Sunday, 17 January 2016

Book Review: The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen




The Painter's Daughter, by Julie Klassen, is set in regency England, as are all her books as far as I know. 

Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.

The heroine, Sophie, is so relatable, with her insecurity about her looks and her talent, and the mistakes she's made. She is sometimes a little too meek, but I think that's what got her into the mess in the first place. I love that we get to see a glimpse of her hidden passion in the very first scene, as she hurls a portrait of herself off the cliff. 

I love the current trend in inspirational fiction to allow flawed, damaged, or even "soiled" heroines. The Christian historical romances I read as a teenager nearly always featured a chaste and virtuous girl who never once had a passionate thought, and whatever scrape she was in at the beginning of the story was no fault of her own. Real, confusing, heartbreaking passion is refreshing.

Stephen, our dashing and scarred hero, has his own flaws, and his own secrets, and I love him for them. He is a problem-solver. A fixer. And does his best to fix Sophie's problem.

Plot:  I like the way the plot progressed, with Sophie being torn between absent, irresponsible Wesley and present but distant Stephen.  Sophie and Stephen's need to keep up appearances with his family adds even more tension into the mix.  As I read, I was braced for some horrid betrayal, which I thought would be inevitable, and which I hate.  I'm way too empathetic to bear such a thing.  Yet, (SPOILER! sort of) it never came and consequently I loved how Julie Klassen let the story unfold.

When I was halfway through through reading the book, I stayed up way too late reading, then dreamed the rest of the story after I finally went to sleep.  The real ending is much better than what my subconscious came up with,

Now I would love to read a story about Sophie's sweet little sisters and their selfish mother. Perhaps, The Painter's Stepdaughter for your next book, Ms. Klassen?

I was provided with a copy of this book by Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.