screenshot211Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s Bittersweet kept me turning pages, so enthralled that I finished the book in under 24 hours.

From the book summary:

 On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century; it’s the kind of place where children twirl sparklers across the lawn during cocktail hour. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted:  friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.
   But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact – and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.

Reading this, I thought of the Brontes: Mr. Rochester’s secrets; Heathcliff’s cruelty; Cathy’s manipulations. Yet this is a fully modern story with its own dark secrets and flawed characters. Bittersweet has some of these same themes, but in no way does the plot feel worn out or tired in this novel.

The tale moves quickly. We know there are layers to many of these characters. We get cryptic clues and deliberate misdirection. I didn’t see all the twists coming, which I really enjoyed.  The thing I liked about the characters here is that there’s no “Mary-Sue”, no overly perfect characters.  Even Mabel has her own demons with which she struggles.  But unlike Ev, Mabel recognizes her imperfections.

This is a perfect vacation read. It kept me engaged,  and I told people before I even finished it that if they like good fiction, with a twist of mystery, then Bittersweet should definitely be on their list.