Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
I adored this book!! It was dark and atmospheric and utterly enthralling.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Everything is in ruins.
A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.
So what does Araby Worth have to live for?
Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.
But in the depths of the club—in the depths of her own despair—Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.
And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for—no matter what it costs her.
First off-- side note-- I was under the impression both while I was reading and when I finished the book, that this was a stand-alone so let me just say I was SO excited that there was a sequel.
But what was amazing was that even though this book had an open ending and the future was very vague, I still enjoyed the ending because it fit the book. I was completely satisfied with this book as a stand-alone. This book ends at a bleak place where the fate that awaits the characters is very uncertain, so I completely get why there is a sequel. Yet, at the same time I thought that this ambiguous ending perfectly suited the mood of the book and the whole premise and world that is established in this story.
The Romance. Oh. My. God. Now, while in some cases love triangles can be awful and agonizing affairs, I think when they're handled correctly they can really work. This book was definitely one of those times. There was no time where Araby spent any effort thinking about who to choose or pitying herself "poor me! I have to choose between two guys!". Nope. None of that, THANK GOD. And there were no ultimatums from the guys. And, honestly, I couldn't pick a "team". Each male lead was completely unique and had both good traits and serious flaws. When Araby was talking to Will, I was totally for Team Will, but then Elliott would show a crack in his carefully constructed armor and I'd want Araby to just love him.
Okay, so while I haven't picked a side (yet), I will say that I particularly enjoyed the development of Araby's relationship with Eliott. It was rocky, to say the least, but they really got to understand each other more over the course of the book and the feelings (on both sides) seemed more genuine due to the fact that at first they had no trust or respect for one another.
Will was a bit more difficult. I would not say that by any measure Araby experienced insta-love with him. It was more that she had an immediate infatuation with the mysterious, dark stranger who worked at the club. I mean, Araby is seventeen in this book, it would be utterly ridiculous if she didn't appreciate hot, brooding boys. Who doesn't? But all Araby felt towards Will was a crush. And neither she nor the author pretends it's more. Araby's feelings don't become deeper until she actually gets to know Will and spends some time with him and even then I don't know she is ever completely in love.
But, like I said, this is a love triangle, so Araby's romantic fate is very unsure. But as a reader, I very much appreciated the absence of insta-love and the time spent developing relationships.
The only problem I had with this book was that at times the narration and descriptions were lacking. There were holes in the continuity of the story. There would be times when Araby would mention that she sees a carriage pull up and in the next sentence she will be gazing out the window at the street, and I'd have to go back and re-read to figure out where Araby was and with whom, so on. This type of gap in the writing happened a fair amount, which is why I thought I'd mention it. There would be places where I was reading and I'd have to stop and try to figure out who Araby was with or how she got there, because it felt that there were descriptions missing. But overall, I don't think this hurt the story.
In the end, this book was everything I wanted. It had complex characters, a dark, shadowy world full of fear and questions and evil. It was fast paced, the plot was engaging and I loved reading it, I could not put it down. This book was the perfect book to curl up under a blanket with. Highly recommend.