Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore | A Review

Cover of Bittersweet

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.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Filled with suspense, intrigue, many kinds of relationships, and the questions of mystery down through the years: Whodunit? Will he/she/they be judged and made to pay? Will the wealthy outlast the poor? And on and on.

So good was Bittersweet I gave up housecleaning chores yesterday and sat on the back porch with iced tea while reading in the swing. The sweet life brought about by Bittersweet!

The author uses her license to create names in most unusual ways with the names of places, characters and even cabins on a communal family campground owned by old monied wealth. And there’s the rub. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who loves whom, and who hates whom, and who is going to get even with whom.

Mabel Dagmar (see what I mean about names?) is not a member of the wealthy family but a summer guest of Genevra Winslow, her college roommate. It is through Mabel that we learn of the Winslow family’s much storied past and present, and yet Mabel could wish she were a part of their rich and luxurious life. But Mabel’s own past has its story too.

Threads woven together in the familiar intricacy of lace and tatting bring Bittersweet to the reader with mental images of people celebrating weekends where everyone is required to wear white, much as we have seen family photos perhaps from our own families. Traditions and culture of the wealthy are fascinating and Beverly-Whittemore writes of them beautifully.

The use of language and description kept this reader happy from beginning to end. This was a beautiful summer read, one I’d recommend for the beach, vacation, and the back porch swing!

I am not sorry that Blogging for Books was willing to provide a copy of Bittersweet in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are my own

My Recommendation:

Readers looking for well-written fiction should seek Miranda Beverly-Whittemore and her books. This current book is not recommended for readers under 18 without a review first by their parents. There are scenes and secrets which may not be appropriate in some parents’ judgment for younger readers. However, that does not detract from the value of this well written, rich in language, and steeped in story work of fiction. Anyone who loves good fiction will love Bittersweet.

Meet Miranda Beverly-Whittemore:

Author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

***I love to meet with book clubs, either in person in the New York area, or via phone or Skype. Please email me:***

I write novels. My third, Bittersweet (Crown Publishing, May 2014), is set at the home on Lake Champlain where I spent my summers as a little girl. But that’s where the resemblance to life ends—the place, renamed Winloch in the book—is inhabited by a family of bad people. I wrote Bittersweet for people like me, who love The Secret History and The Emperor’s Children; it’s a literary beach read.

My first two novels were published in 2005 and 2007.

Based in some part on my own experience being photographed by two fine arts photographers, Jock Sturges and Mona Kuhn, I started my first novel, The Effects of Light, to answer the question most Americans seemed to ask when I explained this photographic work to them—would I still love it if an innocent died because that work had been made? My second novel, Set Me Free, was based in part on the time I spent on the Crow reservation in highschool, the legacy of my countercultural parents, and the complications of their generation of liberal do-gooders. The book was also an homage to my theater school-aged days and based on The Tempest.

Check out more about me and my work at and Twitter: @MirandaBW. Also, check out my web project about girlhood friendship:

(Image and bio via Goodreads)

Book Details:
Publisher: Crown
Published: May 13, 2014
Kindle ed., 402 pages
(Also available in paperback)


I received a copy of Bittersweet via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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