Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin StarlingYellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling is an audiobook that is sure to delight any lover of gothic horror.

Evelyn Perdanu is watching the city of Delphinium die around her. War and plague have ravaged the area and it is by sheer force of will that she seems to be maintaining her shipping empire.

Evelyn rather likes her solitary life and relies on Violetta, her live in assistant, for company and aid in not only her business but also her poisonous creations. She has a passion for creating poisons, especially ones that aid women in ridding themselves of circumstances beyond their control, like being wed to men who are less than kind or carrying a child they cannot afford.

Being the lone woman in the boys club of shipping magnates means that she has a certain amount of clout in the city but she is also an outsider. This is amplified by the fact that she is unmarried and lives alone on her estate, save for her servants. Having lost her father and brothers in the last few years, though, allows her hide behind a veil and mourning clothing.

When one of Evelyn’s ships comes back to port with an unknown illness that infects some of her men. Then she finds an unconscious man at the side of the road leading to her estate. And when some of the people she knows begin behaving strangely and following her then she fears that these occurrences are linked in a twisted plague that seems to centre around her.

This dark tale is quite a ride and you won’t see what’s coming next as the twists and turns leave you shellshocked.

The Characters

Evelyn and Violetta are not a couple, but there is a strong subtext of love between them. I love how the women work together and how the book is written from Evelyn’s point of view and yet it’s clear that Violetta cares for her deeply.

The Writing Style

The atmosphere in this book is like a dark fog, thick and cloying as you delve deeper into the dark story. I LOVED IT.

Caitlin Starling writes exceptionally well. Her use of language added depth to the story that mere mortals like myself can just sit back and marvel at.

The Narration

Heather Wilds took a little getting used to at first. Her accent and narration work is fine but she has a rather unusual uptick at the end of her lines as if everything is a question. I enjoyed the audiobook but it did take some getting used to and I found I couldn’t switch back and forth between this one and another one or it would throw me off.

Starling jumped back and forth between dialogue and thoughts and Wilds made it clear what was thoughts and what was spoken words. If she hadn’t then the audiobook would have been a mess.

My Favourite Parts

This book is unique and a dark and twisty ride. If you want to keep me entertained then make me unsure of what’s going to happen next and Starling did exactly that.

I also really like the illustration that heads up each chapter number in the ebook. It’s a small touch, but the kind of thing I appreciate.

Heads Up

This is not a romance. This is not technically even a lesbian book (although, come on, Violetta and Evelyn were totally in love with one another). Having said that it’s definitely not a straight book. There was a man who wanted to court Evelyn and she was not even vaguely interested.

The Conclusion

This is a fab addition to my ever growing collection of horror. While not bloody, gory or gross, it is atmospheric and deliciously dark. Absolutely get it if you want something that’s not typical in the lesfic sector.

In terms of the audiobook, listen to the audiobook sample. The uptick that took me a while to get used to is clear in the sample, other than that I enjoyed the narration and found that the tone and accent added to the oppressive feeling of the book.

Excerpt from Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling

Violetta leaned forward and peered through the window in the door. “I can’t see him, my lady. Should I—?” She hesitated, no doubt because the heavy layers of fabric she wore were still soaked through where Evelyn’s umbrella had not protected her. The hair on the drenched side of her head was threatening to come down from its pins, drying slowly against her cheek.

Evelyn arched a brow. Violetta huffed a resigned laugh, then opened the door out into the squall. She stepped out, then looked back. Evelyn held up a hand: leave the door open.

Violetta nodded, then struck out along the road, disappearing into the darkness. She had left the lantern with Evelyn, who moved it to the far side of the carriage and lowered its shade, allowing her eyes to adjust to the darkness outside. She could see Violetta moving, pale and reflective against the black. She watched her pick her way along the road, and then off of it, steps turning sucking and heavy. And then she knelt.

Something was there, at the side of the road.

The rain refused to gentle as Violetta stood back up, turning towards the carriage. Whatever it was, if it had once lived, it was surely drowned now. Evelyn eased herself back into her seat and turned the lantern back to full glare as Violetta regained the road and came to the door.

“It’s a man,” Violetta said. “He’s still breathing.”

Not drowned at all. “A drunk?”

“No, my lady. We think he’s injured.”

“And what does he think?”

“He’s unconscious. Breathing, but not well.”

Of course.

The options that lay before her were all unappetizing. To leave him would invite the disgust of her servants, and it had taken her years to find Violetta and even a driver who did not mind going into and out of the city in such rains, in such darkness. To take him back down to the closest hospital would add another hour to their journey, and the weather would only worsen.

And she did not want a convalescing house guest.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781952086038
  • Publisher: Neon Hemlock Press
  • Audiobook Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • Narrator: Heather Wilds
  • Caitlin Starling Online 

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Note: I received a free review copy of Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

About the author

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Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born