Before I get to my thoughts on Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, I want to give some background on how I came to have the book (yes, paperback, not ebook).
I was in Orlando, Florida, for a work conference. I had the misfortune of traveling with two coworkers. Yes, you’re reading into this correctly…I was the third wheel, the female cramping their boob-scoping missions. When we stopped by Target, I jumped at the chance to pick-up a puzzle book to entertain myself. Well, being the bookworm that I am, I had to check out the books (sorry, Target, but the book section was a disaster). Bittersweet was stuck in front of a YA title. The cover caught my eye as did the 20% off sticker (yeah, I won’t lie!).
I wasn’t familiar with the author and hadn’t heard anything about the book. I did a quick check of the reviews on Goodreads. To my surprise, the reviews that came up first were one and two stars. What?! So I weighed my options…I liked the cover and the blurb. And, heck, it was on sale. I was willing to take the chance!
In case you aren’t familiar, here’s the blurb:
Suspenseful and cinematic, Bittersweet exposes the gothic underbelly of an idyllic world of privilege and an outsider’s hunger to belong.
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.
This book hooked me from the start. I was enamored with the Winslow clan. The idea of Winloch, an expansive summer estate/ great camp, on the shores of Lake Champlain was fabulous. Some people have complained about Mabel, but I found her character realistic. How many of us haven’t wondered what it would be like to be rich (not millions of dollars, but billions)? How many of us, when we were poor college students, would welcome the opportunity to spend a summer in such a place as Winloch?
I liked the concept behind the story, and I really enjoyed the author’s writing style. Her descriptions of Winloch made me feel like I was with Mabel in Ev in the woods in that chilly, dated cabin. Yes, sometimes Mabel annoyed me, but overall I liked her and the Winslows. Their names were creative, fitting of the wealth and society to which they belonged. They also held many secrets, some worse than others.
The book was a good companion. Not my usual read (fiction/ mystery/ thriller), but it kept me engaged. Ms. Beverly-Whittemore revealed little bits at a time, enough that I had to keep reading to find out where that clue would lead. I ended up being very happy with the story and the ending. Well done, Ms. Beverly-Whittemore! Well done.
4.5 stars out of 5
Here’s a quote to spark your interest:
P. 353 This is from Indo (Birch’s sister and quite the character in the book!)
“Knowledge! Knowledge.” She shook her head. “As far as I’m concerned, there is such a thing as knowing too much for your own good. Don’t you agree, Mabel?”
“Well then,” she said crisply, “perhaps you’ll know what I mean by the end of the summer. How darkness infects those among us who can’t resist a juicy tale.”