by Gun Brooke
Date: July 20 2015
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Rating: 5.5 out of 5.0
Read: February 1 2016
My first book by this author. Truth be told, I had actually been interested in this specific book for a while now, but two things kept me away. I think, and I could be wrong here, but I think I had briefly tried one of the author’s other books and couldn’t get into it. It was a science fiction book, and if she hasn’t written anything like that, then I’m obviously thinking of someone else. (I looked it up, I am thinking of and indirectly referring to Protector of the Realm, the first book in a science fiction series by this author – mind you, there’s a reason it isn’t on a DNF, or paused shelf – I’d read the sample, not attempted to read the book).
The second reason for my hesitation is something that I would normally not allow to influence me. The cover. The cover with two fake looking 3d avatars. I’m the kind of person, who is sometimes drawn to off-ball covers, but something about 3d avatar covers pushes me away, and so, I was pushed away because of the cover.
One point of view – that of Greer Landon.
Greer Landon - art gallery owner (a network of galleries, not just one), has a big reputation in the art community. Her age, if given, isn’t clear. She’s apparently older than Hayden, though I’m not sure how much older. Several comments, which would lead one to think ‘much older’ could also be ‘much more experienced’ type comments, which can be made regardless of age. She is also wealthy. Whether from her own efforts or family money is unclear.
Hayden Rowe - 25(?) – from an old family with lots of money. Aspergers’ syndrome. Very bad relationship with mother and father who, apparently, have no ability to deal with the facts involving their daughter (more the mother who can’t handle it, and a father who doesn’t help the situation, but still, both). Has good/close relationship with grandmother, though grandmother had a stroke a year ago. Book opens with Hayden living in an art school, in one wing of it, on a cot. Art school owned by her mother. The same mother who treats her daughter like a stupid retarded (I use that specific word on purpose) moron.
Others: India and Erica – India is Greer’s assistant, and Erica is India’s partner. If it isn’t clear, everyone in this sentence is a lesbian.
Hayden’s mother, Leyla Rowe, – bitchy small woman, who is in her late 50s, who wants her art school to be endorsed by Landon. Bitter over losing control of her daughter when daughter was around 14, but sees her as a thing, a broken thing.
Hayden’s grandmother, Isabella Calthorpe Rowe, – sharp witted woman who is currently in a rich-person’s nursing home like place. The Calthorpe part is important – that’s the name of the family from the dawn of time (or something like that).
Penelope Moore – a neighbor of Greer’s who Hayden paints. Famous author.
Hayden and Greer’s romance started slowly. They have something of an instant connect (at least as far as I can tell from only Greer’s point of view; and her insight into Hayden’s feelings). At times I worried that things might lean a little too far into a certain icky territory. It depended on how much Greer saw Hayden as an independent woman with her own thoughts and desires. Instead of, say, the way Leyla Rowe saw her daughter – as someone incapable of caring for themselves, and probably needs to be locked away from the public. There were times when Greer almost tipped into that direction, but she kept on the ‘sane’ side of the line.
Because of Hayden’s ‘condition’, aspergers, Greer wanted to take things slow, to really make sure everyone knew what was happening and agreed with everything. Her attraction to Hayden, though, made things hard for Greer. And, at times, Hayden pressed/pushed Greer on the issue.
Despite, or because of this, their relationship and romance grew somewhat naturally – and was something of a treat to read. Bah, I looked up how to spell aspergers and treat came from me seeing ‘treatment’ out of the corner of my eye. Hehe. I don’t know what “Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong” means.
As I’m sure some want to know, yes there is graphic sex in this book. Eventually. Other than kissing and the like, the ‘heavy’ stuff starts with something like 80% of the book already over. It was descriptive, graphic, and I liked it. I have nothing more to say on the subject.
Most of the book takes place in Boston. I have a strong sense of Leyla Rowe’s art school, particularly Hayden’s wing of it; a strong sense of Greer’s home, an unexpected strong sense of the grandmother Rowe’s place. But if it wasn’t for the fact that the word Boston was used at some point, I would have no idea I was in Boston. Not exactly a negative, just an FYI, don’t read this as something like a travel guide to Boston (for that: look at a travel guide, or if you want fiction, pick up a book by Robert B. Parker, especially one of the Spenser ones that doesn’t mention heading off to some other location).
Some part of the action takes place in Chicago as well. Briefly.
A person with a high level of acclaim in the art community is asked by an art school person to come by her place and potentially ‘endorse’ the school. That person of influence being Greer Landon, and the person with the art school being Leyla Rowe. I do not know Landon’s background, though the area she lives in, and vague hints left here and there indicate that she comes from some form of money and the like. Which I mention, because one of the things I wanted to say, in reaction to the first sentences I had written, involved how Leyla came from the kind of money and family background that is very deep and ancient. And Greer . . .. So having things being flipped like this . . . .
But then I recalled that the ‘old family’ was Leyla’s husband, daughter, and mother-in-law. I don’t actually know Leyla’s background. Plus, everything seemed to indicate that Greer didn’t exactly spring up out of nowhere. Though there are indications that Leyla was something of a ‘social climber’.
So then. Rowe kept very strongly more or less begging Greer Landon and her assistant India, to have Greer stop by. To make her stop, Greer finally agrees. She finds a bitchy short woman who is full of herself once Greer arrived at Rowe’s school. That being Rowe herself. She then is introduced to the ‘advanced class’ being taught by some ‘maestro’ from Italy. Whose name is instantly recognized by Greer. But not in a good way. Greer was one of the people instrumental in getting this fraudster to flee Italy. He isn’t a good painter and isn’t a good teacher.
Before Greer could relay any of this information, she overhears someone basically saying just that. A young woman who is instantly attacked by this ‘maestro’, and by Leyla Rowe. I have to stop just calling Leyla by the name of Rowe, because the young woman also has that name. Hayden Rowe, being Leyla’s daughter, makes her comment then leaves (though after Greer says that Hayden is correct).
Leyla and maestro talk in a corner. Greer looks over the students’ easels and says something about leaving, but they say they have some stuff set up in a gallery, so Greer decides to look at it. She isn’t exactly ‘blown away’ by any of it until she rounds a corner and is. Deeply impacted emotionally by gazing upon a painting hanging on the wall. She demands to know who did that painting. Turns out that it was Hayden’s work.
Somewhere along the way, Hayden’s wing of the school is visited by Greer. She sees more brilliant artwork. Etc. Etc.
For various reasons, Greer agrees to endorse the school but only if Hayden assists, and that ‘maestro’ guy is terminated.
Greer Landon feels protective of Hayden, and as the book progresses, they grow closer.
As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (see, I can have a review where I express something in the beginning, then follow it up in the end). That works for books and people. If you let a label like ‘Aspergers’ syndrome’ get in your way, to guide your actions and reactions to someone, to allow you to use it as a screen to block the real live person beneath then you will miss out on life, love, happiness. You can, of course, put anything in that label section. Race, creed, nationality, gender, socio-economic class, political affiliation, anything. Heh, that reminds me of a particular segment on a British show I loved (the show I loved, not specifically the segment) – ‘I can’t date him! He’s a Tory!’ (not exact quote, I don’t recall exact quote, though ‘but he has a massively large penis’ might be in there as well).
My point about all that, of course, was more directed at myself instead of anything in the book itself (though that mother sure did seem hung up on that ‘condition’ her daughter had). Myself in that the cover kind of threw me and made me question whether I should try this book.
Glad I got passed that, eh? Or had someone pick the book for me to read for a challenge and therefore ‘push’ me into reading it. Because I rather loved the book. And I’m not saying that lightly. This is both the first day of February, and the first time this year that I felt a book was so good that it broke the scale (or, in other words, is one I’d put on my relatively smallish 5.5 shelf).
February 1 2016