After recovering from a kidnapping, Elaine Westover wants nothing more than to live a quiet secluded life with her paints. But as her father’s home falls into disrepair and his business fails, she has little choice but to offer her services painting portraits. When a wealthy man hires her to paint an impossible portrait for a year’s income, Elaine considers accepting the job. At the interview, he makes it clear she has no choice but to accept, and he bundles her off to the attic against her will, promising to release and reward her when she completes his task. Her only friend and protector is Will, a young man she takes to be a servant. He vows to help her in any way he can, and soon she realizes she’s falling in love with him. Will feels drawn to Elaine as well, but when he discovers the connection between his family and hers, he knows he can never let her discover his name without ruining every moment they’ve shared together.
The first book in the Andari Chronicles was one of the best surprises I’ve had this year. I loved Davidson’s retelling of the story of Cinderella with its added political intrigue, and ever since I read it, I’ve been excited to read more. I like that this story features characters who appear very briefly in Traitor’s Masque, most importantly, Elaine Westover. While she didn’t strike me as a particularly dynamic character in the first book (she’s really just mentioned and off-stage the entire story), I liked the way her character unfolded in Goldheart.
Rumplestiltskin isn’t one of my favorite fairytales, and I wasn’t sure how a painter would factor into a retelling, but I have to say, I loved how it all played out. The themes about value and gold made the story even richer (see what I did there? Ha ha.) than the original tale. One thing that Davidson does really well is to craft believable fairytale men with believable friendships. Will and Blaise were a great pair, and the scenes featuring the banter between the two of them rank among my favorites.
So far I have to recommend this whole series. I’ll be reading the third book soon, though I’m honestly tempted to start it today. The next book is a retelling of Twelve Dancing Princesses and features another character I enjoyed from Traitor’s Masque: the prince’s friend, Kyril. Can’t wait!
Fans of fairytales definitely need to give these stories a read. They’re a bit grittier than Melanie Dickerson’s novels and a bit more traditional than Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles. It definitely reminds me of Robin McKinley’s Beauty and Spindle’s End, but without the magical elements.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used with moderate frequency.
A man makes veiled threats that he could and might harm Elaine. She fears for her physical safety and it’s clear he could rape her if he chose, though it’s not explicitly stated. A man hints that his friend needs a few minutes alone in a carriage with a certain woman, but he means for privacy, not sexual reasons.
Elaine has nightmares and remains tormented by memories of her earlier kidnapping. (From the first book in the series.) A man is bound and left in a cellar after being smacked around a bit. A madman lights his home on fire and himself as well.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.