How Jane Rosenthal hooks her readers in the first chapter of Palace of the Blue Butterfly

The story opens with the reader being plunked down into the exotic land of Mexico. Rosenthal engages all the senses with vivid descriptions that pull the reader into the scene as the main character, Lili, takes a taxi ride from the airport to her sister Vivienne’s home in Mexico City. Lili is here because she’s received a cryptic email alerting her of her sister’s disappearance. As she enters the city, you hear intermittent wailing of emergency vehicles and sound of traffic congestion and smell the dust and dry leaves that punctuate the air. Despite the blackout, you see the once grand and now shabby French Chateau where Vivienne lives, along with the distinct cast of characters who reside there along with her.

These supporting characters are each unique and hint of potential mysteries of their own.The business manager who relies on Tarot cards, the aging screen actress who keeps him company, and the loyal family housekeeper, who is the one most visibly upset at her employer’s disappearance. Rosenthal cleverly gives just enough of an introduction to leave you wanting to learn more about the inhabitants of Vivienne’s home and life.

The reader is introduced to both Lili and Vivienne through Lili’s thoughts and begins to see the stark difference not only in their personalities but the way they’ve chosen to live their lives. Vivienne emerges as beautiful, emotional and lacking in boundaries as she charges through life. Whereas Lili has chosen to play it safe, working as a teacher and keeping her world intentionally small. However, despite her aversion to risk, Lili has flown thousands of miles away into a foreign country to try to find her sister. It speaks of a strong bond between sisters and the strength that one finds when the other is in danger.

By the end of the chapter, the reader is hooked. There are so many questions that make you want to keep reading. What has happened to Vivienne? Rosenthal hints that this is not her first disappearance, but could this time be different? Is foul play involved? What is the role of the other characters living in Vivienne’s house? Do they know more than they’re letting on? And finally, how will the outcome of the story change Lili and her play-it-safe approach to life? With so many interesting aspects to the plot, the reader has no choice but to read further to see how the mysteries will be solved.

Guest blogger, Jacqui Keady, is a freelance writer and lifelong, avid reader of mystery and romance novels. She lives in Folsom, California with her husband and two dogs.

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