Stolen art, Nazi collaborators in WWII rural France and a larger-than-life guitar-twanging American named Coyote add up to no more than lukewarm melodrama in British romance novelist Montefiore’s second to appear in the U.S. (after Last Voyage of the Valentina, 2006).
In 1985, Manhattan antiques-dealer Misha is shocked to discover that his beloved dying mother, Anouk, possesses a Titian masterpiece when she tries to donate it to the Met, which cannot authenticate the painting’s rightful owner. When Misha’s stepfather Coyote, who abandoned Misha and Anouk 30 years earlier, shows up, Misha turns the aging homeless man away. Immediately full of questions and regret, Misha then sets out to solve the mystery of the painting and to uncover the truth about his own history. He returns to the village in Bordeaux that he and Anouk left when Misha was seven. Until the war, Anouk had been the nanny at a privately owned winery/estate. After the war, the villagers denounced Anouk as a traitor for marrying Misha’s father, a German officer. Witnessing her brutal humiliation caused Misha to become mute. Anouk continued to work at the estate, now a hotel, until the handsome American Coyote arrived. While Anouk and Coyote fell in love, his affectionate attention gave Misha back his voice. Coyote brought them to New Jersey, where they lived happily until Coyote disappeared. In Bordeaux, Misha learns that, despite appearances, both his mother and father were anti-Nazis and that Coyote had not abandoned Misha and Anouk; he’d been in prison for murder. A mama’s boy who has never connected intimately with any other woman despite numerous gratuitous, uninspired sex scenes, Misha finds true love with Claudine, whom he first loved when he was six and who now leaves her husband to return with Misha to America. The million-dollar painting becomes largely irrelevant.
Who has the patience for a hero this cloying and self-important, or for plot turns this clunky?