Running from her abusive father, Marina Phillips takes off to New York City in a moment of fear. She has no money, no idea what she’s going to do once she gets there and no place to stay. She just knows she’s tired of being the victim and must get away once and for all. The first thing she sees when she gets off the train is a flyer for a modern art performance with free food. Since she only has about six dollars to her name, filling her stomach is priority number one. The first person she encounters at the gallery is a naked, tattooed man who uses her as part of his performance. Marina is sheltered and naïve in a way that most people her age haven’t been since they were teens. She’s never even seen a naked man, certainly not up close and in public. Her artist takes pity on her afterwards and they strike up a conversation where she admits to being in the city alone with no place to stay. Even though they have only just met, when Fritz offers to take her in she accepts.
Fritz is the crazy, performance artist who becomes Marina’s friend and immediately falls for her. He, his artist best friend and drag queen half-brother take Marina under their wing and change her life. After a newscast shows that her father has contacted the police with claims of a kidnapping they also help give her a make over in order for her to hide from her past. After a new hairdo, some sexy clothes and makeup lessons she becomes Mary Fenton. As separate characters Mariana and Fritz are troubled people who are both trying to run away from their pasts, albeit for different reasons, together they are one big hot mess.
The Art of Love’s blurb had everything sure to catch my attention… a young woman fleeing from an abusive family, a sexy, tattooed artist, parties, nakedness, psychopaths and even a drag queen. I wanted to like this one so badly, I kept reading hoping something would inspire me, or even that I would have this “ah ha” moment and all of a sudden understand the decisions and actions of Marina and Fritz. Even after finishing I just kind of sat there wondering what had just happened. This couple frustrated me to no end. They were together, but they weren’t. Marina becomes more independent, but she doesn’t. When Fritz is introduced he gives off the impression that he’s a free-spirited artist who doesn’t care what others think, but that’s not true either. As a couple these two should have been perfect for each other. Fritz forms an instant attachment to Marina and comes on to her very strong. She is just budding sexually, but still a virgin and while she feels attraction for him, she wants to take it slow and repeatedly pushes him away. Her inner thoughts include wondering over and over if they were boyfriend and girlfriend and whether that it’s even a good idea. After a while I didn’t even care if they finally got together or not. Marina was clearly not mature enough for a relationship, and while I’m usually a fan of lots of sexy time in my romance here I just couldn’t see this couple together.
The other thing that drove me crazy was Marina’s handling of the police search and allegations of kidnapping her father claimed. Even understanding her fear of the man who victimized her for years I just could not figure out why she wouldn’t go to the police and explain her side of the story. She’s twenty for goodness sakes, not twelve. She’s a grown woman and her father had the police so worked up there were news stories and her picture in the paper and a nationwide manhunt! Both Marina and Fritz’s fathers play the bad guy, one beats and subjugates his child and the other has no feeling for his son’s creative choices and embarrasses him publicly. Fritz handles the situation with his father just about as well as Miranda deals with hers… meaning not well at all. I wanted to have sympathy for Fritz. His father really was an ass, but Fritz’s inability to understand how his past actions affected his family and his ongoing willingness to keep accepting money and support from a parent who he felt didn’t sympathize or understand him made him seem very immature and selfish. I guess I really never understood the motivations or thought processes of either of the main protagonists.
The climax plays out rather quickly after the ongoing monotony of Fritz and Marina dancing around each other and Marina’s fear of being discovered by her father and the police. I feel like this story had so much potential. The secondary characters were interesting and I found myself liking Fritz’s brother Derek more than any other. His story might be one I would pick up in the future. Maybe. Final Grade: D+
I wanted to merge with the crowds and become another face you could pass by once in your life and never see again. I wanted to become invisible. If I could manage that then everything would be okay. It had to be.