The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose



New York socialite Sandrine Salome flees an abusive husband for her grandmother’s Paris mansion, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is closed and under renovation. Her grandmother insists it’s too dangerous to visit but Sandrine defies her — an unexplainable force is drawing her home.

There she meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing architect, who introduces her to the City of Lights — its art world, forbidden occult underground, nightclubs — and to her own untapped desires.

From a mysterious fire at the Palais Garnier opera house, to a terrifying accident at the Eiffel tower and classes with Gustav Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts, Sandrine’s experiences awaken her passions. Among the bohemians and demi-monde, Sandrine uncovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter.

Then more ominous influences threaten — her husband is tracking her down and something insidious is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s overcome by the spirit of La Lune, a witch, a legendary sixteenth-century courtesan, and an unsung artist in her own right, who exposes Sandrine to a darkness that could be a gift or a curse.

This is Sandrine’s “wild night of the soul,” her odyssey in the magnificent city of Paris, of art, love and witchery, and not until she resolves a tragic love story and family curse will she be free of the ghost’s possession.1

Courtesy of the app Hoopla and my library membership I have been able to finally my story involving witches.  It was merely a touch of witchcraft though, as it was more of a ghostly manner than witchy.

In search of the fond memories and safety of her grandmother’s mansion, Sandrine flees from New York and her husband when her father dies.  Although not receiving the welcome she had expected, Sandrine stays with her grandmother and gets a glimpse at some of the wonders of Paris.  While growing up Sandrine’s grandmother was always a bit of a mystery to her.  She knew there was something different about her and the other grandmothers she knew, but what she could not say.  Sandrine’s grandmother comes from a long line of famous Courtesans.  All the way back to the 1500’s and her famous ancestor, La Lune, for which her grandmothers mansion, Maison de la lune is named.  There are also legends and myths that surround her ancestry and refer to La Lune being a witch.  Many of the stories have been kept from Sandrine and are only discovered when hidden forces draw her to Maison de la lune and to a hidden passion for painting.  While drawn to the house, she meets Julien Duplessi, a handsome architect who is assisting Sandrine’s grandmother with the maison.  With urges unfamiliar to her, Sandrine discovers a new world full of passion and life, but for what this new life gives to her it is also taking away.

As said, the story was not as witchy as I had hoped it to be.  Rose does a wonderful job painting a beautiful world set in the romantic Paris during the late 1800’s.  Sandrine’s grandmother is a story in itself, living the life of a famous courtesan in Paris and owning an exotic mansion full of beauty and wonder.  Sandrine reads The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and the story is references throughout the book.  Not having read the book there may have been similarities or things to have prized from this reference, but if there were they were lost on me.  Like the forces from within Sandrine and those from out, I felt pushed and pulled constantly throughout the entire story.  There were exotic sights, smells and scenes painted beautifully to lull you into a world completely foreign; yet at the same time there were times when things became almost redundant and you wish you could just yell and shake Sandrine.  Painting and artistry becomes a huge part of the story and it is plays too great of a part, overshadowing the other great tales that are hiding in the shadows.

How do you rate a book that you have both loved and disliked at the same time?  The Witch of Painted Sorrows takes you on a journey to the romance of Paris in the late 1800’s, the excitement and artistry blossoming during that time, a touch of occult, and the exotic as well as the erotic. A line repeated many times throughout the story is enchanting but full of mystery until the bitter end. “Make of the blood a stone.  Make of the stone a powder.  Make of the powder, life, everlasting.”

These descriptions should be enough to form your decision as to whether you will embrace this story, or catch a broom to a place far far away.

  1. Book summary courtesy of M.J. Rose webpage.

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