by Helen Maryles Shankman
Plot Summary:NEW YORK CITY, 1992. At the American Academy of Classical Art, popular opinion has it that the school’s handsome and mysterious founder, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire. It is a rumor Rafe does nothing to dispel.
Scholarship student Tessa Moss has long dreamed of the chance to study at Rafe’s Academy. But she is floundering amidst the ups and downs of a relationship with egotistical art star Lucian Swain.
Then, one of Tessa’s sketches catches Rafe’s attention: a drawing of a young woman in 1930s clothing who is covering the eyes of a child. The suitcase at her feet says Wizotsky. Sofia Wizotsky, the love of Rafe’s life, was lost during the Holocaust.
Or was she? Rafe suspects Tessa may be the key to discovering what really happened.
As Rafe finds excuses to interact with Tessa, they cannot deny their growing attraction to one another. It is an attraction forbidden by the Academy Board and disapproved of by anyone familiar with Rafe’s playboy reputation and Tessa’s softhearted innocence.
But Tessa senses the truth: despite his wealth, his women, and his townhouse filled with rare and beautiful treasures, Rafe is a haunted man…for reasons that have nothing to do with the rumors they whisper about him at school.
Intensely romantic and deeply moving, The Color of Light blends fact and fantasy in an unforgettable tale of art and passion, love and war, guilt and forgiveness, spanning the New York art scene, high-fashion magazine publishing, the glittering café society of pre-World War II Paris, and the evil stalking the back roads of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Review:The Color of Light attracted my attention for a couple of reasons - I was interested in the forbidden romance nature of the story, and because Raphael is a vampire. I also love intensely romantic stories and this book did not disappoint in any of those aspects. In fact, once the story get's going it's full of this tragic, aching tension as Rafe and Tessa explore their feelings for each other and yet the rules of the school and Rafe's past keeps them apart. I felt there was a touch of Wuthering Heights in this story (and it is mentioned briefly in the book) but thankfully this is a love story (Wuthering Heights can get a little iffy in that regard) as well as a story about life.
The novel is rather epically long, and there are a lot of descriptive passages on the art and architecture of the student's works and their surroundings. It's very informative about art and possibly critical of modern art (but I totally agree with the viewpoints of the students and Rafe), however it can take time to become invested in the story and characters because of this. I think in the end, I was not as invested in Tessa's found family as much as I wanted to be, which makes me feel that there was a lot more that could have been streamlined in the story. Tessa's relationship with Lucian was also a little tedious and I just wanted to shake Tessa to get her to move on already. But Tessa's friends do have an important part to play, and this really didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story overall.
The past is important and is perfectly and thoughtfully portrayed in the scenes where we learn more about why Rafe is so troubled and haunted. The author worked in the romance of Rafe and Sofia and the terror of the Holocaust to make this novel even more intense and poignant. I sometimes felt I liked Sofia more than Tessa because Sofia felt more flawed and tragic and real, while Tessa was too perfect sometimes. But reading about the past did wonders in bringing out Rafe's Byronic nature, and I found him to be such a complex and intriguing character. The times when he exerted his magnetic influence and the times he was heartbreakingly vulnerable really brought out his character for me, and I'm a little bit in love with him, okay?
The story swept me up in it's tender melancholy, and I found the story to be very beautiful and very sad. With the relationship between a vampire and a human there are some difficult questions that are brought up, but I loved that the story really focused on just taking one day at a time. It also brought a very nice conclusion to the past that haunted Rafe. If this story has any elements that interest you, I'd recommend reading it for the intelligent take on a vampire love story.
(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.)
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