Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
Wallace Harte has a English degree and a passion for writing. But Wally has a huge writer’s block and inspiration is lacking as are jobs. To make ends meet, he has become a bartender. When a job bartending opens up at a new art exhibition by master painter Kenon Alavi, Wally eagerly accepts and forever changes his life.
Kenon Alavi is an artist highly in demand by starlets and stars, rich and the powerful. As an portrait artist, Kenon commands high prices and attention where he goes and for whatever commission he deigns to accept. Kenon is also a major player when it comes to romance and sexual conquests. Hurt and betrayed by a former lover, now Kenon enjoys only the most superficial of relationships and brief sexual encounters of the non involved kind.
When Kenon spots Wally behind the bar at his opening, he intends to add Wally to the list of sexual conquests he had made, a tag line in a long list of games he has played and nothing more. But Wally flees from Kenon’s attention despite his obvious attraction to the artist. Dismayed and a little intrigued, Kenon pursues the young writer, getting far more involved with Wally than he anticipated in the process.
Meanwhile, Wally’s muse has awakened and its focused on Kenon and Wally’s growing love for the man. What will happen when Kenon finds he is the source and main character in Wally’s romance?
Artist’s Touch was enjoyable romantic story, my first from this author. I found it to be sweet without being too cloying, and based on a terrific premise of an artist’s guild, G3, which Adrienne is developing into a series. There was so much about Artist’s Touch that I liked, from the plot to most of the characters that the positive elements outweighed the few issues I had with the story. So let’s start with those first.
The character of Wallace Harte is a real plus here. He is a naive young man, recent college graduate, living the life of a poor writer in New York City. Kerry Adrienne’s descriptions of Wally’s living quarters (almost that size) are wonderful. From the conditions around him, and the tiny space where Wally resides and writes to the old neighbor habitually found sitting on the front steps, it all feels remarkably real. The six story walkup has a dingy, confined authenticity that makes it easy to visualize Wally at home, trying to write on that small desk and poor lighting. With his innocence and naivete, Wally is such an easy character to connect with, and even when his writing (which we get to read) becomes a bit florid, well, than he’s young and its sort of adorable.
Less easy to relate to is the character of Kenon Alavi. I like a difficult character, and feel it’s certainly not necessary to make all main character’s easy people to connect with or even like. But for a romance to succeed, than that character must make a realistic journey from jerk to a person capable of love or deserving of it in the mind of a reader. Especially if there is a large perception in the status between the two men in the relationship. Poor/rich, innocent/worldly….the reader automatically comes down on the side of the young and poor. So the other character has to work that much harder if their persona is that of someone not worthy of the other’s person’s attention and trust.
Kenon is unfortunately at the heart of most of my issues with this story. We flip back and forth between Kenon’s and Wally’s pov. With Kenon, we hear all about the “game of conquest” he is planning for Wally. Yet when a friend calls him on his behavior, then he is quick to tears and hurt. His actions never seem particularly adult (more like delayed adolescence). Further events are precipitated when he believes the words of someone he despises over friends, which strains the reader’s credulity. As I stated before, when you have created a self involved and arrogant character than you need to give yourself enough time in the narrative to make his realization of his past actions and redemption plausible. And that never quite happens here. Instead there is a rather quick resolution and an equally fast “I love you” to smooth over all the arguments and misunderstandings that had arisen between Wally and Kenon.
Circling this disparate duo is other intriguing characters that are a part of the G3 artists guild. One is Bos, a mosaic artist and close friend of Kenon (although you never quite understand why). The other one I throughly enjoyed was the Russian artist, Andrei. An absolute rogue and a pain in Kenon’s side, his lively and sarcastic nature just cries out for his own story. And his was a character that, at least, treated the workers and other guild members of G3 far better than Kenon did. Again, not a good sign when a secondary character is preferable to a main one.
In the end, however, you want Wally to get his HEA, no matter how farfetched it feels, because you have come to care about him and his future. And he does get it. The G3 guild that Adrienne has created is a wonder of a vehicle for more stories. I loved her descriptions of the place and the guild politics that seem to be swirling around the players involved. I certainly hope to see Andrei again. Guild-mate Bos too. So onto Guild story #2.
If you are looking for a quick, sweet romance, Wally and his story is sure to pull you right in. Pick it up and decide for yourself.
Cover design by Kelly Martin. What a great cover, that model is gorgeous and absolutely perfect for Kenon as described.
Buy link: Ellora’s Cave