Fans of historical fiction will relish this opulent, original novel from award-winning author Hand. The narrative opens in England in the 1870s, with a fateful meeting between American painter Radborne Comstock and the beautiful Evienne Upstone. Evienne has served as model and muse for a number of artists, including one, Jacobus Candell, whom she drove insane. Her connection to Radborne, as it turns out, proves equally fatal. Decades later, when Valentine, Radborne's grandson, sees the erotically charged paintings his forebear executed while under Evienne's sway, he, too, goes mad. Hand skillfully spins another, similar subplot about a contemporary American writer named Daniel Rowlands, who while researching the myth of Tristan and Iseult meets Larkin Meade. Daniel soon develops an obsession for the whimsical Larkin that leaves him emotionally unhinged. Over the course of the novel, the author cleverly builds connections between Larkin and Evienne, and across the centuries they both come to embody the same aesthetic principle, that of the elusive, inspirational muse, a symbol of both creation and destruction. A timeless tale about the nature of obsession, Hand's novel is an ingenious examination of the artistic process, a hypnotic look at passion pushed to its limits.
A reading group guide is available online at www.harpercollins.com.