Book Review: The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

THE VESPERTINE by Saundra Mitchell
Publication Date: March 7th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s
Rating: StarStarStar

Summary: It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

Review Overview:

  • Romance was disappointing; no chemistry
  • Anti-climactic because of book’s format
  • Interesting blend of historical and paranormal genres
  • Ending was rushed, leaving an unsatisfactory feeling
  • Recommended to fans of historical romances

I’m a huge fan of historical novels so from the historic aspect, this book does not disappoint. I love this time period for all its balls and gowns and Saundra Mitchell wonderfully crafts Baltimore in the late 19th century.

I usually love forbidden romances, but I was not so much of a fan of this romance. I just did not feel it between Nathaniel and Amelia. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of Nathaniel. He’s forbidden, independent, and an artist. He doesn’t have to listen to the rules of etiquette, but he’s also not the “ideal” husband that Amelia should be looking for. He’s charming and seems like an overall nice guy. I love male characters that as a reader you can easily fall in love with. But I couldn’t get that with Nathaniel. Maybe if there were more scenes with him in the book I would be able to feel the chemistry between them.

I’m not so sure if I liked the format of the book… At first, I did not even notice that the book was switching back and forth from past and present, Maine and Baltimore. (I have a bad memory for dates and such.) But once I realized this, I thought that it made the book a bit anti-climactic. I knew that things were going to get downhill for Amelia. It killed the suspense. However, I was still interested in why she was “ruined” and why she was sent back to Maine. Still, because I knew that bad things were going to happen, I just found myself restless and waiting for the inevitable.

The paranormal entities of this book is a twist to the genre. I usually don’t see paranormal and historical mixed together so it was different. However, I do not think that the paranormal part of the book was executed as well as the historical. Half the time, I was really confused on what was going on. I had to keep rereading passages because I wasn’t understanding exactly what was happening. The descriptions were vague so I had difficulty imagining what was going on between the characters.

Nothing exciting really happens until the last twenty-five pages. Then, its jaw-dropper after the next jaw-dropper and I could not believe that so much drama could happen in such little time. I felt like the ending was a bit rushed. I’m left with a feeling that there could have been more, but the book just came to an end. I was really left unsatisfied, especially because just when the book started to pick up, it was already over.

I would still recommend this to fans of historical romances because based on my experience, there aren’t that many that deal outside of England. I love the location of Baltimore. I love this time period.


  1. I had similar thoughts, though I liked the shocking ending more. I loved the way Saundra Mitchell wrote about 19th century Baltimore. I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next and I hope she writes more historical fiction in this time period.

    I didn’t understand a lot of the paranormal parts though. I also wasn’t feeling their relationship at all. These two things significantly affected my ability to get into the book. I get Amelia’s abilities, though I wish their source and scope had been explained more. All of the rest of the paranormal parts left me completely and totally confused though. I’m glad I’m not alone here :)

  2. Aw, that’s kind of disappointing. I was hoping this was going to be a knock out of a book. But I still think I’m going to give it a try. ;D

    Great review!

  3. Aw, too bad you didn’t like the romance. Other than that, I think I might have a chance of liking this one because even though I dislike historical fiction, the fact that it blends in fantasy makes me more interested in it.

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