Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at the alter two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young girl - a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes. In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with William Hanover - the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul - who may be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William slowly unravel the story behind the painting's subject: Austrian violinist Adele Von Bron. A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and barbed wire. As Sera the secrets behind the painting, she finds beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner recesses of her own troubled heart.
Sera James is an art dealer with a broken heart. In this beautiful story the reader is taken on the journey of Sera’s healing. It’s a journey not only to love, but to wholeness and renewed faith. This part of the story is told with tenderness and, while quite predictable in some ways, it also holds some real surprises. William Hanover in particular is a character I found surprisingly endearing. There's a great sense of mystery and intrigue in the search Sera and William undertake for a long lost painting. The story of Sera and William is set in modern times, in a modern city, and Kristy Cambron creates the setting and atmosphere for this couple’s relationship very realistically.
This setting is in stark contrast to the atmosphere of the story about Adele Von Bron, whose life portrays all the tragedy and agony of World War 11 and the concentration camps. The historical aspects of the novel are well researched and very sobering. Adele’s story is heart-wrenching. The horror of the concentration camps is incredibly evoked in Cambron’s writing. I felt the pain of the prisoners, the injustice, the cruelty. The pathos and depth of struggle to survive is very moving. But the greatest beauty of this novel is its ability to the evoke a sense of hope, faith and love, as Adele and other prison inmates are able to worship God with their arts, in the midst of the terror and fear.
The two stories are woven together beautifully. Moving between them creates a sense of anticipation that keeps the reader turning the pages. It also breaks up the darkness of Adele’s story and I found it a relief at times to go back to Sera’s search for the painting she longs to see again.
There were times in the early stages of the story when I found the spiritual aspects of both Sera’s and Adele’s journey a little forced, but as their characters were developed more deeply this became more authentic. The character of Omara, who becomes a mother figure to Adele, is truly inspiring. I found the passionate search for something that has been lost spiritually symbolic, as was the relentless faith of some of the characters despite the seeming hopelessness of their circumstances.
This is much more than a search for a painting. It is also a search for love and for God. It is a story of second chances, survival and hope and I found it truly engaging and very impactful. It is not a story for the faint-hearted. The romance is satisfying but costly and there are some surprises along the way which are intriguing. Something for everyone.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Her new novel, Next of Kin, is soon to be released by Rhiza Press. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website