The Painter's Daughter
by Julie Klassen (Goodreads Author)Sophie Dupont, daughter of a portrait painter, assists her father in his studio, keeping her own artwork out of sight. She often walks the cliffside path along the north Devon coast, popular with artists and poets. It's where she met the handsome Wesley Overtree, the first man to tell her she's beautiful.
Captain Stephen Overtree is accustomed to taking on his brother's neglected duties. Home on leave, he's sent to find Wesley. Knowing his brother rented a cottage from a fellow painter, he travels to Devonshire and meets Miss Dupont, the painter's daughter. He's startled to recognize her from a miniature portrait he carries with him--one of Wesley's discarded works. But his happiness plummets when he realizes Wesley has left her with child and sailed away to Italy in search of a new muse.
Wanting to do something worthwhile with his life, Stephen proposes to Sophie. He does not offer love, or even a future together, but he can save her from scandal. If he dies in battle, as he believes he will, she'll be a respectable widow with the protection of his family.
Desperate for a way to escape her predicament, Sophie agrees to marry a stranger and travel to his family's estate. But at Overtree Hall, her problems are just beginning. Will she regret marrying Captain Overtree when a repentant Wesley returns? Or will she find herself torn between the father of her child and her growing affection for the husband she barely knows?
My Review: 7/10
Generally, with historical romance, you know the ending before you begin, so I like marriage of convenience stories because we’ve officially gotten that out of the way; the author doesn’t have to waste time trying to build suspense that, let’s face it, I almost never buy into. I also like the fact that the story doesn’t revolve around a courtship, but rather, challenges within a marriage, all the while dealing with getting to know each other, which if you have a healthy marriage, shouldn’t ever really stop, in my humble opinion.
If you don’t mind the clichés (i.e. cads who try to force themselves on innocent women and the knights in shining armor who come to their rescue, etc. Really, I have to wonder if this was as prevalent as it seems, based on how often it’s a plot line in these books), and fake marriage-of-convenience plot lines (see below), it’s not bad. I know many of us don’t read these books for the unique story, but for the warm and fuzzy feeling, and if that’s you, you will enjoy this book.
As for me, I did enjoy it; it didn’t promise to be more than it was. I just read so many of these kind of stories that are so similar and I am impacted by missed opportunities as much as what I’m reading. I was a little frustrated that Wesley’s behavior didn’t sicken Sophie more, especially after receiving the first letter about Stephen. That should have been enough to disillusion her about him, if nothing else did the trick. I was disappointed in her there. I really liked Stephen’s character and the way he spoke his mind. Often, I felt like Sophie didn't deserve him or even appreciate him. The details about painting and some of the characters’ side stories were a little too involved for me and broke up the flow, so that I found myself skimming here and there.
I felt like the opportunity for unique struggles and elements are kind of lost if it’s immediately proclaimed a “marriage in name only.” I’m not saying I want details, but let’s be real. If you had a marriage of convenience at that time, I feel pretty confident in asserting that it would almost never be in name only. I would like to read about the challenges that women at that time faced- the emotional aspect and how the relationship developed as a result. I think this can be done tastefully, yet it’s so rarely attempted. Instead we get a regular courtship of the time with a bit of modern challenge- they live in the same house. It’s a little worn. It’s like the authors think that sex within marriage shouldn’t be in a Christian book, or that it is the ultimate culmination of the relationship, so either way, it doesn’t happen until the end. Every woman knows that’s just one aspect of a great relationship.
Given that I spend so much time hovering in Christian historical fiction, I have to say that I’m tired of reading about love stories that revolve around modern (and faulty, I believe) ideas of love and marriage, such as marrying only for love and that love/your feelings are something you have no control over. Those ideas are just not Biblical. Take me back to a time when people married for any number of reasons and relied on God to grow love and friendship there. When marriages lasted because people had to work through things rather than chase their own elusive happiness.
Fans of this author and genre will happily gobble this up. And I will keep hoping that an author will read my review and accept my challenge: give me a character who enters into a realistic relationship from that time period. None of this “in name only” nonsense. Let me see how she struggles with giving herself to her husband while having not fully given her heart. How does that work? How does she deal with the limitations and expectations of women’s roles back then? And how does love come into play? What is the dynamic of having children with someone she maybe respects but isn’t sure she loves yet. Does that change things? I’d imagine so. When does she grow to love him? Why ? How? That’s the story I want to read.