Art & Soul by Claire Huston #BookReview #RBRT #Romance

A heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake.

Art and Soul

There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…

The best romance is one which grows out of friendship, but will Becky Watson ever find common ground with morose, grumpy artist, Charlie Handren?  Becky is returning to her job as a life coach and fixer of crises, after her maternity leave, and as a single mother she needs this major contract to augment her other job as the invisible fairy godmother at weddings, calming family tensions.  Living in the Comptons, a wealthy, upmarket area in the south of England with a strong artistic tradition, it would be a triumph if she could help Charlie to regain his ability to paint after 6 years lamenting his failed marriage. Arranging an exhibition to relaunch his career does not phase Becky, but helping him to woo Rachel Stone, the woman he admires from afar, is more challenging.

The story’s warmth is created by the vivid characters surrounding events. Becky’s 2-year-old son, Dylan, captivates Charlie and her friend, Ronnie, cake creator extraordinary, is a breath of fresh air.  Becky’s ability to convince the “movers and shakers” of the community that the exhibition will be spectacular, demonstrate her understanding of people and her trust in Charlie even though he no longer trusts himself.  The fact that she is secretly paddling away below the surface to keep herself financially afloat is all the more admirable.  An unusual but engaging story to read late into the night.

Art and Soul on Amazon UK

Huston

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. Art and Soul is her first novel.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul at www.clairehuston.co.uk along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.

As well as her website, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads: linktr.ee/clairehuston_author

The Vermeer Deception : An Art Mystery (Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 4) by Jennifer S Alderson #BookReview

An art historian finds – then loses – a portrait by Johannes Vermeer in this thrilling art mystery set in Munich, Heidelberg, and Amsterdam.

Vermeer

Zelda is finding her job as assistant to Art Investigator Vincent de Graaf rather boring, but while Vincent is in Croatia, she finds a clue to a Vermeer painting, stolen by the Nazis during the war. However, she must devote her time to her parents who have finally flown over from the States to visit her in Amsterdam. After a week, the family travel to Munich with Zoe’s boyfriend, Jacob, for more sightseeing. Finding herself in the street where she believes the missing painting might be, she can’t resist calling in. Here she meets Kurt Weber, the son of a wartime looter, now intending to return some of the paintings before he dies of terminal cancer.  But he is part of a network of descendants of the original Mühlmann Network and the other members have no intention of allowing him to betray them.

Zelda is stuck between the increasing anger of her mother and the evil intent of art dealers Max and Brigitte. When Kurt is found dead and there is no sign of the Vermeer painting, neither Vincent nor the police will believe there has been foul play.

The story gives us a guided tour of the Windmills of Zaanse Schans, the city of Munich and the castle in Heidelberg. The story behind the plot is based in truth and we can understand why Zelda is so anxious to solve the mystery. Bravely venturing into danger causes a rift between Zelda and her boyfriend but we are rooting for her success.  I was surprised by events in the final chapter and hope more will be revealed in a subsequent volume of Zelda’s adventures.

The Vermeer Deception is available on Amazon UK

My review of Marked for Revenge the previous Zelda Richardson Mystery

Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller by Jennifer S. Alderson #NewRelease #FridayReads

Marked

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

This is the third of Zelda Richardson’s adventures in the art world. While working on her Master’s thesis she had been an unpaid intern. Now in her first paid job as a museum researcher she is anxious to make her mark, but little does she realise that she will soon be a suspect in a daring multiple art theft. This thrilling tale also allows us to view the situation from the viewpoint of the thieves and observe a bitter feud between Luka, a Croatian gangster and Ivan an embittered ex-collaborator, determined to get revenge for the tragic death of his daughter.

While Zelda’s boyfriend, Jacob, is working in Cologne, she spends her free time in Amsterdam, socialising with colleagues at the Amstel Modern Museum and getting to know her neighbour, Gabriella, a talented artist. Shortly after three sketches by famous artists are stolen from the Amstel Museum, Zelda stumbles into trouble when she inadvertently sees a copy of one of the sketches in Gabriella’s studio.  After Gabriella disappears, Zelda’s admission that she has seen a copied painting puts her under suspicion. Zelda is desperate to find Gabriella and clear her name, so she is relieved when noted art recovery investigator, Vincent de Graaf, takes on the case, allowing Zelda to assist him.

This series of daring art thefts are especially intriguing because at each location a card is left by “Robber Hood,” criticising the gallery for lack of fool proof security.  I took great pleasure in the delightful chapter titles, such as, “Balkan Bandits Strike Again”  and “The Audacity of Art Thieves,”  The authors descriptions of action and adventure in Venice and Marmaris bring each site vividly to life and made me keep turning the pages long after I should have turned off the light.

For an illustrated account by Jennifer S Alderson of the locations in her book look here

My review of Zelda’s first escapade in the art world The Lover’s Portrait

Marked for Revenge on Amazon UK

#AtoZChallenge : D is for Dylan (from “Framed”)

My hero today is Dylan Hughes from Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

Framed

Dylan is the only boy in the small Welsh village of Manod in Snowdonia.  Along with his sisters he helps out at his family’s petrol station where he keeps a careful log of each car, the drivers and what they purchase.  Soon he notices strange goings on in the disused mine.  We get to know Dylan through his daily accounts to us, which are humorous and touching.

As the fortunes of the town and his family business decline, an opportunity arises. Important people arrive bringing famous paintings from the National Gallery to be stored secretly within the mine.  Dylan’s keen interest in the works of art make him popular with the gallery agents who are in charge of the paintings. but little do they realise that this sweet boy has criminal intent.  Calling his chickens Donatello and Michelangelo is not because he is aware of the famous artists but because he is an aficionado of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Yes this book is slightly dated!)  Dylan is a real boy whom you would like as your friend, brother or son.

Hee are the paintings included in Framed https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/english-and-drama/framed/framed

 

Connectedness by Sandra Danby #BookReview

Connectedness by Sandra Danby (002)

Justine Tree is a successful artist, about to be accepted into the Royal Academy.  But we meet her in her childhood home on the East Yorkshire coast, remembering her childhood, as she clears her mother’s home after her funeral. She remembers the encouragement of her parents and her early interest in the life of Picasso.  But she also realises that she is acting a part, concealing secrets from her past.

Justine’s home in London is shared with Darya, a much older woman who understands her art and has been a substitute mother for 27 years.  As Darya sinks into dementia, Justine decides to make more effort to find the baby she gave up all those years ago, a secret which fuels the pain in her art.  She seeks help from journalist, Rose Haldane, who has previously investigated her own adoption.  As we follow the story we also discover cracks in Rose’s “happy” life.

The story moves back to the early 1980s when Justine was a penniless student in Picasso’s birthplace of Malaga.  Bullied by her tutor, and struggling with the language, she meets Frederico, an architecture student who teaches her to embrace Spanish food, language and the way of life.  The sensual description of the succulent Spanish food shared with Frederico, defines their building passion and is vividly remembered by Justine.

There are many layers in this sensitive story.  The nurturing Justine received from her mother is only appreciated in retrospect,

“In the last year, Darya had aged like a film on fast forward.

I wasn’t there for Mum. I will not abandon Darya.”

Will Justine’s daughter forgive her?  Will they be reconciled and what of Frederico, the love of her life?

This is the second book of the “Identity Detective” series, all centred on Rose Haldane who wishes to reunite those who lost members of their family due to adoption.  I have not yet read the first book but will be seeking it out soon.  Sandra Danby is a thought provoking author whose sense of place enhances a fascinating mystery.

Connectedness is on sale at Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

The Identity Detective Series

Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through
adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.           Sandra Danby

Rituals of the Dead: An Artifact Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson #NewRelease

Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 3

Rituals

Zelda Richardson is an adventurous heroine who loves to solve mysteries.  She needs to succeed in her placement as an intern at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam but the work involves Asmat Bis poles from Papua New Guinea, totems made for the spirits of the dead, whose evil looking faces seem to be leading her into danger.

 

Seven crates have been discovered unopened for 50 years in the archive depot of Rotterdam’s Wereldmuseum.  As Zelda and the more important staff from the museums observe, the crates are unpacked, revealing not just Bis poles, but also human remains of the head-hunting Asmat culture of what was then Dutch New Guinea.  But the most intriguing discovery is the leather-bound journal of Nicholas Mayfield, a wealthy American anthropologist who went missing in 1962.

 

Interspersed with Zelda’s transcription of the journal and her investigations, are passages from 1962, where we discover the frustrations and difficulties Nicholas had experienced while trading in Dutch New Guinea, hindered rather than helped by experienced Dutch anthropologist, Albert Schenk.  Albert is now Director of the Wereldmuseum and he seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant, arrogant individual.

 

Soon, Zelda is alarmed when two people close to her are murdered.  She continues with her task of transcribing the journal and researching the background of the Bis poles for an imminent exhibition, but she keeps information close to her chest and, at times, is unwise in those she chooses to trust.

 

This exciting story is also an education about a culture of which I knew very little.  The actions of colonial powers, the church and collectors of artifacts is called into questions but there is also our moral dilemma of whether to exhibit treasures from the past or return them to their source.  But don’t let this put you off; you will be on the edge of your seat wondering if Zelda will take one risk too many as well as wishing to discover what actually happened to Nicholas Mayfield.  A thoroughly good read.

An amazing picture of a Bis pole

Rituals of the Dead on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My review of Zelda’s first adventure Down and Out in Kathmandu

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog

Lover's Portrait

American Art History student Zelda Richardson loves her life in Amsterdam, but entrance into the Master’s course in Museum Studies depends on her performance as an intern at the Amsterdam Historical Museum. She is asked to work on an online project to restore 1500 paintings stolen by the Nazis during World War Two to their rightful owners or descendants but she is not welcomed onto the project by the stiff, unfriendly Huub Konijn, senior curator at the Jewish Historical Museum, who designed the website.

But not content with her editing role, Zelda uses her previous web design experience to brighten up the front page, with her own choice of paintings, in an animation. Despite Huub’s criticism, one of these paintings, Irises, triggers a claimant almost instantly. Rita Brouwer, a large, jolly American woman claims it was painted for her elderly sister, but as Zelda begins to warm to this lady, another claimant turns up. Karen O’Neil is an unpleasant socialite, accompanied by her German lawyer, Konrad Heider. She has paperwork listing the painting in the Gallery of her grandfather, Arjan van Heemsvliet.

In parallel with events in 2015, we read about how many valuable paintings belonging to Dutch Jews were hidden in 1942 by Arjan and his friend, picture framer, Philip Verbeet who was Rita’s father. But both men disappeared and the location of the paintings is still unknown. We know more than Zelda about whom she should trust but part of the mystery is concealed until the end and Zelda’s impetuous, proactive investigation leads her into danger and thrilling action.

The novel gives a detailed account of the large quantity of art that was stolen and how rightful ownership is carefully researched, which of necessity slows down the first part of the story, but there is also a compelling mystery which makes the rest of book a real page turner. Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.

I have since discovered that this is the second book about Zelda, so I am now looking forward to reading Down and Out in Kathmandu: A Backpacker Mystery, Book one in the series.

The Lover’s Portrait can be purchased at Amazon UK or Amazon US

Rosie's Book Review team 1

#AtoZChallenge Letter Z

ivy-capital-letter-zis for Zuleika Dobson

 

Zuleika

I read Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm about 40 years ago.  It is an ironic satire on the life of undergraduates at Oxford University in 1911.  Into their lives comes the stunningly beautiful Zuleika.  All the young men fall in love with this femme fatale, but she resists all their charms, even when she falls in love herself.  At the end of the book after the young men have proved they were prepared to die for her, Zuleika sets out for Cambridge, where perhaps the students might have been less melodramatic.  This was Beerbohm’s only novel but it was very successful and established him as a wit whom George Bernard Shaw called,  “the Incomparable Max.”  Max was also admired for his caricatures of famous figures.  Here he shows the pre-Raphaelites William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in their rooms in Red Lion Square.

Morris21042016

One last chance to view the choices of the other  AtoZChallngers

#AtoZChallenge Letter X

For this letter I have to cheat by using EX

One person you can count on to be depressing is Thomas Hardy.  Here is one of his later poems.

EXPECTATION and EXPERIENCE

“I had a holiday once,” said the woman-

Her name I did not know-

“And I thought that where I’d like to go,

Of all the places for being jolly,

And getting rid of melancholy, Would be to a good big fair;

And I went.  And it rained in torrents, drenching

Every horse, and sheep, and yeoman,

And my shoulders, face and hair;

And I found that I was the single woman,

In the field- and looked quite odd there!

Everything was spirit-quenching:

I crept and stood in the lew of a wall

To think, and could not tell at all

What on earth made me plod there!”

Thomas Hardy

Vincent_Willem_van_Gogh,_Dutch_-_Rain_-_Google_Art_Project

Rain by Vincent Van Gogh

#AtoZChallenge Letter W

W  is for Waterhouse

John William Waterhouse was an artist who painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style, many years after the original  Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood had ceased to exist.  Today I am going to concentrate on his portrayal of The Lady of Shalott.

half-sick_of_shadows,

I Am Half Sick of Shadows

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote the ballad set at the time of King Arthur, based on the medieval story of Elaine of Astolat.

Unable to look directly on Camelot because of a curse, she must content herself with the reflection in a mirror.

Looking_at_Lancelot

The Lady of Shalott Looking at Lancelot

 

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
       As he rode down from Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
‘Tirra lirra, tirra lirra:’
       Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom
She made three paces thro’ the room
She saw the water-flower bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
       She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried
       The Lady of Shalott.
John_William_Waterhouse_The_Lady_of_Shalott
By the water stood the queenly
       Lady of Shalott.
With a steady stony glance—
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Beholding all his own mischance,
Mute, with a glassy countenance—
       She look’d down to Camelot.
It was the closing of the day:
She loos’d the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
       The Lady of Shalott.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson