‘Belladonna:’ Gothic-Bridgerton brilliance

D’Juanna Lester, Arts Reporter

Adalyn Grace, you are a genius. “Belladonna” is a book with drama, romance, beautiful world-building and a story that makes audiences’ jaws drop. Grace’s book has readers anticipating what will happen next right up until the very end of the book. 

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being – and each has met an untimely end,” the book’s synopsis said. “Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthorns, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy.” 

Grace’s book follows Signa and her Hawthorn family as they navigate the mysterious murders happening in their manor. Signa also prepares for her debutante season with her cousins and new friends. It’s a brilliant combination of London’s societal expectations and the mystery.

With glittering gowns and magical settings, Grace nails the aesthetic of a Gothic-style Brigderton novel. This thrilling Gothic Fiction story had me flipping the pages wondering what was going to happen. I wanted to know who was behind the murder mystery, which was very well written. 

I originally picked the book up because of its Bridgerton aesthetic. I was curious to see how the glittering debutante society would mesh with the gothic ghost story. Grace wrote the plot beautifully, to the point where I was focused on the murder mystery more than the debutante plot. 

Speaking of, the debutante plot made me excited to see how Signa moving to a new place would affect her fitting in with her infamous cousins and new girls in town. Signa’s story of feeling like she doesn’t fit in was dialed up to eleven with this plotline, which was done very realistically.

Grace does a wonderful job writing the chemistry between the characters, especially Signa and Death. How do you personify Death as a character and make him so charismatic? It felt like Hades from Disney’s Hercules jumped out of the book. 

Signa and Death invented chemistry. Their dynamic goes way beyond protagonist and antagonist. Their witty banter and the way the pair play off of each other is mesmerizing writing on Grace’s part.

Each character was interesting — I didn’t feel like any represented wasted potential or were unnecessary to the story. Everyone suited the plot perfectly, which made the mystery of who was behind the murders so much more intriguing to follow. 

Ghosts can be a hit or miss in a story. Belladonna took the theme of ghosts and haunted libraries and made it into something that I wanted to follow, as someone who usually doesn’t partake in ghost stories. 

This book is a story that not only pulled me out of a reading slump, but put me back into one. Reading a book this good — it was hard to find a book that would give me the same feelings as this one. At times I was on the verge of tears, and other times, I wanted to throw the book across the room. 

If you’re a fan of Bridgerton, murder mysteries or the Gothic Fantasy genre, this is the read for you. Grace’s writing made it impossible to put this book down. I’m very much looking forward to the sequel “Foxglove” that is set to be released in August of this year.

Rating: 5/5