The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter: Review

Genius and the Muse

Synopsis from Goodreads: When Kate Mitchell decided to research the mysterious portrait in the student gallery, she had no idea how her life would change. She thought she knew what she wanted. She had a great boyfriend, a promising career, and a clear path.
How could one simple portrait change all that?
A photograph. A sculpture. A painting. One clue leads to another, and Kate learns that pieces of the past might leave unexpected marks on her own future, too.
And how, exactly, did she end up in an irritable sculptor’s studio?
One portrait may hold the answers, but learning its secrets will challenge everything Kate thought she knew about love, art, and life. A single picture can tell more than one story, and in the end, a young artist will discover that every real love story is a unique work of art.
The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary romance novel for adult readers.

Source: Author for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Me Review: Elizabeth Hunter’s The Genius and the Muse is a contemporary adult romance
set in the art communities of both California and New York. This novel is what I like to think of as a “just one more chapter” book. In case you aren’t familiar with this type of novel, allow me to explain. It’s the book you’re still reading at two a.m. when you know you should be sound asleep, but just want to read one more chapter. Before you know it, the sun is up, the book is finished, and you just can’t bring yourself to feel bad about that.

Genius’s plot revolves around photography graduate student Kate Mitchell. Kate has spent her academic career studying the fine art of photography and has focused all of her attention (and thesis, yikes) on the work of the immensely talented, world-renowned, and ultra-reclusive photographer Reed O’Connor. Kate intimately knows everything there is to know about O’Connor’s work. That is, until the day she comes across a photograph that is absolutely uncharacteristic of everything O’Connor has ever produced. Like a dog with a bone, Kate can’t let it go.

The bulk of the novel moves back and forth between the present and the past, following Kate as she tracks down O’Connor’s friends and colleagues in an effort to understand the mystery
behind the unusual photograph. What Kate discovers takes the reader and most of the novel’s characters on an emotional ride through the past and into the private life of one of the world’s most famous and misunderstood artists. Hunter has successfully overcome the sort of disjointed feel that novels of this type often have. In fact, Hunter has created a present and a past that are truly two inseparable parts of a whole; the time periods come together in
beautifully cohesive way.

The journey to understanding O’Connor is made even more fascinating by the people in his
circle, and how each and every one was effected by Reed’s life and significant drama. Through her research Kate meets and introduces the reader to O’Connor’s inner circle, a group that is still surprisingly close-knit. These superbly-developed characters are so perfectly written that each and every one has a balance to their own personality found in another character. Hunter
cleverly only allows each character to divulge so many pieces of the puzzle before pointing Kate toward another member of the group. In truth, the characters and the story they tell will completely engross the reader. Each character is so intriguing in his or her own way that they become as important to the overall plot as Kate and O’Connor are. Again, two halves of a wonderfully cohesive whole.

The bottom line: if you’re not reading Elizabeth Hunter’s novels, you should be! Her plots and characters are fully developed and well-researched. The artspeak and technical parts of
this book are a fine balance between informative and interesting yet not so technical as to turn off the casual reader. (Susan Vreeland, anyone?) Hunter’s writing style is so smooth, and her plots (this one included) just carry the reader through from beginning to end.

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