This review contains some spoilers. Read with caution! ;)
"A Lasting Impression" A Belmont Mansion Novel by: Tamera Alexander
I should probably make a full disclosure right up front- I'm a Tamera Alexander devotee. I love her books! I love her writing style, her characters, the way she uses words and the way she seamlessly weaves in a Spiritual theme without making it forced and preachy.
I along with other devotees have been waiting for 2 years (2 years!) for this book to come out and with waiting so long I was afraid I was putting too much into my expectations and hopes for what I would read when I finally opened it up. I was afraid I would be disappointed, but ya know what? I wasn't. Not even a little bit!
Yet again Tamera Alexander has outdone herself.
The book is the story of nineteen year old Claire Laurent a painter who forges masterpieces for her father's art gallery in New Orleans. Claire aspires to paint and display her own work and knows what her father is asking/demanding of her is wrong but finds no way out especially now that her mother is dead. Through a series of circumstances Claire finds herself alone and fleeing New Orleans bound for Nashville. When she arrives she finds herself with no place to stay and takes refuge for the night in a church. That one decision changes the rest of Claire's life. The pastor and his wife help Claire and before she knows it she not only has a job with the prominent widow Mrs. Adelicia Acklen of Belmont mansion (as her personal assistant) but she is falling for Mrs. Acklen's handsome- but unavailable- property manager and attorney Sutton Monroe. Claire relishes the fresh start and chance to prove herself but finds herself looking over her shoulder wondering if her past is going to catch up with her.
One question that Claire is faced with as she takes her first halting steps into a life of faith is one that becomes the capstone of the book. The still small voice in Claire asks: "Would you paint if you knew you were painting only for Me?" It is a striking and poignant question that begs the reader to ask it of themselves. Would you continue to do or exercise your gift or passion if you were only doing it for God and His pleasure? Would you do it if you received no glory or praise or admiration for it but only the pleasure of the knowledge that it was pleasing to God? It's a question that hits me right where I live and has made me think.
One nit-pick I did have with the book is with some of the art pieces described and discussed in the book. Several of them are nudes or semi-nudes such as Ruth Gleaning and I must question whether it belongs in a Christian book? I believe not...
Two other notes about this book I'd like to make- first: with Sutton's story line I learned several things about Reconstruction in the South after the war that I didn't know. I was shocked to learn that the North actually took away peoples property- that had been in the family for generations- seemingly simply as punishment for their 'rebellion'. It has piqued my interest in the subject and I intend to study up on the subject! Second: From following TA's blog I knew she was a member of Bible Study Fellowship the same Bible Study I myself attend in my own area. Last year we studied the book of Isaiah and throughout this book I can see how bits of it rubbed off in her work. It was a delightful suprise and a reminder of what I learned last year!
For readers new to Tamera Alexander's books I encourage you to pick up and start with this one as it is the first in the new "Belmont Mansion Novels" series. And I must say that I for one am eager to see where she goes from here and hope I don't have another two year wait!
From beginning to end "A Lasting Impression" lives up to it's name and is a real treat. It's characters are real and warm and relatable with real problems and real growth over the course of the book. It made me laugh and cry and think. It is not to be missed for any reader of historical fiction who enjoys a well crafted tale with heart, humor and romance!
Rating: 4.5 stars!
I recieved a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and opinion of the product.