By Daisy Whitney
Available now from Bloomsbury
(Daisy Whitney wrote a short-lived pick-of-the-month feature on IBWB.)
Daisy Whitney takes a departure from the contemporary novels she's known for in the magical realist tale of love, inspiration, and freedom set in Paris's famous Musée d'Orsay. Julien has nighttime access to the museum thanks to his mother, which comes in handy when he sees the paintings come to life at night.
STARRY NIGHTS has a premise that's been done before, but Whitney does it well. The paintings can not only come to life, but also get sick. It's up to Julien to heal them, but he doesn't know how. As to why they are sick, it mostly boils down to arguments over who has a right to create art and a sore loser. The Musée d'Orsay has a new painting, one by the great Renoir. The girl in the portrait is Clio, and she's been trapped there for more than a century. However, she might not want to be let out. At the same time, it may be taken out of Julien and Clio's hands since people keep trying to steal the painting.
I am an art geek, so I had lots of fun with Whitney's descriptions of paintings - what it would be like to be in them, how they might change. I also liked the cast of STARRY NIGHTS. Julien was refreshing, since few romances have a male lead. He and Clio fell in love a bit quick for my taste, but I liked how they grew closer through working together. And I loved Julien's friends, new and old. They're colorful personalities. (Particularly Bonheur, who would enjoy being singled out as colorful.)
I've never been to France, but Whitney made me feel like I was visiting. Her Paris is not one of tourists, but of people who live and work there, stealing cups from cafes with bad tea and going out to dance together at night, willing to help a friend out when asked. Although I certainly hope that if I visit Paris I'll run into more aspiring ballerinas than vengeful ghosts.
Fans of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS looking for something with more magic should flock to this one. While the paranormal elements are integral to the plot, the tone of STARRY NIGHTS is similar to a contemporary. It really is magical realism rather than outright fantasy. I found it to be a low-key, sweet read with some interesting thoughts on the philosophy behind creating art. Honestly, it's exactly what the cover promises.
(Please note that I read the Kindle galley, which was capitalized like a serial killer's message to the police. I've decided that my ability to read the book despite that drawback is in its favor. The final book, of course, is capitalized normally.)