When the secrets behind an intriguing nude portrait trickle out into the open, a photographer and her artist lover must grapple with the fallout in Sisu’s masterful debut.
Photographer Gwen Mason has just opened up her own studio in Miami and hopes to find her niche in the trendy city. Though she lives with her divorcee mother and doesn’t think she’s interested in a relationship, meeting upcoming artist Adam Straker changes all that. Adam’s paintings are causing quite a stir in the art world, and Gwen knows she’s found something special. He might be 20 years her senior, but that doesn’t stop the couple from embarking on a passionate affair. Yet one of Adam’s paintings arouses Gwen’s curiosity like no other; it’s a striking portrait of a nude woman, one Adam keeps hidden and pointedly refuses to discuss. When Adam has the chance to land a spot in a prestigious New York City gallery, Gwen believes the painting will secure his place, and she shows “The Nude” to Adam’s manager without Adam’s knowledge. Though the painting clinches the New York deal, it starts an explosive chain reaction for Adam and Gwen. In the coming weeks, decades-old secrets of destroyed lives and loves, of tragedy and revenge, of greed and madness, are revealed at a cost no one could have foreseen. Sisu nicely ramps up the suspense with her excellent pacing, while her vibrant depiction of the art world breathes energy and authenticity into the narrative. Gwen and Adam’s stormy relationship rings true, though delving into Adam’s point of view earlier would have delivered a more well-balanced story. Gwen’s feistiness and sometimes bad choices make her sympathetic and fully human, and readers will root for her to discover her past and keep her man. But it is Sisu’s analysis of the creative process that forms the heart of this novel; she explores the artistic mentality in all its bizarre and often-misunderstood facets and digs deep into the dark underbelly of creative genius and its unintended consequences.
An enthralling first novel.