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March 24, 2024

The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

The Lady with the Dark Hair
 is a book about art and artists.  It's a dual timeline story with plenty of art in both time periods - paintings, pigments, and artists.  It's apparent that the author did significant research into the details of the art world in the late 1800s and art history in general.  It was also interesting to meet and get to know some of the female artists of the time period.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of Christian fiction novel The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels
March 2024; Baker Pub Group; 978-0800745578
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); Christian fiction

Late 1800s - Viviana Torrens has found a job as a maid in the house of an aging artist in the south of France.  She is on the run from the civil war in Spain where she was accused of killing someone.  The aging artist likes the way she looks and uses her as a model for one of his paintings along with Vella,  a merchant who sells pigments to artists all over Europe.  Vella asks her to leave with him and travel throughout Europe but she refuses and stays in the home of the artist where he teaches her about painting.  When her past catches up with her, she leaves with the merchant posing as his sister, and travels throughout Europe getting to know many of the famous artists of the day. As her artistic talent grows, she is still on the run from the authorities and she signs her paintings with a "V" which everyone assumes is for Vella and not for Viviana.

Present Day - Esther and her artist mother are proud that they are descendants of the unappreciated artist Vella and even have a small museum featuring his paintings. When Esther's art history professor, Adam,  comes to view the museum, he questions the identity of the artist, especially the painting of The Lady with the Dark Hair.  Esther and Adam go on a fact-finding trip to Europe to try to find out the history of the painting and who the artist really was.  Was it really Vella or could it have been Viviana who was the artist?

This was an interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed both timelines.  I had great respect for Viviana who was a wonderful artist in a time when female artists were not appreciated.  I also liked Esther and her rabid determination to find out more about the real artist of The Lady with the Dark Hair.

As I was reading the book, I spent a lot of time googling the artists that were mentioned - especially the female artists like Mary Cassett and Berthe Morisot so not only was the book enjoyable but I learned more about art history during this time period.

I'm a real fan of Erin Bartels and have read and enjoyed all of her books.  Add her new book to your list of books that you don't want to miss. Or if you haven't read any of her books -- check out my reviews below.  I highly recommend her!

Other books by Erin Bartels that I've reviewed:

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.

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