Come forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love…
And oh, what an unconventional tale of love this is. I would like to be honest up front and admit that I was hesitant about reading such a unique and different storyline. I’m usually a lover of all things alpha male and the thought of a hero who is a drag queen gave me mixed feelings, I just couldn’t see how Ms. Cosway could keep me invested in such a different hero, one who deals with his pain by becoming someone else altogether. Someone feminine. But after I started reading I kind of fell into this story and found myself quite enamored of this tale of true unconditional love. This book made me think, it also made me sad and frustrated and happy. There was humor and a wonderful cast of supporting characters that made me laugh. A delightful story that kept me up half the night reading
“Okay Fred, you can call me Vivica”
Freda, or Fred as she likes to be called, meets Nicholas, or Vivicia who is his alter ego, when he moves across the hallway. Fred is a small town Irish girl living in Dublin with her best friend Nora. She works two jobs, helping out in a charity shop some days and baking cupcakes for a bakery down the road several mornings a week. She’s slightly plump, has a way with sarcasm and is wonderfully down to earth. When she meets Nicholas she notices his pretty face and beautiful blue eyes. Nicholas is a very charismatic man, charming, funny himself and he and Freda have an instant chemistry that jumped off the page.
“We all paint on a face to show the world.” Nicholas replies philosophically. “For some of us, that’s quite literal.” He takes a brief pause. “When you’re passionate about something, you don’t mind suffering a little discomfort.”
I give him a wry glance. “Have you had to suffer for your passion?”
He nods gently, his eyes roving over the crowds as they push by us. “More than you would think.”
After being invited to attend her new neighbor’s performance at a local bar, Freda realizes that Nicholas is a bit more than just a cabaret performer. When Vivica Blue takes the stage Freda is entranced with her performance, but then a little confused at Nicholas’s sexuality. A man who performs in drag at a gay bar almost has to be gay doesn’t he? But, no, he’s not, and he lets Freda know that he’s very much attracted to her. A friendship is formed almost immediately, a bond between two people who gravitate to each other and find the other’s company almost necessary. Even before these two finally succumb to their attraction they are drawn to spend time with each other. Enough so that Nicholas makes an offer for Freda to be his show assistant and despite her already having two jobs, she accepts.
It doesn’t matter what he’s wearing. I like the him that’s underneath the clothes and the painted face. I’d like him no matter what he wore.
When I started reading I knew immediately from the prologue that Nicholas was a very damaged man. He started dressing up in his deceased mother’s clothing as a small child in order to feel closer to her. What started out as a way for him to cope as a young boy evolves into his drag queen persona so that he can survive as an adult. He also tends to sleep around a bit, finding comfort in one night stands. Freda has her own issues, she’s insecure of her looks and tends to use her wit to cover up her self-doubt. From the start she can’t understand why such a beautiful man would be attracted to her. Their love story develops very slowly. They start to learn to trust each other and build a foundation based on acceptance and friendship. Freda is fascinated with Nicholas, she falls for him in every way. Eventually Nicholas reveals his reasoning about why he has carried on with being Vivica Blue as an adult and my heart broke a little for him. What might have seemed an over the top storyline becomes very believable when the truth of Nicholas’s pain is revealed.
Painted Faces is told from Freda’s point of view, only the prologue and epilogue are from Nicholas’s, and I think this is what made this story really work for me. As Freda becomes closer and closer to Nicholas Ms. Cosway lets her tell the reader what she discovers as she peels away each one of his layers and learns what makes him tick. It also helped me appreciate Freda as a person and gave me an understanding of how much she loved this man no matter what face he wore. In the end their love and attachment to each other made sense. Two people who at first don’t seem a likely couple find themselves to actually be perfect for each other.
For those readers who might have misgivings over this storyline let me just say I would urge you to give Painted Faces a try. This isn’t a love story you will soon forget with a hero who will challenge you to define what being a hero really means. It’s beautiful and different and a little strange. Something unique in a vast field of contemporary romances where most heroines and heroes are interchangeable. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. Final Grade: A
I want to heal him, with each and every one of our kisses. With every time we make love. Make him see that despite the past, the future holds mysteries that we can explore hand in hand. His melodious voice pulls me out of these thoughts, He looks at me and smiles as he presses down on the final note. I hold his gaze and blow him a kiss.