New York, 1924. Twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. Gifted and determined, Jenny vows to avoid distractions and romantic entanglements and take full advantage of the many wonders to be found at Laurelton Hall. But Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson. As the summer shimmers on, and the competition between the artists grows fierce as they vie for a spot at Tiffany’s New York gallery, a series of suspicious and disturbing occurrences suggest someone knows enough about Jenny’s childhood trauma to expose her. Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.
Jenny Bell lives in constant fear of someone discovering her dark secret. Though she has moved far from her home and those who know of her past, her troubles, Jenny is fearful, living half a life. The only true joy she has are the moments when she paints, the times when she attempts to capture the nature of light on canvas.
Jenny’s days are largely the same, hours spent in class honing her drawing and painting skills, afternoons and early evenings working at the tea house, and nights spent with her roommate and friends at the neighborhood speakeasy. Jenny’s roommate, and best friend, Minx Deering is a New York socialite who always knows where to find the best parties, the best people, and has the money to spare on the festivities. In fact, she has money to spare for Jenny too and does so gladly. To this end, Jenny’s social circle has expanded greatly, her living conditions are posh, and she always has time to paint.
What Jenny doesn’t want is more attention. She is happy to be left alone, left to her own devices, but Minx is a busy body and entirely proud of herself when she announces she (Minx) and Jenny have both been accepted into the Fellows Program at Laurelton Hall, home of Louis Comfort Tiffany. What’s more, Jenny won’t even have to worry about the fees, because she qualified for a scholarship. With both trepidation and excitement, Jenny and Minx embark on the most eventful and disastrous eight weeks of their respective lives.
Laurelton Hall is a revelation for Jenny. The landscape, the house, the stained glass is unlike anything Jenny has ever seen, and Mr. Tiffany is welcoming and kind. In fact, Mr. Tiffany has taken a liking to Jenny and often walks with her discussing art and the endless quest to capture light. Though the environment is wonderfully welcoming, there is also a darkness around Jenny. As the days and weeks go by, events unfold around Jenny that suggest someone knows who she really is, and what her horrifying past entails. What’s more, in the time they’ve been at Laurelton Hall, Minx has changed, in the worst ways possible, and Jenny can’t help but think it may be her best friend all the awful things that have been happening.
In addition to all the drama surrounding her past, there is Jenny’s present. Her present doesn’t just include a series of troubling events, but also an exciting new (or old depending on perspective) change in her art and a romantic entanglement with a man who not only completely understands her but accepts every part of her including her past. Oliver is kind, generous, loving, and empathetic to Jenny’s situation. He wants nothing more than to be with Jenny, and though there are some obstacles, he is determined to clear the path and make a way for them to be together. Unfortunately, before they can achieve their happily ever after, tragedy once again strikes, and Jenny’s worst fear comes true, her past comes to light.
The Bottom Line: This isn’t my first trip into the world of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and just like the last time, I quite enjoyed the trip. In this instance, there is mystery, suspense, and darkness mixed brilliantly into the sparkling world of Tiffany’s stained glass and jewelry. As the plot unfolds, as the troubling events in the present unfold, Jenny’s past is explained and woven into the present. The weaving works well, and once the big bad is revealed, it all makes perfect sense, like a load of puzzle pieces all fitting together perfectly. Though I don’t generally care for great passages of description, the descriptions in this book are just enough to enliven and enrich the read, to really set the scene, while not being overwhelming and obnoxious. In all, this bit of historical fiction is quite good and a wonderful addition to the genre!
Pre-order now for the August 7, 2018 release: