Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Book Review: Painting Kisses by Melanie Jacobson
Author: Melanie Jacobson
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Digital Copy
Content Alert: A clean romance
In her former life, Lia was an up-and-coming New York artist who could command high prices for paintings in the best galleries. Married to the scion of a prominent family, she had all the right connections to ensure that her star would just keep rising. In her current life, Lia works as a waitress in a diner and helps her sister care for her niece. Her dating life is non-existent, and she hasn't picked up a paintbrush in years. Then a handsome construction worker starts coming to the diner, and the walls Lia has held in place since she left New York start to crumble.
As far as I'm concerned, no one writes clean, modern romances better than Melanie Jacobson. She has a knack for witty dialogue, and her heroines always have a depth to them that I often find lacking in romances. Both of these things are true about Painting Kisses. This is the first novel of hers that I've read where the characters aren't Mormon characters, which is interesting because I think it's also the first novel I've read that's set in Utah. I know that writing romances that aren't overtly "Mormon Romances" is the trend right now, and after reading romances by LDS authors for most of the last decade, I'm no longer a critic of that (I really do need to write an apology post one of these days about how I dived into reading Mormon lit with almost no understanding of the conventions of genre fiction). but in this case, I think that setting the book in Utah, the issue of whether someone was LDS or not would undoubtedly arise (especially with Aidan, who seems so Mormon). Another quibble-- I'm someone who likes to support local artists and my best friend is a visual artists, so we talk a lot about art. In Painting Kisses, Lia seems very judgmental of the tastes and motives of the people who buy her work, who want something as a decoration on their wall and don't fully understand the motivations behind her art. I wonder if this is an unrealistic expectation of a collector-- as a writer I don't expect the people who read my essays and stories to get everything out of them that I put into them, and while I know that Lia's life history contributes to her skittishness, I wonder if this view of the role of the artist was something that she might have worked through in the development of her character. But the fact that I'm worried about this shows that Painting Kisses made me think a whole heck of a lot, and a book that makes me do that is always a winner in my book.