The Oxford dictionary definition of bittersweet is “arousing pleasure tinged with sadness or pain.” This would also be an apt description of one’s experience reading Miranda Beverly-Whittemore‘s Bittersweet. Of course, I mean that in only the best possible sense.
Bittersweet is the story of Mabel Dagmar, who heads off to college – where for once in her life she begins to feel that maybe she does belong. Her new roommate is the seductive, rich and adventurous Genevra Winslow. In the ultimate case study of “opposites attract,” Mabel and Ev strike up an unlikely friendship that seems at once both enduring and ephemeral. When the semester ends and Ev invites Mabel to summer with the Winslows at the family compound in Vermont, Mabel jumps at the chance to avoid returning to her less-than-perfect home life.
The Winslow family always spends their summers at Winloch. Like any large family, the close-knit Winslows are not without their internal struggles, but their bond remains undeniable. As they mature, each of the children are gifted a residence on the compound. This is the year that Ev is given possession of Bittersweet, a rustic cottage in need of some sprucing up. With the help of the local handyman, John LaChance, Ev and Mabel transform Bittersweet into their own personal oasis.
Mabel quickly adapts to this idyllic lifestyle. She attends dinner parties, sails on the open water and falls in love. Even the eccentric Winslow aunt, Indo, latches on to Mabel, asking her to take on a research assignment – research involving a long hidden secret of the Winslow family and the possible source of their enormous wealth. The further into the enigma of the Winslow’s that Mabel digs, the less she understands the true nature of what is going on just below the surface.
After laying this unstable groundwork, Miranda Beverly-Whittemore sets into motion a tragic plot of Shakespearean proportions. With one revelation following another, readers will hardly have time to catch their breath in the second half of this suspenseful novel. At times the action can seem melodramatic, but this tone fits perfectly with the Gothic stylings of the book.
Mabel Dagmar is an outsider any reader can relate to. Her difficult past never once overshadows her optimism for the future, even when it becomes clear that she has made some serious missteps in her latest decision-making. The cast of supporting characters vary from caricatures to dynamic, well-rounded individuals, as dictated by the needs of the plot.
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s Bittersweet presents a sweeping story about the corrupting nature of money and power, as well as, about the tragic consequences that can result from lives unchecked – all told through the unflinching eye of a naïve visitor to this world of luxury. This book is sure to find its way into many beach bags this summer – from The Hamptons to San Diego and all locales in-between.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel