Thursday, April 18, 2024

My Thoughts on The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels



A charismatic man with a legacy that long outlives him

A forgotten woman whose fate is forever tied to his

And the family whose history is still being written


Toulouse, France--1879

Catalan orphan-turned-fugitive Viviana Torrens has found sanctuary serving in the home of an aging artist in Southern France. It is in his studio that she meets Francisco Vella, a Gibraltarian merchant who sells artists' pigments. When her past catches up to her, she is compelled to pose as Vella's sister and join him on his travels or be deported back to Spain to stand trial. A's long the way she will discover that the many parts she has been playing in order to hide her identity have far-reaching implications she never could have foreseen.

East Lansing, Michigan--Present Day

Esther Markstrom and her artist mother have always been proud of their ancestor, painter Francisco Vella. They even run a small museum and gallery dedicated to raising awareness of his scandalously underappreciated work. But when Esther reconnects with her former art history professor, she finds her once-solid family history on shaky ground as questions arise about Vella's greatest work--a portrait entitled The Lady with the Dark Hair.

This dual-timeline story from award-winning author Erin Bartels takes you on a captivating journey across time and continents, where past and present converge in a relentless search for truth, identity, and the freedom to follow one's dreams.

My Thoughts:

If you enjoy art, hidden identities, and finding out about your family history, then this book is for you. In this dual timeline, we have two women who are trapped in their circumstances. Beginning with 1879 and the current time, we see these two women's stories merge into quite a twisty tale.

Vivian Torrens, 1879, has lived a rough life. An orphan, brother dead, a servant looked down upon, and a woman, she really has no hope of a better life. But due to an incident, meant to harm, she becomes acquainted with a renowned artist, his wife, and a friend who is also a fellow painter. Through this association she begins to discover painting and a love for it. However, before she can get too comfortable, her heart is broken and other women's jealousies and vendettas sends the past that Vivian has been trying to hide from, roaring back for her. So, she must leave and change her identity again. But on her adventures, she meets some of the real-life Impressionist painters and the author gives artist Mary Cassat a voice in this story.

In the present-day Esther Markstrom is running an art museum in Michigan that is mostly dedicated to her famous ancestorial painter. Esther is an artist herself who often feels tied down as she must care for her mother, another artist, but a woman that is dealing with mental illness. Esther has become the mother instead. However, circumstances lead Esther on a hunt on who the mysterious woman with the dark hair who appears in many of the paintings done by her ancestor. What Esther discovers rocks her world. Main themes are identity- knowing yourself and your worth and a woman's role and limitations in culture, especially in the past.

I was provided a copy of this novel from the publisher. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.

About the Author:

Erin Bartels writes character-driven fiction for curious people. Her readers know to expect that each of her novels will tell a unique story about fallible characters so tangible that it's hard to believe they are not real people. Whether urban, rural, or somewhere in between, her settings come alive with carefully crafted details that engage all the senses and transport the reader to a singular time and place. And her themes of reckoning with the past, improving the present, and looking with hope to the future leave her readers with a sense of peace and possibility.

Erin is the author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words between UsAll That We CarriedThe Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, and Everything Is Just Beginning. A two-time Christy finalist and winner of two 2020 WFWA Star Awards and two Michigan Notable Book Awards, Erin has been a publishing professional for more than twenty years. After eighteen years in Lansing, Michigan, Erin and her family are busy enjoying the simple blessings of a less urban life in a small town outside the capital city.

You can find her online at, on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, and on Instagram @erinbartelswrites.

No comments:

Post a Comment

My Thoughts on The Way Back by Heidi Chiavaroli

  About: Young love means everything . . . until it leaves you with nothing. The summer before her senior year of high school, Laney Jacobs...