Title: The Painted Lady
Author: Barbara Metzger
Copyright: 2001 (Signet); 217 pgs.
Genre: Historical Romance
Him: Kennard Wyndgate Cartland — K.C, or Kasey, to a select few. He’s a talented painter. Very few people actually know that Kasey paints. He’s the Duke of Caswell, and dukes don’t paint. To avoid becoming the laughingstock of the Beau Monde, Kasey maintains a private residence in Town. For a man of his rank, that’s not an unusual thing. After all, the Duke of Caswell could hardly entertain his mistresses in the family home where his maiden aunts and younger brother live. But the house serves another purpose. Once Kasey sends his latest paramour home for the night — they never stay — he immediately heads for the attic studio to paint her portrait from memory. If it means he’s up all hours until he’s satisfied with his work, then so be it. Painting is his greatest love, and it’s very possible Kasey would have allowed things to continue on as they were, if it weren’t for the fact that his latest project spoke to him. Literally. The woman in the painting tells him that he has no passion outside his art. That he is heartless libertine, willing to take mistress after mistress without actually ever falling in love. That even the woman he’s considering making his duchess, someday or other, won’t hold his interest past the honeymoon. Kasey thinks he’s gone mad, and eventually leaves London, seeking a cure.
Her: Lilyanne Bannister is a gentleman’s daughter. Had she and her younger sister Lisbet not been orphaned, Lilyanne would have been enjoying many of the pursuits of her class: parties, dances, a London season. Instead, she works for her uncle Sir Osgood Bannister, a physician. Sir Osgood, unfortunately, isn’t the type of physician one goes to when one has a cold or needs a broken bone set. He’s more interested in the mind and believes he can cure mental illness by a strict routine of fresh air, healthy diet, and quiet reflection. There is no excitement, color, or liveliness in the house. She hates it, and stays only because Sir Osgood pays for Lisbet’s education, something her sister will need in order to find a suitable position as a governess or lady’s companion. Once Lisabet’s future is secure, Lilyanne has every intention of seeking employment elsewhere. Marriage, she feels, is no longer an option for her.
What I liked: I liked both Kasey and Lilyanne. Kasey doesn’t have a dark past, nor has he been betrayed by a lover who’s action has set him against all other females. His mistresses have been the muses for his painting. He hasn’t found a woman that was both suitable to be his duchess and accepting of his art. Lilyanne sees his work and believes, duke or not, that Kasey ought to put his paintings on display, even if it’s just in a private areas of his home.
What I didn’t like: The way the talking painting was depicted. Not that I didn’t like the slight fantastical element to the story — I had no problem with suspending my belief. She wasn’t depicted like one of the moving pictures from Harry Potter, which helped. It was the characterization. She sounded too modern and she used a lot of alliteration — “jug-bitten jackanapes”, “mutton-headed Michelangelo”, etc. She used it so much, I thought it was jarring. Fortunately, the scenes aren’t long and there aren’t many.
Final Thoughts: Though this isn’t my favorite Metzger, I still enjoyed the story. It had it’s cute moments and some fun characters. There’s a bit of a mystery, requiring Kasey to deal with a practical Bow Street Runner. I would recommend it to others who enjoy the category historicals and don’t mind a bit of fantasy in them. As they say, your mileage may vary when it comes to the characterization of the painting.
Start: 5 January 2011
Finished: 10 January 2011
“Your Grace, there are dresses in my room.”
“Yes, that’s where they’ll be most convenient. I could have them moved to the butler’s pantry, but I doubt old Henesley will appreciate them.”
— Lilyanne, Kasey