I'd heard good things about Amanda McIntyre's work, but hadn't read any of her books, so when this came up at NetGalley, I jumped on it. Oh, I'm so glad I did!
The Master and The Muses is the story of Thomas Rodin, a 19th century painter, who is part of a band of artists who are fighting for recognition of their avant guarde works by The Royal Academy. This story is told in three parts.
Book 1: Helen
Helen is a young woman working in a hat shop, when she is approached by a handsome young man, William. William wants her to come model for his brother, Thomas Rodin. Helen rejects his offer but William is persistent and she starts to like him. She finally agrees to model for Thomas, and, feeling a bit reckless and bold, stops fighting her attraction and has sex with William. Afterwards, William tells her Thomas must never know about their feelings for each other, as she is Thomas' muse. Helen is heartbroken but agrees to pose for Thomas. William becomes more and more distant as Helen and Thomas become closer. However, the course of events that Helen wishes for her future is not what she imagined.
My thoughts: Oh, this story ripped my heart out, stomped around on it, and handed it back strung together with twine and duct tape. Ms. McIntyre's writing instantly transported me to another time and place, watching the story of someone else's life unfold. Helen's hopes and dreams, her joy and sadness, and finally, her understanding of herself. Absolutely beautiful.
Book 2: Sara
This book begins a few weeks before ending of Helen's story. Sara is an orphan, living with her uncle and his family on their family farm. She is innocent, but understands the ways of the world and has figured out that sex can be used to get what she wants. What Sara wants is not a husband and family, but an education and travel. When she meets an artist at the theatre (which she snuck away from the farm to attend), he offers her a job as his model. When her uncle's family finds her employment as a nanny/housekeeper, she knows she must get out and sees Thomas as her way to do that. She moves into the studio apartment, and eventually she and Thomas become lovers - until he leaves her in the care of a new painter, Edward, while Thomas goes to go to Rome.
My thoughts: This story wasn't heartbreaking like Helen's story, but there were definitely highs and lows. Sara knows what she wants for herself and doesn't want to settle for less. She has doubts, especially when her cousin contacts her with news from home, but she remains steadfast in her desires for her future. One thing I liked about this portion of the story was that as soon as I thought we were done with Thomas' part of the story, he comes back in, front and center, and shakes things up a bit.
Book 3: Grace
Grace is a prostitute, and she appears in brief but significant spots in both of the previous stories so I kind of figured Grace would be the third story. I didn't like her much - until I got into her story. When she meets Thomas, his offer to model seems to be a way for her to end her current profession. She eventually becomes intimately involved with Thomas, but ends their friendship after a huge fight. Fast forward one year and Thomas is married to Helen. Grace and Thomas rekindle their friendship, and they work together a bit as well. When Thomas finds Sara, Grace watches their story unfold. Through her association wilth the other members of the Brotherhood, stays in touch with Thomas intermittently, dropping in to assist during difficult times, sometimes against her better judgement.
My thoughts: As I went into Grace's story, I didn't like her very much. I wasn't thrilled that the third book would be about Grace, but Ms. McIntyre brought me around, to see the other side of the previous stories through Grace's eyes. We got to see the turning points of the other stories with a new twist; Grace's story brought the book full circle. Her POV is, I think, the best view of Thomas' psyche - his methods, his needs, his raison d'etre. By the end of the story I felt bad for Thomas, although I didn't really like him very much; however, that doesn't change the fact that his story was fascinating.
The Master and the Muses was an emotional roller coaster and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Ms. McIntyre's writing is so vivid I could see every scene I give it 4.5/5 stars!
This book is available for purchase June 1, 2010.
This book was provided to my be NetGalley free of charge in exchange for an honest review.