With her grandfather dead and hardly a penny to her name, soon-to-be spinster Theodora Lestrange is set to be a burden on her sister and her husband or marry a man she doesn’t love. That is until her old school friend Cosmina invites her to Rumania to see her married. Happy to fend for herself rather than be looked after by her thoughtful yet prudish brother-in-law, Theodora leaves Scotland for the Transylvanian mountains with only a few dresses and pen and paper to continue her writing. But upon arrival she finds even more inspiration than she bargained for. The once grand castle is now in decay, and there are ridiculous rumors in the village of vampires, werewolves, and other supernatural beings. Most mysterious of all is Count Dragulescu himself. Dark, brooding, and alluring, Theodora is fascinated with him without knowing exactly why. The Count also shows an interest but is it merely seduction or could it be more? Their connection may prove fatal to both as a murder at the castle casts suspicion on all its inhabitants.
This was a very different read style-wise from the Lady Julia series but interesting and engulfing nonetheless. What I liked most was the ambiguity of the supernatural element. As I read I asked the same questions as Theodora – Could these creatures actually exist or is it just folklore? More than once you think you have what is real and what is not worked out before you’re given more evidence refuting it. Not everything was spelled out and in the end I was still guessing. Rather than being confused or frustrated I was left intrigued by the unanswered questions that remained.
Just as in the Lady Julia series the writing is flawless here yet more descriptive and atmospheric. The ancient, ruined castle; the gossiping villagers; the unexplained howling wolves and disappearances; a mysterious murder; unearthed corpses – this is Jane Eyre meets Victorian horror – a Gothic novel through and through. When I was finished I felt like Deanna Raybourn’s Translyvania actually existed, her all-critical Gothic setting was spot-on. Add that to a perfectly satisfying ending and it doesn’t matter what it is – I will read anything Ms. Raybourn writes.