Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blog Tour Stop and Giveaway: The Art of Love by Anne Whitney

Welcome to the Into the Night Reviews stop on The Art of Love blog tour. 

“The well rounded, dimensional cast of characters really made this shine and I look forward to more from Anne.”    - K.T. Grant, author of “Xavier’s Loving Arms” & “The Princess’s Bride”

 “A delightful and sweet story.”    - L.H. Cosway, author of “Painted Faces”.

Marina Phillips has spent her entire life as her father’s victim. But enough is enough. All it took was one moment of realization to send her fleeing across the country into the unknown of New York City with no plans and no money. A new life without the constant torture is all she wants, but what she finds waiting is something she never expected.

Fitz is New York’s premiere playboy artist. Sexy, tattooed, and coveted by women and men alike, his performances are heralded as the coming of a new god of modern art. But when Marina wanders into his show, she becomes the inadvertent piece he’s always waited for – a girl to sculpt, to change, and to craft in his own image.

She never expects to fall head over heels into the world of parties, drag queens, agents, and artists craving for her and her benefactor. She didn’t even expect to begin falling in love with someone like Fitz, the sexy, pretentious man of her nightmares.

Above all, Marina never expects her father to stage a cross-country mission to paint her as a kidnapped girl taken by a psychopath.

With her life on the line, Marina has no choice but to accept Fitz’s proposal – change everything she is, inside and out, for the chance to start anew. But Marina has plans of her own. Plans that will rock her world forever.

(Book length: 75k words approx.)

I look in the mirror, glad to see that my makeup has not sweated off my face and my hair is still in place, if a little less neat. The thing I notice that surprises me is the irrepressible smile on my face. I genuinely feel happy right now, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, I feel welcome somewhere. Granted, I’m still massively out of place amongst the worlds of Fitz’s nude art and Derek’s drag extravaganza, and I’m sure they enjoy dragging me into public performances of supreme awkwardness a little too much, but I’m still wanted here. Luck has been good to me.

I exit the restroom and see Fitz waiting for me. He has a look on his face I recognize from our first encounter; wide eyes, open mouth and exuding complete vulnerability. His blazer
is open, revealing the tattoos interlaced over his chest and down his stomach over strong muscle. My eyes are drawn to a pair of swallow silhouettes on his collarbones. There’s something written on his abdomen, but I can’t quite make it out.

“Hey,” I mumble.

The tension has grown unbearable all of a sudden. As he approaches me, it only increases.

Surprisingly, the corridor leading to the bathrooms is empty besides a couple making out in the corner and us. The other two, men with bulky arms and tight shirts, have their hands wrapped in the others’ hair. It leaves Fitz and me alone.

The corridor is narrow and the beats on the floor thump once again. My heart races with the rhythm, thump thump thump. I take a deep breath and blink. When I open my eyes, he’s standing inches away from me, staring down into my eyes from his great height.

He puts one hand on the wall beside my head and leans over, mouth slightly agape. I brace myself for a kiss. Instead, his other hand lifts up to brush aside a stray strand of mousy hair that had fallen over my shoulders. It doesn’t stop me from letting out a tiny gasp.

“All better,” he murmurs with a smile.

His mouth is so close to mine, his eyes still glued on mine. I have never been kissed in my life, not once, except for my grandmother smacking her lips against mine in photos before
she kicked the bucket. My mother never got a chance to give me a kiss, lying dead on the operating table as infant me cried and cried in the doctor’s arms. And my father would never think of giving me even a second glance of compassion.

A lock of hair flops over into his face. He purses his lips and blows it out of his eyes with the barest hints of a smirk.

At the same moment, a feeling I’ve never felt before rises low in my belly. The feeling of... lust? Sexual excitement? Forbidden desire?

Is it forbidden, though?

We stay like that for several moments before he pulls back. I almost melt into a puddle there on the tiled floor. He notices my disappointment - it couldn’t be more evident - and grins.

“Come on,” he says. “Before V sends out the rescue team.”

He takes my hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze. I have no idea what’s going on between us and it’s making me dizzy. Does he want to kiss me or is he just messing around? I wouldn’t put it past him to stage this as another performance for his dedicated fans without my knowledge. Viridian’s voice enters my head, repeating the conversation we had earlier in the day. She talked of Fitz pitying me and how I was most certainly not his usual type, but that he was also a good man. He wouldn’t screw with me like that, would he? We may still practically be strangers to one another but my gut told me he wouldn’t do something so
heartless. I also remember the look in his eyes, and his explanation for his work.

The Art of Love was quite different from the books I've been reading of late.  With a bit of a schedule of books to read based on the blog tours we have listed I picked this up as the next on my list and didn't re-read the synopsis before I began, so wasn't really sure what to expect at the outset.  I was quickly intrigued about where the story was going to go and found myself quite engaged by Marina, Fitz, Viridian and Derek.

Marina Phillips has had a lifetime of torture and control at her fathers hands.  Finally reaching a point where she is not prepared to stay in Spokane any longer she hastily packs a bag, boards a train and finds herself alone, starving and next to penniless in New York City.  Her only driver, to escape the life she had known:
I wanted to become invisible.  If I could manage that then everything would be okay.  It had to be.
Wandering the streets on her first night there, unsure of where she is going or where she will spend the night she stumbles into a modern art gallery and takes advantage of the free buffet.  As she stands there eating her fill and considering her options an artist begins his 'performance' and much to the amusement of the audience and embarrassment of Marina she is drawn into the show.  This is her first encounter with Fitz, the sexy performance artist, and from here begins Marina's discovery of life, love and a future away from the control of her father.

Marina is a very interesting character.  Having spent twenty years as her father's slave she is accustomed to keeping secrets and keeping to herself.  Her exposure to the art world of New York City is an eye opener to say the least, but she definitely holds her own amongst the chic and sophisticated 'artists' who befriend her.  I was surprised, and not always convinced, by Marina's wisdom.  Having lived her life under the control of her father she had a surprisingly insightful perspective to many of the situations she faced and sometimes I wondered how she could convey such maturity given her upbringing.

The Art of Love is as much about Marina's evolution as it is about Fitz's enlightenment.  A young artist, rebelling against the expectations of his father, Fitz is complex and confusing.  He openly objects to the life his father wanted for him and yet a significant proportion of his lifestyle is funded by his father's money.  There is a challenging mix of innocence, creativity and pretentiousness evident in Fitz - but underlying all of it I detected his desire to love and be loved. 

The story takes place over a relatively short timeframe, and in some ways this had me questioning the relationship development between the characters.  There was this instant connection and trust between Marina and Fitz as well as with Marina and Fitz's best friend Viridian and brother Derek.  The pragmatist in me questioned it, and yet Whitney's writing made it believable. 

As Marina struggles to find her place in New York her father mounts a very public campaign to find her and Marina must grapple with hiding all over again, all the while trying to determine who she is, what her relationship with Fitz means and how she can have a future of her choosing.

I enjoyed the Art of Love.  It wasn't filled with sappy romance or steamy sex scenes - it took a very different approach to the coming of age of a young woman.  It may not appeal to everyone, but I appreciated the art culture and Marina's honesty and was satisfied with how it ended.

Anne Whitney lives near New York City and spends most of her time writing stories in her head. When she’s not putting those stories onto paper, she can be found browsing art galleries, watching sci-fi and reading whatever she can get her hands on. “The Art of Love” is her first novel.

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