Rating: 4/5 stars for good prose, intelligent plotting and relatibility. I took off 1 point because the clichés used were sometimes trite and you know exactly where this book was going, but hey, that’s the nature of the beast with romance novels.
I forget how good it is to read for pleasure sometimes. Before I delve into the book itself, a couple of words first to describe how I feel after reading a well-written novel: I think it was in elementary school when I argued to a friend why books are awesome: “It’s like being transported into another world!” said I, the embodiment of dorkus maximus, with my glasses, braces, and full-time nerdiness on.
Reading is such a pleasure, and I still think that what I said then is true now: reading takes you to a whole other world where you’re lost imagining the lives of these people and thinking, “wow that is awesome, I wish I could experience that first-hand.” It is escapism, but it also exercises your mind to stretch beyond what is ordinary. Reading imparts and imbues in anyone who reads the book a sense of being other than themselves. And not just to escape but to elevate to a higher understanding than what you would be capable of without the book, because a book forces you to ruminate, and not to ruminate in a bad way (unless it’s a bad book or a depressing book) but rather to do it because you’re shown something other than what you would find by yourself.
It’s something new, but it’s all mental. It’s not like a new dish to try, or new friends to make, or new places to visit. It’s a new place and understanding of yourself.
Anyway, I digressed too much. So, back to the book.
It is a romance novel dressed prettily in colonial America and 18th century prose. It’s both hot and intelligent.
It is about portrait artists who were trying to make their living when Boston, Massachusetts was hot and bothered about the Currency Act in 1751, the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765. Stewart Jameson, the main character, was a master artist who came from London to settle in Boston while barely escaping his creditors. He set up shop and advertised for an apprentice and got Fanny Easton, who dressed herself up as Francis Weston, to become said apprentice. Fanny (short for Frances) had fallen from her prominent family because she cavorted with a tutor who taught her how to paint and had to starve and work in the streets, until she saw the advertisement for the apprenticeship.
It’s a book written for fun, nothing too ambitious in its designs to impart wisdom about the human condition. A book to entertain, to enliven (it was funny!) but also to educate. The way the sentences were strung together is an education in itself! I noticed that I had to read almost everything twice because I can quickly gloss over the sentences but realize that I had no idea what it said until I slowed myself down.
There was a feminist theme to it, which is always nice. The book boils down to a woman who took charge and commandeered her own life at a time when women weren’t able to do so. Or as the book would put it, “Refusing to fall to the fate of the doomed heroines of sentimental novels,…a woman who could plot her own story.”
Also. there is a bit of poetry that I liked (the implication of this excerpt is not as you think it is, if I remember correctly):
Innocence, I will call her.
Innocence: I was not ready to lose you when I did.
Innocence, you are gone from me, never to be regained.
Innocence: there is life beyond you, a brave new world, wide and rich and strange.
I mean to sail until I find it.
Overall, an enjoyable read.