Title: Painted Faces
Author: L. H. Cosway
Publication Date: December 16th, 2012
Shelves: New Adult; Contemporary; Romance
Format: Kindle (355 pages)
Come forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love..
Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.
Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.
She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.
In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.
Making her way back to her flat after getting caught in the rain, Freda Wilson bumps into her new neighbour Nicholas Turner, who has recently moved to Dublin for his new job as a cabaret performer. When she attends his opening night show, Freda is surprised to find Nicholas performing as Vivica Blue, dressed in women’s clothing and singing musical numbers. Happy with Freda’s positive reaction to his job, Nicholas asks her to be his assistant, and to help him get ready for every show. Despite accepting his job offer, Freda has reservations that their blatant attraction to one another will affect their working relationship. She also fears that promiscuous Nicholas will quickly tire of her if she gives in to temptation.
I’ve had this novel on my TBR for years, and after spending some time catching up on all the book reviews I needed to write, I celebrated by reading this novel. I’ve read L.H. Cosway’s more recent Rugby series with Penny Reid, which I like and recommend a lot, and I was expecting more of the same feelings toward this novel – but I am left underwhelmed by this.
Firstly, I have mixed feelings about Freda. While reading this novel I was constantly switching between liking and disliking her. She’s fun and entertaining at times, but some of the things she thought were so narrow-minded and idiotic that I got major second-hand embarrassment from them. One particular scene that made me mad was when Nicholas gets intimately grabbed by a man who climbs onstage, and she wonders why he’s so upset:
“At one point a member of the audience was so drunk and riled up that he climbed onto the stage and tried to grab Nicholas by the crotch. Nicholas was a good sport about it and gracious as ever, but I think he’s a little bit upset. He’s trying to hide it.
I do wonder why he’s upset though, since he often invites people up onto the stage and can be very touchy and flirty with them. Perhaps it was because the guy tonight was really aggressive and got up onto the stage without Nicholas’ permission.”
Seriously? Freda also tells a lot of jokes, and I understand that they were supposed to be funny, bad jokes but I just found them irritating. She’s also pretty immature at times, and again, these scenes were hard to read because I was so embarrassed by her behaviour. But overall she wasn’t a bad character: at times she was entertaining and supportive and sassy as hell, but I just grew tired of her as the novel went on.
I did like Nicholas’ character more. He’s fun and courageous, and full of charm, but again his behaviour frustrated me at times. He comes on to Freda way too strong after knowing her for about two hours. It’s obvious that he’s very confident and open with his sexuality – which is what drew me into reading this novel – but he came on so strong it was uncomfortable at times. Also, the way he treated a couple of female characters (including Freda) was so rude. Nicholas had a tragic and traumatic upbringing which he speaks about in the prologue, and is the drive for a lot of his behaviours in the novel, but I was slightly disappointed by him at times. But I did enjoy his character a lot more than Freda’s. I was rooting for him to find happiness!
I also liked Freda and Nicholas’ chemistry. It felt very authentic and was one aspect of this novel that I actually did enjoy. It was so natural, and it could have done without Nicholas’ rather heavy flirting… But yes, thumbs up to their quite natural-feeling chemistry!
I think my biggest issues with Painted Faces boil down to the plot. I was left feeling so detached from this novel. I imagine the Vivica Blue aspect of this novel is what drew a lot of the readers in, but when this is taken out of the equation, it really is just a straight-forward NA novel with a lot of the typical highs and lows found in NA fiction. So much of this novel is just Freda and Nicholas’ attraction towards each other and then pushing each other away for whatever reason. There were also smaller storylines in the form of a stalker and a homophobic attack at the nightclub where Nicholas performs. These plotlines had barely any sustenance, and I felt that they were only added for extra drama amidst the Freda/Nicholas romance. But at least they had solid conclusions. Some plotlines just confused me in that I had no idea why they were even included, and they were seemingly forgotten about after they had served their purpose (to simply fill space). I also think the novel’s conclusion wasn’t very concrete – I was left wondering about some of the secondary characters and what happened to them. I also think Nicholas needed a better ending – he has a lot of demons, and I feel like they weren’t really dealt with. Romance doesn’t fix everything.
I feel bad for writing a mostly negative review, but I expected so much more from this novel. But according to GR reviews, I seem to be in the minority.
Would you read this novel again? I’m afraid not
Who would I recommend this novel to? NA fiction readers?