I’ll be honest and say that I had serious mixed feelings about this book. There were aspects of it that I liked, and some aspects that got under my fur and dampened my full enjoyment of it. This is an example of where my mileage as a reader can, and does vary from everyone else.
I loved the plot of this book. Madison’s investigation of the history of the painting, her coming to accept her heritage and powers, and the blending of past and present kept me engaged and reading long into the night. There was enough mystery and intrigue within the plot to hold my interest, and the paranormal aspect fit nicely with the general tone and feel of the story. Plus, the fact that the book is set in England, Oxford itself to be exact, was a major bonus!
Croslydon did a terrific job of shifting between events in the past and events in the future. Both points in time had clear, focused voices, so there was no confusion on when we were time-wise in the story. And during those moments where the past blended into the present it was still easy to differentiate between both points. Croslydon also did a wonderful job at leaving me guessing about Peter’s real identity in the present. While some might say that it was rather obvious, I kept bouncing between three potential individuals, and I enjoyed every minute of the guessing, murr!
What I didn’t enjoy were the main characters. Believe me when I say, I tried desperately to like them, but I simply couldn’t do it. I was automatically turned off on both Madison and Rupert less than a third of the way through the reading. And sadly once I lost my appreciation for them, I couldn’t get it back. Madison’s initial coldness and brusk attitude towards Rupert in the beginning rubbed my fur the wrong way. Here’s a guy she doesn’t even know and yet she’s completely being rude to him for no reason whatsoever. I was actually rather appalled by her behavior initially, and then when she suddenly started having feelings towards him, I was taken aback by the change of character tone.
The same holds true for Rupert. My first initial reaction towards him was spoiled rich boy with issues. At one point when Madison walks away from him at the start of the book, he automatically assumes that she’s a tease and is playing hard to get. Not once does he consider the possibility that she might not actually be interested in him. Sorry, totally turn off for me there, and a sure-fire way for me to lose all respect that I might have towards an individual. Halfway through the story I began to tolerate the characters, but by that point the damage had already been done. I simply didn’t like them. That being said, I really enjoyed the scenes involved Sarah and Robert. These two characters were wonderful, and even Peter, as crazy as he was, was an improvement over Madison and Rupert.
As far as the sex scenes go, I found them to be alright, and while I’ve heard some people say that they were graphic, I wasn’t bothered by them. If anything, I found the scenes in this book rather mild compared to some of the stuff I’ve read in other genres. But that does make me want to point out that this is considered New Adult, meaning it’s marketed for the 17+ crowd. Please bear this in mind should you opt to get a copy for yourself.
Overall, I have to give this book three paws and a tail wave of appreciation. My dislike of the main characters aside, there was enough going on story-wise to keep me interested. I wanted to discover how everything was connected, and I actually wanted to see whether the characters could redeem themselves in my eyes. Since this was the first book of a trilogy, I must applaud Croslydon for creating a truly intriguing story. And as surprising as this may sound, I’m curious to see what will happen in the second book, Oxford Shadows, once it comes out. After all, who can resist a story that involves the Tudors? Murr!