Author: Helen Maryles Shankman
Published: October 2013
Publisher: Stony Creek Press
Pages: 573 Advanced Readers Copy
A complimentary copy was provided by TLC book tours and the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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.
This isn't Twilight's vampire story. Not at all. This is more how I envisioned vampires. Mysterious with mesmerizing eyes, regal carriage, handsome features, and charismatic. Rafe (Raphael Sincair) is that suave charming protagonist and, yes, he is a vampire. At times his appetite is cruel and deadly but his appetite for young Tessa is different. He comes off as a bit of a playboy until Tessa touches that heart that may no longer beat but is still there.
Tessa, meanwhile, is in one of those one-way relationships with Lucien. She works for him, practically saved his life even, and yet he disregards her, overlooking her for another. Tessa is still infatuated with Lucien despite how he treats her, only minding when he feels he might lose her. I cringed to see her still so set upon Lucien, despite everything, but she is young and naive. I've been there, young and naive. I can see how her eyes may be clouded to what is happening before her and so I was grateful for the interventions of Rafe.
Rafe is drawn to Tessa. She reminds him of his former love, a love that lived before he became the undead, and he can't shake the attraction regardless of it being inappropriate as he is the headmaster of the art school wherein Tessa studies the masters of art and the techniques they practiced.
Ms. Shankman's love for the arts, including a tantalizing tango scene near the beginning of the book, is evident. She infuses the story with her knowledge of art and technique and creates a genuine atmosphere within the old somewhat decrepit building that houses the school. You can feel the draft, see the architectural details, hear the creak on the stairs. Helen does a very good job enabling the reader to envision the school as if it were a character as important to the story as the main protagonists.
The characters come alive in the pages of The Color of Light making this book hard to put down. It gets a little wordy with descriptions as the author builds a background as a foundation for the present. But that aside, The Color of Light practically breathes, sweeping the reader back to Rafe's past to a time of war and anguishing separation, to a time of eternal change for Rafe. It's a kaleidoscope of events, of the bleakness in black and white and then color in love. A metaphor. It is in turns hauntingly beautiful, sad, and joyous. And this is her debut novel.
Originally, when Helen Maryles Shankman moved to New York, she thought she wanted to be an illustrator, to tell stories with paint. A few years later, she discovered that what she really wanted to do was paint with words.
Her stories appear in The Kenyon Review, Cream City Review, Gargoyle, Grift, Danse Macabre, and JewishFiction.net. She was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
For now she lives in New Jersey, with her husband, four kids, and a blue-eyed Australian Shepherd named Sky.
Her debut novel, The Color of Light, is coming from Stony Creek Press on Halloween, 2013.
Follow Helen on Twitter @hmshankman
Visit Helen’s blog at helenmarylesshankman.com.