Natalie Stewart is a seventeen year old girl who lives with her father in New York City in 1880. After her mother's tragic death when Natalie was four years old, Natalie lost the ability to speak. Luckily, unlike many girls who are considered "unfortunates" , Natalie's father has chosen to keep her with him in mainstream society and educate her. As a result of Natalie's father's job at the newly opened Metrapolitan Museum of Art, Natalie is not only well versed in the usual academics, but in fine art as well. Natalie writes notes and uses sign language to communicate.
As the book opens, Natalie's father is attempting to aquire a painting of an exceptionally handsome young gentleman, Johnathon Whitby, Lord Denbury. Mystery swirls about the painting, as well as the subject. You see, no one knows exactly what happened to the young gentleman. Some say suicide, but other theories circulate too. The painting itself seems so lifelike people swear the eyes follow them. Also, there is the part about Denbury being amazingly georgous that tends to attract the ladies. Even though the Met really wants the painting, Mrs. Evelyn Northe wants it more. And, as Mrs. Northe commands much respect in New York City, Mr. Stewart finds it in the museum's best interest not to go against Northe's dreams of owning the painting. But, Stewart hopes to arrange an agreement allowing Northe to loan the painting to the Met. Such a great compromise!
|Borrowed from Hieber's site. This is how she pictures Denbury!|
As he works on plans for the painting, Natalie accompanies her father and meets Mrs. Northe and her niece, Maggie. Mrs. Northe is immediately taken with Natalie, and Natlie too is drawn to the woman who can understand Natalie's use of sign language (Natalie's own father never learned, shame on him!) There is certainly more to Mrs. Northe than being a wealthy art collector. She is also a student of mysticism. Her understanding of the supernatural world draws her to Natalie, even though Natalie has no knowledge of her own connection to the world of magic.
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When Natalie first views the painting of Denbury, she is mesmarized as are others. However, each time she sees the painitng something seems to have changed. As Natalie becomes more aquainted with the painting, she begins to learn of her connection to Denbury. This connection leads her to world of dangerous and murderous mystery that only she can solve. I know!
In addition to the amazing story, I also love how many Shakespeare references Hieber included. There is also the inspiration from Wilde's Portrait of Dorian Gray...amazing as well. And, Natalie seems to have such a heart for the less fortunate. I hope to see her continue to cultivate this as the series continues. Yes, that's right, I said series. The next installment, The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart is due out in November of this year. Put it on your calendar, people!