Published by Forever Yours on December 5th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
A lady with secrets, a man with a burning desire, a love that breaks all the rules...
Lady Charlotte Beaumont has spent her whole life being ignored. By her parents, her brother, even the servants. So she was secretly able to develop her talent for painting well beyond the usual watercolors. Too bad no one will let her actually use it—women are rarely accepted into the Royal Academy. But when a connection at the Haverhall School for Young Ladies gets Charlotte her dream commission, she'll do whatever it takes to make it work. Including disguising herself as "Charlie."
Flynn Rutledge has something to prove. His lowly upbringing is not going to stop him from achieving his artistic dreams. This commission is the key to his future, and his partner, an unknown youth in oversized clothes who is barely old enough to shave, doesn't exactly inspire confidence. But Charlie does inspire Flynn's artistic passion—something he worried he might have lost forever. For all his street smarts, nothing can prepare Flynn for the shock of Charlie's true identity. He doesn't care that she's a woman, but a lady of the ton is a different matter altogether.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Lady Charlotte Beaumont has brought her forgery of a Van Dyck painting in order to sell it, and have enough money to be able to pay for lodgings and find a position, far from the family that ignores her. The man she came to see, “King”, sees immediately that the work is fake, but he has a something that will enable her to use her talents: a second painter is needed for a mural commissioned by a church in Coventry. In 1818, a woman would never be allowed to proceed, but a young man would, and so is born Charlie Beaumont, who shall not reveal who he really is. The other painter is Finn Rutledge, whom Charlotte thinks is the most beautiful man she has ever seen…
When I chose to read THE LADY IN RED, there was no blurb available, and as I am not especially fond of women passing as young men, I am not sure if I would have chosen to read it, but then again it is Kelly Bowen, who has not failed me in the past, or should I now say, Kelly Bowen who has never failed me. However, I did have a few minor issues with this novella: I would have liked to have known how an aristocrat came to know King, a shady character, and the ways to dispose of forged art. Also, I wondered how two people without any formal training in oil painting could have possibly achieved such proficiency in this specific medium that they would be chosen for such a lofty enterprise. Charlotte is not conventionally pretty; she is too tall, broad-shouldered, but her transformation into young Charlie seemed to have occurred speedily and rather miraculously, still, I feel THE LADY IN RED, in spite of these shortcomings, merits 5 stars, and here’s why.
Kelly Bowen creates a sumptuous atmosphere, not in gilded riches but in nuances and subtlety. Few authors are able to write with the special touch that allows me to read “in colour”: THE LADY IN RED is all sepia tones and candlelit glow, highlighted with vibrant bursts of colour. The artistic milieu is beautifully recreated; I could see where Charlie and Finn worked, his reticence at having to share his art with a young pup, and eventually accepting Charlie for “his” talent. And this is where Ms. Bowen shines: Finn and Charlie learn to be friends, have heart to heart talks – and let it be noted that their backstories are complete, believable, and fascinating – all this without any idiocy regarding Charlotte’s gender. In fact, the event leading to Finn’s discovery of Charlie being a woman is absolutely brilliant, and contrary to what usually happens with this sort of trope: it is the turning point of the story, and a twofold marvel.
The romance is so very beautiful because it is based on art, mutual respect, honest communication, shared passions, and selflessness. The conversations Finn and Charlie/Charlotte – both sides of Charlotte must be included here as both identities are significant in the exchanges – are meaningful, profound, and moving. Kelly Bowen has again wowed me with her scintillating prose, her superb dialogues, dramatic images, her perceptiveness, and the ease with which she expresses her characters’ feelings and emotions, all this splendour concluding with a perfect epilogue.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.