This is one of those books that I own and re-read periodically, whenever I need an infusion of laughter and good writing. I love the author. I’ve read everything she has written and enjoyed it. I also subscribe to her blog. She is a master of light-hearted romantic comedy, and this book is one of them. Its plot is ludicrous but absorbing and its characters sing with life.
Tilda is an artist. She is also a trained art forger. Her family has been in the art forgery business since the Middle Ages, and the cellar of her family house and gallery in Columbus, Ohio, is filled with forgeries her multiple ancestors painted ‘for future generations.’ But Tilda hates to be a forger. She wants to be free. She wants to paint in her own style. The problem is: she has already created several paintings in that style under a different name, when she was very young, and her late father sold them. If she claimed them now, the entire forgery enterprise might shatter at her feet, taking her whole family with it. She loves her family, so there must be another way. Maybe she could steal back the paintings and destroy them...
Davy is a con artist. He comes to Columbus, Ohio, to retrieve his money, 3 million dollars, his former financial manager pilfered from him. He meets Tilda in a closet, while he and she try to steal from the same house: she – her painting, he – his money. A match made in heaven, wasn’t it? Davy knows it. If only Tilda realized it too...
Eve is Tilda’s sister. She is a teaching assistant camouflaging/making money as a rock singer in a bar belonging to her former husband, Andrew, a gay man, who still loves her but is happily married to another man... Don’t ask. It’s too complicated.
Nadine is Eve and Andrew’s daughter, a teenager with a tendency to be original. The entire family dotes on her.
Gwen is Tilda and Eve’s mother who manages their family gallery and dreams of going away, somewhere else where boats bob on warm waves, no forgery threats hover over her family, and drinks have little paper umbrellas in them. Unfortunately, she can’t leave until the mortgage on the gallery is paid, which might take another 30 years or so.
Rabbit is Davy’s former financial manager. He has a proper name, of course, but I don’t remember it. He is in love with Clea. It is for her that he stole Davy’s money.
Clea is a beautiful 40+ woman, in love with herself, who wants to marry a rich man for the last time in her life. All her other, former husbands died leaving her poor (relatively). Rabbit is not on her short list, but he might be useful to protect her from Davy.
Mason, Ford, Dorkas, Simon, and others make the story even more convoluted. Art and money are at the centre of the tale, as is love.
I won’t recap the plot here but I will say: the writing is lovely, the humor subtle and slightly wicked, the dialog sharp and precise, with a witty flavor, and the characters alive to the point of absurdity. Or maybe absurd to the point of being alive.
Here is one of the conversations Tilda and Davy are having. He wants to have sex with her, but she is doubtful. What if she comes during sex and screams all her secrets at him?
“You’d rather have a vibrator than me,” Davy said.
“It’s a good one,” she said, trying to soften the blow. “It’s not battery-operated. It plugs in.” When he didn’t say anything, she added, “Eve gave it to me for Christmas ten years ago, so I’ve had it a while and...” She trailed off as she watched his face.
“You’re in a long-term relationship with an appliance,” Davy said.
“Hey.” Tilda straightened. “I never have to talk to it, it never makes me feel embarrassed, and it never lets me down.”