The plot also reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre (which gets a lot of tags for a fairy tale blog...) the employment in Anluan's house, the similarities between Anluan and Mr. Rochester, Caitrin's independence, and the scene in which she sees him in the mirror and speaks to him and imagines that he hears her is like when Mr. Rochester calls to Jane from miles away and she hears and replies. At times the action and character of Caitrin also reminded me of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword, an all-time favorite of mine.
In general I tend to be very critical of modern writers. It seems that we have mastered the exciting, page-turning plots, but lost some of the mastery of language and depth of realistic characters of older novels. They tend to be more like vicarious wish fulfillment than powerful, moving stories. So, with that said, I wasn't thrilled with the writing style and characterization, although I've read much worse. But there were good messages, and the plot was a clever nod to the fairy tale while being fresh, dark and interesting-I literally couldn't put the book down.
Heart's blood, the flower in the book, is fictitious, but there is a flower called Dicentra, which is also called Bleeding heart. The reason is pretty obvious:
EDIT: Marillier contributed to Seven Miles of Steel Thistles and talked of her love of Beauty and the Beast, the tale's history, and her process in transforming the traditional tale into this novel