The biggest problem with historical fiction is…the history. I will never understand why an author chooses a particular year or years or time frame for a story but then ignores the history of the time when it comes to the writing. Just saying the book is set in 1913 or 1923 means nothing, if the setting doesn’t match. Or the behavior of the characters, not to mention the clothing they wear.
A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock fails on nearly every level. I was drawn in by the gorgeous cover, but it was all downhill from there. Why write a book about art and artists with no descriptions? Oh, there’s an occasional reference to ‘modern stuff’ or ‘traditional (representational) art’, but even these are superficial in nature.
Anyone who strives to succeed in the arts must have a passion for it. You’d think an author would know that, or why would she want to be an author? A visual artist such as a painter or sculptor is no different, yet this book has no passion in it until the last twenty-five pages.
What we do have is constant introspection as Vera Longacre studies Art History at Vassar College in 1913, although she will never use it, as her only purpose in life is to marry well and be an adornment to her husband. If she’s lucky, he’ll treat her slightly better than he does his expensive watch or automobile, but that’s never to be taken for granted, either.
Vera is a sitting duck for the non-conforming larger-than-life Bea Stillman, who exudes passion without even trying. And of course, it always gets her into trouble, along with her companions. Bea is an excellent artist, which aids her when she forges a letter, purportedly from Vera’s mother, to the College Dean asking to excuse the girls for a weekend visit to Yale. Of course, Vera’s mother finds out, and all hell breaks loose. Vera is immediately pulled out of school, and into the prestigious marriage arranged by her parents to the up-and-coming businessman Arthur Bellington.
Arthur is a rather nebulous character, with hints about his private self, but no declarations are forthcoming. He approves of Vera but cares little for her personal preferences. She needs merely to behave as she should, and all will be well. He may play all he wants, but she may not.
The only full-blooded character in the book is the most detestable–Vera’s mother Lorna Longacre, who places behavior above Godliness or cleanliness, and misbehavior as the deadliest of the seven (or however many) deadly sins.
When the inhabitants of the Angelus on Park Avenue (built and lived in by Arthur) decide to have a mural painted on the walls surrounding their pool, the choice of Emil Hallan sets in motion the butterfly wings that will cause a tempest on the other side of the world. For the first time, Vera is thrown from her usual air of complacency, when faced with the brash and talented young Englishman.
It’s seldom proper for a reviewer to say ‘don’t waste your time on this book’, but that’s my honest opinion of it. The writing is deadly dull throughout, as are the characters.
First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Crown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.