The Empress of Tempera: Alex Dolan
Have you ever looked at a picture or a painting and become so entranced that you can barely take your eyes off of it? The colors, the paints, the design are so vividly created and drawn that you become hypnotized and find yourself drawn to the picture and unable to turn your eyes away. Within this novel we meet Paire who is living two lives one that she escaped and another hoping to start over again with a new name and identity. Facing the window of the Fern Gallery Paire Anjou witnesses something that will remain vividly inscribed in her mind. An older man stabs himself in the heart while focusing on a painting by the artist Qi. The picture of this Chinese Empress is so captivating that Paire a young art student standing so close to what happens to the man is covered in blood. As the scene unfolds even further and the owner of the gallery is called and the banker that is funding the showing of this painting and that of Derek her boyfriend, we enter a world that many of us are unfamiliar that are the art world, the importance of a specific piece and the understanding that this painting by Qi has caused not only those that would like to own it but the media and papers into a frenzy. The reaction to the painting is volatile as some feel a personal connection to it while others fear what it might mean. Some write letters and some try to steal it while someone throws a rock through the gallery’s window and the daughter of this artist comes forward. As Paire is chosen to meet with Melinda, the artist’s daughter to discuss selling it to the banker who is funding the shows, what happens when she enters her world, sees her work changes it all but the answer to the buyer is no. The relationship between Derek and Paire is quite unique as she unravels at dinner over lobster and does not want to explain her phobia to them. She wants his attention, seeks it in many ways yet fears telling the truth or hidden truth about her parents and who she really is although the author intersperses the use of her real name which at times startles her not wanting to remember her past. Criminal parents who were thieves and a dare by Derek to join in a mission to see if she has the guts to steal something. Sometimes dares can get you in more trouble as the author shares what happens and the end result. Paire decides that she wants the painting but there are family members that want it goo and the feud is rising and the bodies are too. One of the wealthiest families on one side and the artist on the other whose daughter really does not want the painting but has to decide its fate. Forty years is a long time for a feud. Paire is captivated with the painting and meeting and getting to know Melinda she realizes that the painting has an effect on so many others and she wishes her work did the same. As Russia had its own Cold War the two families involved had one more deadly and dangerous. The magic of color and painting and the lure of Qi’s work that stirs up so many even more powerful than some of the great masters. Telling Melinda about her parents and then the author weaves the tale back in time where we meet Cissy her mother and learn about Lake her father as he is released from prison and the story takes on a different turn as we learn more about her past her first encounter with her father and the reasons why Katie Novis became someone else.
The lure of wanting to get to know the painting and finding herself drawn into Melinda and her world was all new to Paire as their meeting and final minutes together revealed much about each one’s past, their tie to the painting and what Melinda did to try and recreate herself as her father and what Paire was doing in order to get to see the Empress through her eyes. Paire is facing a serious issue when dealing with this painting. Derek or Rosemond is testing her abilities to make decisions that would definitely go or should go against her grain and her moral values. What he tempts her with and what he suggests they do would cause her to take risks as she has done with his band of thieves or tribe as she relates it and take another step toward gaining the painting but at what cost? What will happen or would happen if the painting disappears and the gallery own realizes that she might have taken part in some way? Even if she does directly take it does she want to follow in her mother’s path and be like both of her parents or will she decide to take another road as Kasson wants the painting too but Melinda turned him down. A painting so haunting, hypnotic that people would react in strange ways almost as if the painting had some type of drug that caused viewers to see it in a different way.
Things spiral out of control when secrets, lies and betrayals are brought into the spotlight and Gabriel Kasson faces off with both Melinda and Paire talking about the past, her father and what he claims he did for him to give him his freedom. But, what happens next will surprise readers and although Abel went after Paire in her own apartment and the painting is no longer in the museum just where does it wind up, what is the fate of the Empress and why are so many so tied to it once they see it? The ending will shock readers and the final fate you will have to learn for yourself. When Paire and Melinda learn the secrets of both of their families and someone is out to make sure that the painting never sees the light of day what they do will not only will make you wonder just how far someone will go to hide the truth, bury memories, remember the past and find a resting place for an Empress. What happened to all of Qi’s work? What role did the Chinese government play? Why did they cover-up some of the events? Paire Anjou/Katie Novis: Just who is she really and who will she become? In the art world everyone sees it differently and everyone has his or her own take on a piece. The Empress of Tempera: Alex Dolan takes us inside the world of artists, forgeries, to try and understand why so many were taken with one painting, would stab themselves in front of a window and why two people lost their lives, others could not remain standing looking at this painting and why some would risk it all in order to have what some would rather destroy.
This is a book filled with information about art, art history, painting, family secrets, lies, friendships, dares, hopes for the future and an author who has managed to create a plot that incorporated it all. Who knows what’s next for Paire? Can you ever hide from your past? As Paire looks at herself in the mirror do you wonder who she sees?
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine