A search for a stolen painting brings an art appraiser in contact with a dangerous man from her past in Forand’s (Snippets of Suspense, 2015, etc.) latest novel.
Alex Lemoine appears be a Frenchwoman enjoying a thriving career as an art appraiser and a romance with a man named Luc, but appearances are deceiving. In reality, she’s an American named Alex Northrop, and Luc is a sadist who regularly abuses her. (She even hides the fact that she has a mother and sisters from him in order to keep them safe.) When she discovers that he’s planning to murder her, she flees to Oxford, England, where she reinvents herself as a woman named Gabe West. One evening, she seeks refuge in the home of Henry Chilton, a professor of anthropology who helps run the Ripon Women’s Group, which assists battered women and children. He’s also an art lover who’s planning on using a portrait of his ancestor Lady Elizabeth Gillett as collateral for a loan to help fund the group. But when Henry shows her the painting, she informs him that it’s a forgery. She offers to help him locate the original painting, and, with the help of Henry’s half brother, Simon, they begin an international search. As things heat up, she and Henry fall in love—but when Luc re-emerges, Alex must make some difficult choices to protect her family members and the man she loves. The plot is filled with globe-trotting intrigue, stolen art, secret identities, and dangerous villains, and Forand balances the suspenseful mystery with a passionate romance. Alex is an intriguing heroine—a linguistic genius and a master of disguise with an uncanny eye for appraising art. She’s complemented by Henry, a dashing anthropology professor and earl who’s dedicated his life to helping abused women and children. Their romance unfolds in scenes that are both tender and erotic. The supporting characters are also strong, including Simon, whose sexy swagger conceals an unrequited love for “Gabe.” Detailed settings and references to real stolen art, including Henri Matisse’s 1901 painting The Luxembourg Gardens, enhance the story.
A briskly paced romance featuring breathless suspense.