for lack of trying, though. I simply cannot seem to get my voice through my throat.

I've often thought of joining a traveling freak show. At least there I wouldn't have to deal with the ugliness of people who at first think I'm normal and then realize I can't speak. I hate that moment and the terrible expression that comes over the person's face like a grotesque mask. The apologetic look that thinly veils pity but cannot disguise distaste, or worse, fear. If I were already in a freak show, people would be forewarned, and I could avoid that moment I've grown to despise more than anything in the world. But would I belong beside snake charmers and strong men, albinos and conjoined twins? And if not, where do I belong, if anywhere?

• • •

As a child, I heard a Whisper, a sound at the corner of my ear, and saw a rustle of white at the corner of my eye. I used to think it was Mother. I used to hope she would show me how to speak again or explain that the shadows I see in this world are just tricks of the eyes. But she never revealed herself or any answers. And I stopped believing in her. I stopped hearing the Whisper. But what does remain are the shadows that come to me at night. There are terrible things in this world.

I don't have pleasant dreams. Only nightmares. Blood, terror, impending apocalypse. Great fun, I assure you. (Perhaps it's good I can't speak; I'd share dreams at some normal girl's debutante ball and send her away screaming or fainting.) There are times when I feel I need to scream. But I can't.

I've so much to say but don't dare open my mouth. The sounds aren't there. I tried, years ago. Therapists soon gave up on me, saying I was too stubborn. But it wasn't me being stubborn. I was anxious, nerve-racked, afraid; I hated the foreign, unwieldy sound that crept out from behind my lips so much so that I haven't dared try since. Perhaps someday.

That's why I was given this diary. Other girls were given lockets or trinkets. When I've nothing to occupy my mind or my hands, I resort to mischief. Now if the asylum had just had more books (I'd read them all, twice, within my first two years), I'd never have bothered with the communion wine. I wouldn't have had the time for glue, tacks, or spiders.

I'd have been reading about trade routes to India, the impossible worlds of Gothic novels, or even the tedious wonders of jungle botany-anything other than this boring, dreary world we live in. And so, dear diary, you'll bear my written screams as I yearn for a more industrious, exciting life.

Unless I find an occupation or a husband, which in my condition is laughable, I'm destined to languish in solitary silence. Most men of Father's station would have whisked me off to some country ward upstate never to be seen again. (I've been continually reminded of this by scolding teachers who insist I ought to be more grateful for a doting father.)

And I am grateful for sentimentality on Father's part. I look too much like Mother for him to have sent me off, and goodness, if my sprightly nature doesn't remind him of her. So I've always felt a certain security in my place here a few blocks from Father's employer, the ten-year-old Metropolitan Museum of Art. A building and an institution I've come to adore.

Tonight, Father's having a dinner party with his art scholar friends. They're quite boring, save for his young protégé, Edgar. I could suffer Edgar Fourte's presence under any circumstance. But make no mistake, I positively hate that wench he proposed to. If only I could have fashioned some mad plot and sent Father away, I would have thrown myself at Edgar's mercy and become his lovely, tragic young ward. I'd have made myself so indispensable to him, not to mention irresistible, he'd never have considered another woman.

I've been told I'm pretty. And he's a man who likes quiet. What could be more perfect than a pretty wife who doesn't speak? But alas, I'll have to find some other handsome young scholar with a penchant for unfortunates since Edgar stupidly went and got himself engaged to one. So what if she's blind? She can't see how beautiful he is. What a waste!

Ah, the clock strikes. I must help Father with preparations and then make myself particularly presentable, if nothing else than for Edgar's punishment. I'll return with any notable gossip or interesting thoughts.

Later...

They've clustered into Father's study for a cigar, having stuffed themselves as scholars do at a meal they didn't pay for themselves, leaving me a few moments with these dear pages.

We're in luck; they did discuss something fascinating at dinner.

An odd painting is coming to town. An exquisite life-sized oil of a young English lord named Denbury is about to arrive for a bid. And they say it's haunted.

Now if there's one thing I can't help but adore more than Edgar Fourte's face, it's a ghost story. Perhaps it stems from that long-ago Whisper. Or the shadows I see at night. Wherever the thrill comes from, I can't deny my obsession.

Evidently Lord Denbury simply disappeared one day. Locals assume that it was suicide, that he was overcome with despair at losing his family. But it was odd, for he was so well loved by everyone in town. Such a tragedy! Only eighteen years old with no siblings, he lost his parents when they died in a sudden accident. Having to take on such a mantle of responsibility must have weighed heavily upon him, or so everyone supposed. He inherited money and lands with his title, but with no surviving family to help him, he simply went and drowned. A fine piece of clothing bearing a pin with his crest washed onto the bank of a quieter part of the Thames. A damaged body was later found farther downriver and assumed to be his, but was that conclusive?

In such a troubling case, people tend to seek a reason. Once they find one suitable, they'll close the matter in their minds and hearts for their own comfort. But I wonder...

He was devilishly handsome, they say, and studied medicine. Supposedly he helped open a clinic for the underprivileged in the heart of London. So absorbed in learning medicine, he hadn't taken the time to court anyone, though he was continually sought after. He attended a Greenwich hospital nearly round the clock, absorbing all the knowledge he could. I should like to have known him and commended him for being a credit to his class. They say he was a good-natured fellow, if not a bit mischievous, as most clever boys are, and had a way of talking to all sorts of people. Perhaps he could have found a way to help me.

All that survives him is a grand portrait by an artist who remains unknown despite the vast sum paid for the commission, as recorded in Denbury's personal ledger. Considering the portrait is of such fine quality, it's odd that no one sought attribution. Discovered behind a curtain by surprised housekeepers after Denbury's disappearance, the painting is said to appear nearly alive with the soul of its subject.

How a group of men like Father's friends managed to absorb and retain this fantastic gossip is beyond me, but since it involves art, it comes into their territory. Mr. Weiss suggested that when the item makes its way to New York, where the estate broker plans to sell the piece, my father and the Metropolitan ought to consider buying it.

I desperately want to see it. To see him. I must convince Father he ought to at least put in a bid, so that "the Met" seems fashionable. The supernatural is all the rage these days, and America's foremost art museum must stay ahead of the times.

Dear me, I've forgotten their coffee, and they'll be clamoring for it. I'll return once I've served them and given Edgar an unbearably sweet smile. Did I mention that his cheeks went red when I descended the staircase and waved? Perhaps there's something about a girl back from boarding school that makes a man see her differently. Too late, Edgar, too late. Not that I'd fault you for breaking off your engagement...maybe there's a way I can assure it...Drat. Coffee first. Schemes later.

Later...

I hate them. All of them. Especially Edgar. Don't they know I might be at the door at any moment? I may be mute, but I am not dumb.

I'd hesitated outside the study, the coffee tray carefully balanced in my hands. Their cigar smoke wafted beneath the door, acrid tendrils making that threshold a foreign passage where women are forbidden to go-unless, of course, they are there in service. And then I heard my father say something he'd recently said directly to my face:

"I don't have the foggiest idea what to do with her. I've no idea what would be best..."

Which was, sadly, the truth. It was the subsequent response from Edgar, of all people-I'd know his voice anywhere-that shocked me:

"Why don't you just send her off to a convent, where you wouldn't have to worry about her, Gareth? She could become a nun and change out her own communion wine for whiskey for a change. A vow of silence certainly wouldn't be difficult!"

Before any of them had a chance to laugh or snigger at the insult, I threw wide the door, sending coffee spilling onto the tray. My nostrils flared as I narrowed my eyes and looked right at Edgar. He blushed again, this time not because he thought me pretty. Let him rot with guilt for everything he's done to cause me misery. He's never known how much I care-no, cared-for him, but surely now he knows I'll never respect him again.

I may be an unfortunate, but Father taught me never to stand for being made fun of.

"Edgar, shame on you," Father muttered.

There was deathly silence in the room as I served each of the men: first, Father, who was looking up at me apologetically, second, Mr. Weiss, who couldn't look at me out of embarrassment, and then finally Mr. Nillis, who never has a single interesting thing to say but always has a grandfatherly way of patting my hand, which I'll take over being teased any day. Mr. Nillis beamed up at me, entirely oblivious of the awkward moment, and patted me on the hand. I managed to offer him a grateful smile for his small, unwitting courtesy.

I turned and walked back out the door with the last cup of coffee, Edgar's, in my hand. He would not be served. Now I sit sipping it myself as I write this account and stare out the window at Eighty-Third Street three stories below, golden and dappled beneath patches of shade in summer's setting sun. Men in top hats and women in light shawls and bonnets stroll slowly along the cobbled street toward the gem that is our beloved Central Park for one last promenade before dusk. They have a slow but sure purpose to their movement, to their existence, which is more than I have. What am I going to do with myself?

Oh, Mother. If you hadn't died, I'm sure this wouldn't have happened. I'd speak. And you'd know what to do with me.

What People are Saying About This

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"I totally fell in love with the premise of this book from the moment I heard it." - Book Labyrinth

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Darker Still 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Acanoffleas More than 1 year ago
Done with boarding school, Natalie Stewart returns into her father's care in 1882 New York City. She hasn't spoken since she was four years old, the age when her mother died in a carriage accident. Natalie is beautiful and intelligent, though she struggles to find her purpose in the world seeing as that everyone around her, save her father, sees her muteness as a complete disability. When Natalie comes across a stunning portrait rumored to be haunted, she finds herself unable to turn away. When the portrait changes before her eyes, she's even more stunned. The handsome lord seemed to be willing her toward him, almost as if pleading for her help. I have a love of all things Gothic. Darker Still is more or less a mash up of The Picture of Dorian Grey, Jekyll & Hyde, and a dash of Ann Radcliffe. It's the embodiment of a Gothic novel, all dark, dangerous and romantic. It's quite lovely. Ms. Heiber weaves a wonderful story and it's hard to put the book down once we're drawn in. Natalie possess what most Gothic heroines have - curiosity. Luckily for her, she's also wickedly smart. Our hero, Lord Jonathon Denbury, is the perfect Gothic hero. Strikingly handsome, he is also the epitome of a gentleman, though he struggles with a dark side as a result of his cursed imprisonment within the portrait. Most Gothic novels have a certain "feel" for me - dark, haunted, lush, and mysterious - and Darker Still embraced that tone from page one. I loved that it was set in New York City - can we say Gangs of New York anyone? Go Five Points! Ha! I also was pleased that our heroine was anything but a simpering miss. She stood her ground and had no issues making her opinion known, regardless of the fact she couldn't speak. I think it's safe to say that Mother Monster of Gothic Fiction Ann Radcliffe would have approved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me at the sample. It was a must read for me and it was a good one at that. Amazing writing and a good love story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. I enjoyed the unique twist on the "soul captured in a painting" story. It had a lot of strong female characters which I appreciated. There were no simpering little girls in this story (well, most of the time) It's not an amazing literary achievement in terms of prose but I still enjoyed it and felt like the imagery was solid enough to give me a detailed view of the character's world. Definitely give it a try, I think it will be worth your time.
CNUcrazy09 More than 1 year ago
This book was good. I can’t say that it was stellar but it was definitely an interesting read. I found it to have its twists and turns and be gripping at times. I am always really intrigued with the time difference romance scenario and this one was no exception. The fact that Lord Denbury is stuck in this painting, that Natalie (the main character) is mute, and has to communicate with him to save him keeps you wondering what will happen next. I felt the book could have used some spice in certain parts and that in those certain areas it was lacking a little something extra special but otherwise it was a good solid read. I don’t regret reading it but I did hope for a little more in the plot. If you like time difference romances though, like Timeless…you will like this!
Truly_Bookish More than 1 year ago
Darker Still is such a unique novel, in a very good way! After witnessing her mother's death at a young age, Natalie Stewart stops talking. Now 17-years-old, Natalie communicates with other people through sign-language and writing on notepads. The story is told through Natalie's journal entries which is very appropriate for this story. While it may seem odd to read an entire book made up of journal entries (a first for me), Ms. Hieber makes it work very well and the story flowed wonderfully. I am a character driven reader and Natalie is a very likable character. She is brave, spunky and smart. People don't expect much of her because she is mute, but she proves them wrong. She stands up for herself and refuses to be bullied or put down for her short comings. The women in Darker Still, Natalie and Ms. Northe, are the heroes of the story, the ones who do the sleuthing and the saving. I liked Denbury's swoon worthy character and I hope we get to know him better in the next book. The setting of Darker Still is perfectly Victorian and the story is awesomely dark and gothic. The circumstances that got Denbury stuck in the painting and keeps him there are scary. Filled with dark magic, a gorgeous man trapped in a painting and an evil, possessed body, this is a great creepy read for this time of year when the weather is cold and gray. If you enjoy gothic stories like the Picture of Dorian Gray, you will love this book. The ending of Darker Still is satisfying with no cliffhanger but there is more there to explore. I was very happy to find out that there will be a sequel coming out next year. I can't wait to read it! Content: Kissing, violence. My Rating: Really Good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book, full of romance, suspense, and of course "Magic Most Foul". I recommend it to anyone who loves a good historical fiction or even just a teen romance. I can't wait for the next one in this series!
mlorio More than 1 year ago
This interesting story is part tribute to the Portrait of Dorian Gray. The story focuses on Natalie Stewart a mute in the 1880s born into a family of new money. Her father works at the Metropolitan Museum and Natalie discovers that the new painting at the museum is actually a vessel that holds trapped the soul of Lord Denbury. To free him Natalie has to learn about different aspects of spirituality, religion and myths. This was for the most part interesting although it did get bogged down with detail at times. While it was interesting to hear the story told in first person, the use of a journal as medium was awkward at times. Natalie seemed to be writing in it at the most unlikely times. The overall story was good and well worth the read. I will definitely check out the sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was intrigued by the cover copy and devoured it in one day. Filled with magic from runes, evil, and souls plus young love between a young lord trapped in a painting and the mute girl determined to save him.
Septimius_Severus More than 1 year ago
This book was one that I couldnt put down. The suspense keeps you going right til the end and you never know whether Natalie and Denbury are going to end up together.. if you like 'A Picture of Dorian Gray' or are interested in Jack the Ripper, you'll love this book! I could see this being made into a movie definitely. You can relate to all the characters in this - from the mute Natalie to the rather eccentric Mrs Northe and, at least for Me, to Lord Denbury himself. :-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not want to put this down! Also loved The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Parker by te same author.
VeronicaK89 More than 1 year ago
A well-written and captivating book. Natalie has been mute since a traumatic childhood incident. She encounters a painting of Lord Denbury, presumed dead shortly after his parents' deaths. However, Lord Denbury is very much alive. He is stuck inside this painting with no idea how to escape. In the meantime, there is an evil spirit that is possessing Denbury's body and committing horrible acts. A very interesting book that I couldn't put down. I definitely recommend for fans of "Carrier of the Mark" or anyone looking for a generally quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is freaking amazing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a rather interesting read! Very Portrait of Dorian Grey. But it was a really great read too! I was sucked in very quickly and I had a hard time not thinking about what was going to happen when I wasn't reading it! Just couldn't wait for them to solve the mystery!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is unlike any story I've ever read. I only purchased it originally because it was a Nook daily deal that I finally thought MIGHT be interesting. Turns out I loved every bit of it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyable! Well written and first in a new series, but unlike other series books, you can read this as a stand-alone novel. Lots of fun with suspense and a paranormal romance set in early 20th century New York City. Even though this is first in a series that can stand alone, I eagerly await the next installment.
Ray-Venn More than 1 year ago
Love the homage to classic, Gothic supernatural novels.
iheartyabooks More than 1 year ago
Darker Still is definitely a Halloween treat. Leanna Renee Hieber has taken from the story of Dorian Gray and penned her own wicked tale, and believe me, the only similarity is the picture frame. Hieber's Darker Still is way more dark and twisted and spine tinkling. Darker Still screamed eerie, spooky suspense from the first page and its claws dug into me and didn't let go. Natalie Stewart has not spoken a word since her mother died in front of her at the age of four. But words are not what draws seventeen-year-old Natalie to a painting in her father's art museum. It's the portrait of a gorgeous face. The face of Lord Denbury with the most beautiful blue eyes that calls to her. Natalie needs to know the mystery of this man Lord Jonathon Denbury. And with the help of Evelyn Northe who's a Spiritualist, Natalie will be the only one who can stand up against the dark powers of Hell and set the man she loves free. But that's where the real mystery comes in. How free are Natalie and Jonathon from this hell's dark Society? Natalie isn't the only one who fell in love with this gorgeous blue eyed and dashing, black-haired Lord. I did, too. Jonathon is definitely a ladies man, but the lady whose capture his heart is Natalie, and their love is hotter than anything Hell can throw at them. Natalie and Jonathon's love will conquer all evil, even some of their own. Darker Still is a masterpiece-twisted, dark, and chillingly possessive. I definitely got my treat with this dark romantic suspense, and I highly recommend Darker Still as a must read.
Icecream18 More than 1 year ago
A perfect novel for Halloween, this book will interest the reader till the very end. Natalie is mute, not to be confused with "dumb or deaf." Otherwise, she is a very pretty, smart young woman. She will be likable to the reader. Right when her life appears to have turned around slightly, she is worried her father will send her to a convent and doesn't know what to do about her inability to speak, Natalie stumbles onto a painting of a shockingly handsome man. The portrait, however, is not normal and may have been created by evil. Natalie must find a way to save Jonathan, the man in the painting, without losing her life and while guarding her heart. The setting is perfect for this novel. The author managed to put in many qualities from the Victorian era. The writing is fluid and the events are fast-paced. The characters were fun, they will draw the reader into the novel. One might think it would be difficult to understand the story from the point of view of a mute character; however, Natalie was terrific, because she was mute she appears so much more observant and intuitive than the normal character. This book is highly recommended to young adult/teen readers.
ReadingCorner More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I found the writing and the story incredibly compelling. The characters were unique, the story appropriately creepy, and the setting absolutely perfect. Let's start with the setting and atmosphere. Darker Still is set in Victorian New York (1880s). The gritty, dark parts of the city of contrasted against the opulence of the wealthy, flashier parts of town. It's a world where social status still reigns and wealth is openly flaunted through architecture and fashion. What I loved in Darker Still was that we got to see all sides of society--from Maggie and her high-fashion friends to Natalie and her father's modest living to the dark alleys of The Five Points. I felt like I had stepped into a real world, something I must attribute to Ms. Hieber's stellar writing. Natalie was a really awesome MC to read about. To start with, she's MUTE. How many MCs have you read about who are mute? I thought it was really interesting to have a main character who struggled to communicate with the world around her. It made everything that she learned and did just a little more amazing. It also makes so much sense when you learn *things* later in the book. It also ensured that she wasn't some flaky chick, but instead, she was a tough, intelligent young woman who wasn't afraid to stand up for herself. Lord Denbury was an enigma all unto himself. He has some of the same characteristics as our favorite typical male love interests (well, primarily that he is extremely gorgeous), but he's (a) not a "bad" boy and (b) trapped in a painting! I adored watching him interact with Natalie because he gave her a sort of confidence in herself and encouraged her to find her voice and be brave. She was already a strong young woman, but he really seemed to encourage her to...expand her horizons (I'm not really sure that's the turn of phrase I'm looking for, but you get the idea, right?). Also, I liked Denbury (or Jonathan, as he asks me Natalie to call him) in his own right. He handles the whole "I'm trapped in a painting" with fairly minimal whining (which would have drove me crazy). While Darker Still isn't a fast-paced novel, the beautiful prose and intriguing storyline kept me turning the pages. I think what it may lack for some readers is a stronger sense of mystery and impending doom since you know who the bad guy is from the beginning and the only mystery is to solve the few clues (which comes together in a rather unexciting way). However, for the reader looking to dive into a well-written story of Gothic romance and intrigue, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this one.
DarkFaerieTales on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales Quick and Dirty: I absolutely loved this novel from the lifelike characters to the intriguing plot sprinkled with myths and demons battling for eternal souls. Opening Sentence: Sister Theresa handed me this farewell gift with such relief that it might as well have been a key to her shackles. The Review: The novel starts with a note from the 1880 New York Police Records stating that the journal of Natalie Stewart is part of an unbelievable, utterly insane account of what took place concerning the portrait of Lord Denbury. If that doesn¿t make you interested in Darker Still, I hope this review might. I absolutely loved this book, and am anxiously waiting for the sequel due out in November. Natalie Stewart is a vivacious young woman who is smart, but not properly challenged. She is easily bored, and craves something to take her mind off of how mundane her life has grown since she has matured and left school. She wants to do something worthwhile with her time, and working with her father at the Metropolitan Museum is her first choice. For being a mute, someone who cannot or will not talk, Natalie knows how to effectively communicate. She finds a friend in Mrs. Northe, an eccentric widow interested in the supernatural, since they both know sign language. Natalie becomes enthralled in the acquisition of the highly publicized portrait of Lord Denbury, a young man who was thought to have committed suicide. It is via this piece of art that Natalie and Mrs. Northe first become acquainted. Natalie finds a motherly figure in Mrs. Northe since her own mother passed away, taking Natalie¿s voice to the grave after her traumatic death. Mrs. Northe is very wealthy, and thus allowed by society to be eccentric and still acceptable. Her eccentricities extend to in depth knowledge of spiritualism and the paranormal world. This knowledge comes in handy when they are dealing with the portrait of Lord Denbury. Denbury seems to have been cursed and his soul put into the painting while his body is possessed by some demonic force. It is up to Natalie and Mrs. Northe to save him as they are the only ones near enough who can. Natalie has a special connection with the portrait, and finds that she is able to interact with it, and Lord Denbury, especially in her dreams. What she does not account for is falling in love with Denbury. This novel has magic, demons, history, mythology, literature, and love. Each new detail made the novel that much more exciting to read. I could hardly wait to get to the end to see if Natalie and Mrs. Northe would succeed. The character interactions between Natalie and the others felt very real. Natalie is an outcast because of her disability which most people do not understand. She has no friends her age because she lived so long at the Connecticut Asylum with other girls who cannot see, hear, or talk, and has not attended the regular social functions of other people her age since the majority of young people would not take the time to understand her. Natalie is sick of pity and sympathy, and just wants a normal friendship. As it turns out, she finds that friendship in Mrs. Northe. I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Northe. She is independent, smart, and very considerate of all people that deserve it. She has a knowing about her that endeared her to me as she helped Natalie and the trapped Lord Denbury. Her understanding of social situations and relations, and her disdain for the superfluous ones marked her out as a dangerously independent woman in a male dominated world. I always love reading a strong female character who does not allow social conventions to constrain what she does and does not do. Her interest and familiarity with the supernatural and spiritualism was also refreshing to see in an adult of such stature. Natalie has to race against the clock to try and figure out how to get Lord Denbury back to his whole self before his demon possessed body murders again. I LOVED, LOVED, L
TheRaunchDilettante on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Done with boarding school, Natalie Stewart returns into her father's care in 1882 New York City. She hasn't spoken since she was four years old, the age when her mother died in a carriage accident. Natalie is beautiful and intelligent, though she struggles to find her purpose in the world seeing as that everyone around her, save her father, sees her muteness as a complete disability. When Natalie comes across a stunning portrait rumored to be haunted, she finds herself unable to turn away. When the portrait changes before her eyes, she's even more stunned. The handsome lord seemed to be willing her toward him, almost as if pleading for her help.I have a love of all things Gothic. Darker Still is more or less a mash up of The Picture of Dorian Grey, Jekyll & Hyde, and a dash of Ann Radcliffe. It's the embodiment of a Gothic novel, all dark, dangerous and romantic. It's quite lovely. Ms. Heiber weaves a wonderful story and it's hard to put the book down once we're drawn in.Natalie possess what most Gothic heroines have - curiosity. Luckily for her, she's also wickedly smart. Our hero, Lord Jonathon Denbury, is the perfect Gothic hero. Strikingly handsome, he is also the epitome of a gentleman, though he struggles with a dark side as a result of his cursed imprisonment within the portrait.Most Gothic novels have a certain "feel" for me - dark, haunted, lush, and mysterious - and Darker Still embraced that tone from page one. I loved that it was set in New York City - can we say Gangs of New York anyone? Go Five Points! Ha! I also was pleased that our heroine was anything but a simpering miss. She stood her ground and had no issues making her opinion known, regardless of the fact she couldn't speak.I think it's safe to say that Mother Monster of Gothic Fiction Ann Radcliffe would have approved.
Joles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I picked this book up at BEA this year I knew it was going to be good. If you enjoyed Wilde's Picture of Dorian Grey you will find this book interesting to say the least. While definitely geared towards women this book is full of action, adventure, mystery and romance.This book is written in a diary format with long-ish chapters. I was thoroughly impressed with the myriad vocabulary used in the book. Ms. Hieber has quite the talent for both telling a story and using her vast vocabulary, not to mention the eloquence of her writing.The only downside for me was that in the mystery aspect they give you some clues that jumped out at me right away while it took the characters themselves quite some time to make the connection.I eagerly look forward to more works in this series!
SandiLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't resist Hieber because I do love a good ghost story, and hers are very entertaining. Darker Still is as heavy-handed as her novels about the Guard, which is not helped by the fact that Still's heroine is a little annoying. As usual, Hieber is at her best when describing magical transformations and thresholds. She also more than hints at future novels following these characters, and while I don't find her writing particularly edifying or inspiring, it is damn hard to put down. I'd pick up the sequel, annoying heroine or no.
AnnaKay21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story is definitely all that the summary claims and more! It was told entirely through Natalie's pov with her diary entries, newspaper articles and the occasional letter/note. I was not expecting much although I was excited to read this book from the start. Natalie is a girl living with her Father, recently home from boarding school for the deaf, blind, and mute. Ever since her Mother was killed in a carriage accident when she was a child, she has been unable to speak at all. Her Father works at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and a painting of a mysterious young man named Lord Denbury is all the rage in society, because it is said to be haunted. Natalie decides that he must acquire it for the museum and she is determined to make sure it happens. She becomes acquainted with Mrs. Evelyn Northe, who is bidding on the painting and her niece Maggie. Mrs. Northe decides to loan out the painting and crazy things begin to happen. Natalie is able to go into the painting and she finds out that Lord Denbury's soul is trapped inside, while a demon possesses his physical body, committing atrocious acts of violence. Natalie must overcome her own problems with speech and bravery so that she can help to banish the demon and save Denbury's soul from destruction. I respect Ms. Hieber sooooooo much! There were no ridiculous love triangles and both Natalie and Johnathon Denbury were relatable, beautifully flawed people. They truly were perfect for one another. This was the most suspenseful, swoonworthy, well-written historical romance I've ever read! Plus one of my best books of the year. It will make you laugh, hold your breath and fight back tears. Worth buying and owning permanently by far! Evelyn Northe is the perfect supporting character and provides much needed humor and compassion to Natalie throughout the novel. My favorite passage is from Mrs. Northe to Denbury and Natalie: "There's magic about the two of you, yes. Just don't be desperate about it. That's where souls go wrong, when they think they don't have choices. The heart must make choices." Another favorite from near the ending is: "There, awake, at the door of my train car, was Lord Johnathon Denbury, real and in the gorgeous flesh, holding out his hand for me. I stared at him. I was the girl he'd asked for. 'Yes, you,' he murmured with an irresistible grin. And here I conclude." If that doesn't convince you to read this beautiful treasure, I don't know what will! I was almost streaming at the end. I am absolutely dying for the next book in the series, I cannot wait to see what happens to Denbury and Natalie next, what adventures they embark on. Highly recommended!
pianofreak95 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I saw this book on a lot of blogs at the end of last year it had me wanting to read it. But when I found out it was a historical paranormal, I was instantly turned off. Me and historical fiction of any kind usually don't get along. At all. I figured if I was meant to read this book I would some how stumble upon a copy. And then I won it in a giveaway on a blog, so I thought I would give it a try. It had gotten some pretty good reviews, so I thought what the hell.The beginning for me was the weakest part of the book. Probably the first 100 to 150 pages were very boring to me, and the chaste historical romance not enough to keep my interest. The characters seemed kind of one sided also for a large portion of the book, and I craved more depth. When the romance started to pick up I got more interested, and the ending isn't too bad, so I ended up thinking the book was okay.My biggest complaint is the lack of action for most of the book. Besides the climax of the story, it was just.... dull I guess. There were large portions where I found my mind wandering. I wanted the mystery part of the book to be a much bigger part then it was, and when the mystery was included I found myself coming to conclusions about what was happening long before the characters in the story did, which I find kind of annoying.The romance in Darker Still left much to be desired for a lot of the book. I understand this is the 1880's, but I just like a little more recklessness I guess. By the end it was good though, and the romance ended up being a huge reason why I finished the book. I wanted to know where the characters were going.So I might continue this series to see if the plot picks up the pace in the second volume. Now that the romance has heated up some, maybe it can hold my attention. Over all, this book was okay, and if you like historical (which I don't) you would probably like this a lot more than I did.