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Bryony Paperback – November 29, 2011
About the Author
Denise M. Baran-Unland is a freelance writer, former writing teacher for a homeschool cooperative, charter member of St. John Kronstadt Mission Church and, with husband Ron, co-founder of the former Higher Ark youth ministry. Denise has six homeschooled children, three step-children, six god-children, seven grandchildren (and one on the way), and several cats that behave like children. Visit her at www.bryonyseries.com
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Top Customer Reviews
Her first assignment in school is to research composer John Simons, original owner of the mansion, and his young wife Bryony. Melissa is fascinated with Bryony's life. It seems as beautiful as the climbing bryony flower planted over much of the Simons estate. She awakens one night to see John Simons sitting in her bedroom, and they strike a deal: Melissa can continue to relive Bryony's life during her dreams in exchange for sips of her blood. Like her namesake flower, the life of Bryony begins to take over Melissa's dreams.
The bryony flower is beautiful but poisonous, and Melissa soon sees the darker side of Victorian life. Baran-Unland's character shuttles back in forth through time, contrasting Victorian Michigan with the mid-1970s. The two begin to blend together even during the day for Melissa.
Are the vampire visits and time-travel just dreams? Even Melissa begins to wonder as the evidence grows. She has no fang marks on her body, but is struck by severe anemia. A music box from her grandmother's nursing home may be the same box described in old journals as belonging to Bryony. Her English teacher somehow invades her dreams of vampires and Victorian society.
Mixed in between the family drama and Melissa's growing love for John Simons are some subtle nods to vampires of the past: Barnabas Collins of the _Dark Shadows_ television series, Anne Rice's _The Vampire Lestat_, Bram Stoker's classic novel _Dracula_, Sheridan Le Fanu's _Carmilla_, and the 1922 silent movie _Nosferatu_.
But _Bryony_ is more than a ghost story, more than a vampire novel, and more than a coming-of-age tale: it is a cautionary tale where dreams don't always come true, and sometimes become nightmares.
Though, I typically like my protagonists with a little more bite with their charm, Melissa doesn't take herself too seriously. She's not a girl that I took to right away, and I wanted her to act more like a rebellious 18 year old then like a porcelain doll that submits to any position in which you put her. Though it seems, more people then none like those things these days, I'm looking at you Twilight.
Unlike the delusional "no actual reason why I like you but I'm going to give you five minutes of unbroken eye contact anyway" romance of some other teen vampire stories, Bryony gets delicious as we read about Melissa struggling to make a romantic relationship work with a vampire whose obvious interests are limited only to blood sucking and piano playing. It is true-to-life for John Simmons to have no concern for a girl who has not figured out herself, and that's what makes this a good read. Yearning for romance, but every morning she wakes up anemic and empty handed.
Speaking of imagination, don't expect the author to explain the mysteries. You're a grown up, figure it out. Were Melissa's experiences with John and Henry real, or was she dreaming? Was she anemic because her blood was being drained, or was she typical of many malnourished teens? Were Melissa's fantasies part of her grieving process? How could one of her teachers also be a vampire? You'll swear you've figured it out... until the next chapter. Yet, unlike classic mysteries, you don't feel the author is playing games to deliberately muddy the waters. And skipping to the last page won't help.
The symbolism is rich, satisfying and sometimes frustrating. There are myriad psychological twists and turns that ultimately make the utmost sense. Read the book through once at face value. Then, go back for a second read to seek out the hidden meanings. Each character - even the animals - are something more than they appear to be. They're ordinary, but they're also archetypal. There is much Jungian psychology hidden between the lines that transform a seemingly simple story into something dangerously deep. - Rose Panieri