Fantasy author Hand examines the fine line between inspiration and obsession in her seventh novel, as she traces several artists who fall under the spell of a powerful muse from Victorian-era to present-day London.
In the Victorian era, the lush, red-haired beauty Evienne Upstone became the muse for artist Cobus Candalland she drove the man insane. After Candall's death, he left a series of erotic paintings featuring Evienne to fellow artist Radborne Comstock.
In the late 20th century, Radborne's grandson Val finds the paintings and quickly becomes obsessed with the fiery beauty. His fervor leads to a violent fight with his brother Simon over some sketchings he's made of the paintings. Val hurts Simon so badly that Simon institutionalizes him until adulthood.
When Val is released from the asylum, he visits a friend in London, where he meets an American writer named Daniel Rowlands, who is enthralled by Larkin, a mysterious titian-tressed beauty.
The red-haired entity is the centerpiece of this novela creature not of this world, whose magical ability to disappear at will mystifies Daniel and furthers his obsession.
In this swiftly paced novel the reader must decide whether Evienne and Larkin are the same woman. While the relationships between the characters may be confusing at times, the conclusion is stunning, as the true relationship between Larkin and Val is revealed. (Jul., 320 pp., $24.95)