Bradford’s latest rags-to-riches heroine is a London fine-art consultant with a dark secret—several of them, in fact.
Annette Remmington is still plagued by nightmares of the childhood sexual abuse she suffered. Rescued by a kindly aunt who paid for her education, Annette had a brief career as a painter before her marriage to dashing gallery impresario Marius Remmington, 20 years her senior. Only Marius knows of Annette’s other dark secret, which gives him leverage to keep her complacent and docile. When inquiries are made about a certain Hilda Crump, Annette fears that if the truth were known, she could land in jail for murder. Now 40, Annette has scored a coup. A new client, Christopher, has inherited a cache of art from his eccentric Uncle Alec, including a Rembrandt, which Annette has just auctioned for several million pounds. There are plenty more canvases lurking at the gloomy old castle formerly owned by Uncle Alec, who, everyone agrees, went a little dotty after his fiancée, clad in her wedding gown, hanged herself in the bedroom. Annette is planning another auction for Christopher, which will include a previously unknown cast of Degas’ sculpture The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, and paintings by other Impressionist masters. However, Annette and her advisors have discovered that several pieces in Uncle Alec’s collection are forgeries. When Marius insists she promote her upcoming auction, she agrees to talk to Jack Chalmers, a reporter Marius has handpicked. Little does Marius suspect that Annette and Jack will immediately recognize each other as soul mates. And little does Annette know that when Marius is in Barcelona supposedly working on a book about Picasso, he’s actually emulating Picasso’s philandering behavior. The plotlines proliferate until we realize that secrets from Jack’s childhood are the key to unlocking the dilemmas keeping him and Annette apart.
Vintage Bradford, with lavish descriptions of the pleasures of palate and palette, victims as virtuous as they are gorgeous, cruel lotharios and a satisfying if somewhat far-fetched resolution.