Desert Isle Keeper
The hero of The Portrait is Jonas Whitaker, the leading artist of his day in New York City, 1855. Jonas is forced by his patron to take on as his student Imogen, “Genie,” Carter, his patron’s godchild. Genie’s out-of-state father, who wants to make her into an artist like her late sister, is behind this plan. Jonas resolves to give Genie a hard time while he is teaching both she and his more gifted male students. Genie is not a naturally gifted artist but, to her surprise, the lessons with Jonas enthrall her. She is increasingly drawn to the man himself and Jonas becomes increasingly attracted to her as well.
The beauty of this novel is the characterizations throughout. Chance captures the personality of the artist perfectly. She even goes one step beyond and gives Jonas bipolar mood disorder at a time when there was no medication to control it. Many present day artists suffer from this disease and either take medication or don’t take it because they feel it interferes with their creativity. Jonas has no choice but to suffer from the effects of the disease. Chance gives us one extremely detailed scene of Jonas’s descent into a manic episode that culminates with a severe mood swing into depression. This is the best fictional depiction I have ever read of a manic-depressive episode.
Genie is a very three dimensional heroine as well. She has to come to terms with her relationship with her father, a relationship that is bad for her. He is obsessed with turning Genie into a replacement for her artist sister who has died. Ironically, both Genie’s late sister and her father are/were mediocre talents from the hinterlands in comparison with Jonas. Their talent is/was actually closer to Genie’s modest amount and nowhere near Jonas’s dazzling ability. Jonas is such a great teacher that he makes Genie perceive things creatively that completely bypassed her sister and father. However, Jonas cannot transform her into his level of artist.
Genie also finds herself growing in love with a man who will experience mood swings all of his life. She will be the one who has to help him out of the depths of his depression when there is nothing else to aid him. We see her help him out from the depression after a manic episode. This is a significant burden for a person to take on in loving someone. Genie’s ability to deal with this out of love for Jonas shows us a self-sacrificing dimension to her love that is extremely gratifying.
Megan Chance deserves a larger audiense of romance readers. Her books contain consistently unique characters with interests and dilemmas far outside the ordinary. Personally, I am very tired of so many romance novels which cover the same ground and the same types of characters b ook after book. You will not experience this with any of Megan Chance’s books. Each title is marvelously unique and should be given a try on its own merits. The Portrait, probably because I am an artist, is at the absolute top of her backlist for me.