I read Entwined a few years back and loved it. It strikes the perfect tonal balance between sweet, wholesome fairy tale and Gothic supernatural mystery.
The story follows twelve sisters — princesses — who have a close relationship with their mother, but a strained relationship with their father. When their mother passes away from illness, their father imposes a traditional one-year mourning period on the castle, with no dancing allowed. Dancing is the princesses’ favorite thing. So, naturally, when they discover a passage within their castle to a mysterious realm run by a mysterious man, where they can dance to their hearts’ content, it becomes their haven. But the realm and its Keeper aren’t the blessing the princesses think they are.
The story is particularly about Azalea, the eldest sister, a strong-willed young woman who chafes against her role as future queen, but has a strong sense of duty and a fierce protectiveness toward her family. There is a palpable bond between the twelve sisters, especially between Azalea, Bramble, and Clover — the three eldest who must look after their younger siblings. What is most poignant is Azalea’s struggle to be a good leader for her younger sisters and to emotionally reconnect with her distant father while balancing her grief for her recently-deceased mother. Azalea is mature, but relatably flawed with her hot temper and her confusion over her complex web of desires: the forbidden dancing, her attraction-repulsion to the charming Keeper, and her growing affection for kind-hearted Lord Bradford. The dynamic between Azalea and the Keeper is riveting — there is a sensuality to it, and they always seem to be subtly challenging one another. Her friendship and blossoming romance with Bradford is sweet and adorable. He has her back and he’s very brave. So is she — and she proves it.
This book is so magical and cinematic and heart-warming and I could keep gushing. I’m looking forward to re-reading this someday.