Friday, February 5, 2016

The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Painter's Daughter

I so enjoyed this author’s early novels, so I was very glad to read this book for review.

Let’s begin with the summary:

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.

Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?

And now, my review:

This was a multi-layered story. Once again, evidence of Julie’s extensive research manifests in well-written prose and descriptions. I also liked the varied settings—one of which was near the sea. That made for a great escape as I was reading.

I like reading romances where the man and woman are pretty much strangers, but get married early in the story. We get to watch them begin to like and then love each other. This story provided that journey.

I found several fun passages and even some sections where I laughed aloud. That’s part of what makes for an enjoyable read, in my opinion. Though the author tackled some deeper subject matter, this occasional lightness provided a balance.

The story contained subtle romance. That understatement makes for a strong impact, in my opinion, and we had that here. But there were other aspects (also attributable to genre?) that didn’t work for me—telling before showing. These out-of-order moments jarred me from the story, as did the POV missteps.

As a critique, I found some places of missed opportunity. Like the opening. I wondered why the author didn’t build up to the meeting of the hero and heroine by showing the effect that carrying her portrait (without knowing who she was) had had on him during battle. If we’d had that going in, we might have felt the impact of their meeting more keenly. Also, they share a picnic a little later in the story, but because we don’t have a buildup of mutual attraction with anticipation, some aspects came off as a bit… creepy. Later, when we do have this attraction with anticipation, the story heats up while remaining wholesome. These two are married after all.

I despised the villain in this story, which is probably the point. (smile) But I cheered when he began to see his own treachery and allow that to begin to change him.

Overall, I felt the story went on rather long, with some contrived conflict and a few predictable elements. All that said, I haven’t changed my mind about this author. I’ll be watching for her next book.

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