Book Review: Belladonna & an Excerpt from Foxglove

About the Book:

Title: Belladonna

Author: Adalyn Grace

Series: Belladonna #1

Page Length: 403

Publication Date: Aug. 20, 2022



New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace brings to life a highly romantic, Gothic-infused world of wealth, desire, and betrayal.

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. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine.

LINKS:   Goodreads   |    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo | IndieBound

Tour Schedule

My Review:

I’m delighted to be on the book tour today for Belladonna, an immersive and entertaining YA fantasy. I absolutely loved it! Rich, atmospheric, and beautifully crafted, the writing style hooked me right from the beginning. It was so easy to get lost in this haunting and mysterious world, and it had major Gothic vibes, which I always love. The characters are great too, and the romance is EVERYTHING!

Orphaned as a child, Signa has lived with many guardians over the years, when she eventually winds up at Thorne Grove Manor, the home of her uncle and cousins. But a darkness plagues the estate ever since her aunt’s death, and now her cousin is succumbing to the same illness. Thorne Grove sets the tone for the story with it’s haunting appearance, haunted happenings, and a family lost in mourning. It’s dark and mysterious, though Signa’s uncle tries to muffle the haunted house with luxurious parties filled with dance, drink, and revelry. These parties stand in stark contrast to the rest of the setting and highlight just how plagued Thorne Grove is.

When Signa realizes that her aunt’s death and her cousin’s illness are related and that someone intentionally poisoned them, she resolves to find the culprit. Signa is such a unique and layered protagonist, and I enjoyed her journey over the course of the novel. She really comes into her own while at Thorne Grove, and she grows and changes so much as her perspective about Death, her family, and more evolves.

Signa can see spirits, and she can’t die. She’s tried, but whenever she does, she sees Death and heals. She also sees Death whenever a life is about to be lost. I never in my life thought I’d say this, but I love Death! His perspective about life and death, mortals and having feelings is so fascinating, and it made me think differently about the topics.

There is a bit of a love triangle, as Signa is torn between her feeling for Death and a mysterious stable hand named Sylas. Now, I’m not usually a fan of love triangles, but man, this one was excellent. I totally understood Signa’s complex and confused feelings about these enigmatic males. Her feelings for Death, in particular, were so contradictory since she went much of her life hating him. Now, she sees him in a different light, and the angsty tension between them is perfection! And the way this rightfully feared immortal is a total ball of mush for her melted my heart. Sylas is fabulous too, and he is as mysterious as Death. It was so interesting (and satisfying) to see how this all played out.

The secondary characters are great too, especially Signa’s sharp and snarky cousin Blythe. I’m also interested in learning more about Signa’s old friend Charlotte and am excited to see that she’s in the next book in the series. The plot was great too. I didn’t expect to be so emotionally moved, but I was a few times in the story. There are some really touching and emotional scenes, and though I predicted a few things, there was a twist that I totally didn’t see coming. I’m so glad Foxglove releases soon because, after that ending, I definitely want to revisit this world and characters and get lost in another mystery with Signa.

Special thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.



Favorite Lines:

“I cannot sleep when I hear her roaming about, haunting these halls, and yet I cannot so much as shut my eyes in her absence, for I wonder if I’ll ever hear her again.”

“You must not allow yourself to be consumed so thoroughly by death. It’s not selfish to live.”

“I have waited for you for a very long time, Signa Farrow.”

“You are a song to a soul who has never known music. Light to someone who has only seen darkness… I want to be better because of you. Better for you.”

About the Author:

Adalyn Grace is a New York Times bestselling author of All the Stars and Teeth, which was named “2020’s biggest YA fantasy” by Entertainment Weekly. Prior to becoming an author, Adalyn spent four years working in live theatre, acted as the managing editor of a nonprofit newspaper, and studied storytelling as an intern on Nickelodeon Animation’s popular series The Legend of Korra.  Local to San Diego, Adalyn spends her non-writing days by watching too much anime, and by playing video games with her dorky dog.  

Author Links:

Foxglove Excerpt:

The following is an excerpt from chapter 9 of Foxglove, the second book in the Belladonna series.

They’d been riding for what felt like hours, journeying through twisting brambly roads and hills so precarious that both Signa and Blythe had to squint their eyes shut for fear of falling. Eventually, though, forest gave way to sprawling hills cast a burnished orange by the setting sun as the first sign of Wisteria Gardens emerged.

The palace sat upon acres of grass so ripe a green that it reminded Signa of illustrated pages from old fairy tales. It was situated on a vast mountainside, massive enough that Thorn Grove felt like little more than a farmer’s cottage in comparison.

Both Signa and Blythe pressed their faces to the windows as their carriage continued past iron gates strung with ivy and half green with lichen. Before them was a line of at least a dozen more carriages that rolled through a courtyard paved with pristine white stones. Grass nearly the color of Signa’s dress sprouted between them, so meticulously clipped that it made the walkway look ready for a life-size game of chess. It was upon those stones that the young women were dropped off, Signa’s heart fluttering in spite of itself as she stepped out of the carriage.

Wisteria Gardens was almost eerie in its beauty. The setting sun burned behind the palace, and the breeze was so gentle and lulling that Signa was almost tricked into believing the place was little more than the innocent countryside home of a prince. She looked to her right, where ripe green hills rolled down a mountainside full of grazing horses and bleating sheep. It was odd, though, how the sounds they made seemed to repeat themselves as if on a loop, and how there was no scent of them in the air. She smelled only the wisteria and looked past the courtyard to see the blooming trees that were the palace’s namesake, purple blossoms dangling from the branches and crawling up the side of the palace. There was even a wisteria-laden archway along the walking path, exquisitely maintained.

“This place is incredible.” Awe laced Blythe’s voice as she stepped forward and hooked her arm through Signa’s. “How strange that I’ve never been here before. I wasn’t aware it existed.”

Signa bit her tongue. How Fate intended to stroll into Celadon with a palace that had appeared out of thin air and call himself a prince, Signa hadn’t the faintest idea. And yet no one seemed to question it; not even Blythe, who pulled Signa along while Byron eased himself out of the next carriage and hurried to catch up. Blythe led them toward a towering marble fountain of a woman in a gown of ivy and flowers that split at her midthigh and twisted around her ankles. Water poured from the chalice she tipped precariously in her hands. Live lotus flowers and lily pads drifted at her feet.

There were other fountains, too. Smaller, but each of them as extravagant as the next and surrounded by short spiraling hedges or adorned by the most bizarre flowers that once again reminded Signa of a fairy tale—ancient and magical things that seemed out of place in the real world. All around them towered wisteria trees in full bloom, their rich petals dangling overhead like the most glorious canopy. Everyone was gaping in delight as they stretched their hands toward petals that were somehow always just out of reach. Yet as beautiful as it was, the courtyard dulled in comparison to the palace itself.

Never had Signa seen anything so massive. Where Thorn Grove was dark, Wisteria’s exterior was a spotless white, adorned with gilded carvings and more windows than Signa could count, each of them sporting marvelous stained glass. There was a long stone walkway leading up to the palace, with a pond on either side. Sculptures loomed from the water, some of them of gorgeous women or powerfully built men, while others were of beastly creatures that could come from only the wildest of imaginations. They appeared to be made from marble, some of them blanketed with moss and creeping fig, and each as excessive as the next. Signa stretched her fingers out to draw them across their damp stone, then turned toward Byron at the tapping sound of his walking stick coming up the path.

“I want you both on your best behavior,” he warned, fighting the same slack-jawed awe that everyone at Wisteria wore. “This prince could be our key to clearing Elijah’s name.”

Signa very much doubted that.

Blythe squeezed Signa’s arm, her footsteps hastening as they followed a trail of bustling crinoline toward the palace. There were whispers, too. A few of them sounded excited, but the majority were low and prickled at Signa’s skin. She turned to catch the eyes of too many strangers staring at them with dagger-sharp glances and spiteful rumors searing their tongues.

Though Signa was used to such behavior, it never stung any less, especially considering that she’d believed herself finally free of it. Blythe, too, kept her jaw tipped high and her expression flat, refusing to mark herself as prey before ravenous vultures. It was she who had warned Signa all those months ago of just how willing society was to pluck the skin from one’s bones to worsen any wound. And if there was one thing that Signa had learned about society, it was that people loved little more than watching those above them fall from grace.

“Come.” Signa steered her cousin forward. “I’d like to see the inside. I imagine it must be even more grand.”

Oh, how right she was. If the exterior of Wisteria was opulent, the interior was decadently lavish. Like the exterior, the walls inside Wisteria were bright and pristine, decorated with extravagant ivory wallpaper and gold flourishes. It would seem Fate had a taste for the color, for the mirrors and paintings were also plated in a matching gold.

“Oh, it’s magnificent!” Blythe craned her neck to gaze three stories up to the ceiling—which was painted a brilliant shade of red—and beheld the most intricate floral designs swirled throughout. Ahead were two grand staircases that met in the middle of the second story. They were covered in a thick red-and-gold rug, and the girls followed suit as guests climbed the stairs. They slowed their steps for Byron, and Signa used the time to take in every inch of the decor.

Strung along the walls were the wildest assortment of oil paintings, each one depicting strange and nonsensical things. One showcased a garden full of fairies that danced around overgrown mushrooms, while another portrayed two women dancing in a candlelit ballroom, their dresses igniting into flames behind them. Tucked into every corner were the most elaborately carved vases or sculptures. Most were tame, while others elicited blushes and concerned gasps, such as the statue of three people in the heat of passion, and another of a man brushing his hand along his lover’s cheek with more tenderness than Signa knew was possible to impart into a piece of stone.

Each painting conveyed a story with such richness that the art felt alive. She wasn’t convinced that, if she glanced away, they wouldn’t spring to life and continue their stories. “His lordship is quite the collector,” said someone ahead, and Signa recognized the sharp voice as belonging to Diana Blackwater, a mousy and uncivilized girl who could often be found attached to the hip of Eliza Wakefield. She was perhaps one of the worst vultures Signa had met thus far, and Signa made sure to stay quiet, trying to keep from Diana’s view.            

“A collector, indeed.” Byron’s scowl grew in severity with every piece of art they passed. “At the very least, they should have had these pieces temporarily moved. Avert your eyes, girls. You shouldn’t see such atrocities.”

Arms still linked, Blythe leaned toward her cousin and whispered, “It would seem he hasn’t the faintest idea what’s in half the books that end up on our nightstands.”

Signa pressed her lips together to keep from laughing. Though she ducked her head and pretended to follow Byron’s instructions, her eyes remained lifted to inspect every inch of the palace and its art.

As much as she hated to admit it, Wisteria was beautiful. Even so, there was a sense of oddness to the palace. A looming heaviness that permeated the air and had her wishing that Death could be at her side. Signa’s palms ached with the absence of his touch as she forced herself up every step, feeling as though she were treading water. When she squinted, a strange golden haze blanketed everything. Yet no one else said a word about it, and soon enough, they were at the top floor, in what was, regrettably, the most gorgeous ballroom she had ever seen.

Unlike the rest of the palace, the ballroom was not bright and crisp but made up of ornate panels backed with gold leaf. There was no part of the walls that went bare; all were either mirrored or featured gilded carvings of foxes climbing trees or rolling among the flowers, lit by sconces that set the room ablaze in warm, rich amber.

“What I wouldn’t give to live here.” Blythe’s words were breathy and wondrous. Everyone seemed to agree with her; the guests were all chattering and whispering, twirling around the room to take in its extravagance. While the rest of the palace was decorated with art, this exquisite room was the art.

Byron straightened beneath the amber glow and whispered to the girls, “Tonight is not the night to overindulge. Mingle, but keep your wits sharp and your tongues soft, understood?”

“Understood,” Blythe echoed dismissively. “But I daresay, Uncle, that Signa and I won’t ever manage to draw the prince’s eye with you looming over us. Surely we may walk about the room ourselves?”

Byron opened his mouth to speak, though his lips sealed as he scanned the crowd. Alerted at once, Signa tried to follow his gaze to who had drawn his attention, though there were far too many bodies to decipher which guest had caught his eye.

“Very well,” Byron huffed as he adjusted his cravat. “Be mindful about how you present yourselves. And do let me know if either of you finds this evening’s host.”

Signa could only hope that she would be the first to hunt Fate down, though it was going to be difficult, given that she needed to keep an eye on Byron, too.

Gently, she unlinked her arm from Blythe’s. “We’ll have a better chance at finding the prince if we split up. Will you manage?” The decision could very well come back to bite her, though Signa needed some space if she was going to tail Byron.

Blythe tossed her hair back with a sharp “Of course I will” and disappeared into the throng of guests. It wasn’t long until Signa jumped, feeling a hand on her shoulder.            

“Miss Farrow?”

She bit down her groan, for the voice was the same grating one she’d heard while climbing the staircase.

“Miss Blackwater.” Signa attempted her most curt smile as she turned toward Diana, though it barely touched her cheeks. It was fortunate the room was so dark. “How lovely it is to see you.”

“Likewise.” There was a gleam in Diana’s eyes that made Signa feel as though she were a mouse, and Diana the hungriest feline. “I must admit that I didn’t expect you out so soon, given the scandal.”

It would seem they were getting right to the point, then. Very well. If there was one thing Signa had learned by then, it was that a person could not cower when targeted by a vulture, for such a scavenger would only continue to circle. To peck and wear its prey down until it was ripe for the feast.

Signa Farrow was many things, but she was not prey. Having no intention of letting Diana continue her pecking, Signa made herself tall and relied on a skill that every proper lady had been forced to utilize at one point in time or another, whether for the benefit of herself or a man whose ego she was expected to stroke: feigning ignorance.

“The scandal?” Signa pressed a hand to her chest. “I can only assume you’re referring to the tragedy that befell Lord Wakefield? The man was murdered in cold blood, Miss Blackwater. Heavens, I dare not reduce what happened to him as a mere scandal.” Oh, how good it felt to watch Diana’s cheeks flare crimson. “I’m glad that Mr. Hawthorne has been so willing to help with the investigation of such a tragedy.” Signa put a little sigh into her voice, quite proud of her performance. It was a shame that Blythe was not nearby to watch; it would have delighted her.

“Of course not.” Diana’s mouth was small and shrewd, and she held her lips together in a line so thin they looked almost nonexistent. “Though it does you no good to be associated with that family. You were doing so well for yourself with Everett, though I can’t imagine he’ll be interested in you now.”

Signa’s merciless smile remained unwavering. “How is Lord Wakefield?” she asked, referring to Everett. His new title was strange upon her lips, especially given the circumstances. “Ask Eliza.” Diana fluffed out a long white fan and waved it against herself as she nodded toward the throng. “It seems that despite the circumstances, she could not refuse an invitation from the prince.”

Signa followed Diana’s gaze. Sure enough, Eliza was not at home, mourning the loss of her uncle. She hadn’t even donned traditional mourning wear but was instead dressed in a beautiful lavender gown. Still, there was a pallor to Eliza’s skin and haunted shadows beneath her eyes as Signa surveyed her conversing with a small crowd expressing condolences. She was surprised to see that one of the men nearest to Eliza was Byron.

“What a time to be flirting one’s way through a ball.” Diana gave her fan a little flutter that didn’t hide her cruel smile. “I suppose she must not have loved her uncle as much as she wanted us to believe.”

There hadn’t been much in Signa’s old etiquette books about the particulars of dealing with royalty, especially when a familial relation had just passed. Though Eliza’s presence at the ball did seem unusual, Signa doubted that it was easy for someone to pass up a direct invitation from a prince. Still . . . It was remarkably odd, especially considering that she was chatting with Byron.

“Miss Wakefield is doing the best that she can.” It was another voice that spoke; one that normally would have soothed Signa but at that moment made her skin prickle—Charlotte Killinger. Signa’s oldest childhood friend and the only person who had seen her follow Percy into the garden the night they all believed he’d vanished from Thorn Grove. Signa had done her best to avoid Charlotte and her prying eyes, but that was certain to be more difficult with Fate forcing her back into the throes of society.

“We all are.” Signa hated that she tensed when Charlotte laid a hand on her shoulder. Hated that guilt welled up in her and threatened to leak like a rusted faucet.

She didn’t regret what she’d done or the choice she’d made to end Percy’s life in favor of Blythe’s. But she also didn’t want anyone else knowing about it. Not ever.

“How are you faring?” Charlotte asked, and Signa immediately wished her friend were less kind. That she was as sharp and guarded as she’d been when Signa had first arrived at Thorn Grove last autumn.

“We’re all eager to learn the truth,” Signa said by way of answer, despising the heaviness in her chest. “How is Everett?”

“Still grappling with the gravity of the situation, I think. He’s barely spoken a word since that night.”

Signa may not have been able to remember her parents, but she remembered her grandmother, whom she had loved deeply. She also remembered the pain of losing her, and never again wanted to relive the emotions she knew Everett was enduring.

“The duke’s killer will be found.” Signa filled her voice with such confidence that both Charlotte and Diana straightened as if reproached. Signa didn’t care, for it was the only way to convince herself. She had found a murderer before. Now, she only needed to do it once more. Watching Byron fill out Eliza’s dance card, Signa wondered if Elijah had already set her on the right path.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Belladonna & an Excerpt from Foxglove

  1. Great review, Julie! I didn’t read the excerpt because I want to read it completely fresh when Foxglove comes out but I’m so excited for it 😍 Glad you loved this one—I did too!

  2. Glad you enjoyed this one! I loved Belladonna so much and can’t wait for Foxglove. The excerpt has me excited.

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