A fragile woman discovers love and lust with her seductive drawing teacher in Gabriel’s (Next to You, 2014, etc.) contemporary romance.
Marie is living apart from her soon-to-be-ex-husband, U.S. Sen. Richard Macintyre. Her best friend, Nishi, gives her drawing lessons for her 30th birthday, and the teacher turns out to be a sexy French artist named Luc Marchand; the lessons take place at Luc’s Colonial-era farmhouse in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Marie’s father, William, a lobbyist and former senator, and Eileen, her fundraiser mother, want Marie to make up with Richard, in spite of his very public relationship with a new lover. Eileen counsels Marie that “Mistresses rarely become wives.” Before Richard left her, she was a dutiful wife and daughter whose life was purposeful and “black and white”—not gray, like it feels to her now. Luc seduces her out of this gray zone and lets her experience color: “Draw blue,” he says. When she doesn’t understand his request, he kisses her and then pushes her away, explaining, “I wanted to turn off your brain, so you could draw.” But was the kiss really just part of a drawing lesson? A subsequent session features a velvet blindfold and Luc urging Marie to touch his naked body. “What does that feel like?” he asks. “Think how that might look on paper.” It’s no shock that they become lovers, but it is a surprise when Richard calls off the divorce. Marie, now in love with Luc, strategizes a way to make Richard reconsider, but neither her plan nor his subsequent actions ring true. Gabriel does depict flirting well, and she paints white-hot sex scenes. Sensual, flawed Luc’s dialogue and internal monologues are also sharp and unpredictable. That said, readers may find it puzzling what a man like Luc would see in milquetoast Marie, even if she is beautiful, with hair that’s a “mélange of red and brown.” Marie also mumbles, slumps, and thinks that “[s]exy French artists were not interested in women like her.” Surely in the 10-plus years that Luc’s been on the market he could have chosen a woman who doesn’t have “more baggage than a 747.”
A provocative, but not picture-perfect, romance novel.