Come forth with an open mind, for an unconventional tale of love..
Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn’t have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.
Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she’s around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn’t know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.
She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.
In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime. (Goodreads)
Painted Faces lay forgotten in my kindle library for well over two years, for I had bought it when it was free. I had been intending to read it for a book convention I was attending in July 2014, as the author was attending. Fast forward two years and the convention is coming back to Edinburgh, along with L H Cosway attending. To be truthful, I would not have read this book had it not been for someone I know on twitter mentioning that they had been reading and enjoying it. Remembering that I had it on my virtual TBR, I gave it a whirl.. Oh Holy Mother of Heck! This book proved to be a new addiction and I had only read about 20% when I nipped onto Amazon to buy a paperback copy so I could get it signed.
Painted Faces is the first book in a long time that just adds something new to the Romance Genre. Having been used to the leading men in these books Alpha Males who are CEO’s of companies, Rock Gods, Motorcycle Badasses or CEO’s of companies who are also part time Rock Gods and Motorcycle Bad Assess; in steps Nicholas AKA Viv. Yes, he is a red hot male, but he is also a drag queen who makes no excuses for his way of life and to be honest, it was hot as hell.
Reading this book, images of Matt Bomer from White Collar and Magic Mike, mixed with Tim Curry’s character from The Rocky Horror Picture Show sprang to mind. Yet, as I got to know the man beneath the make up, I knew that there was something deeper going on. We are given a little snippet of his childhood and although it was left on a bit of an ominous feel, when the truth finally came out, my heart broke for him and I fell a little bit harder.
As we all know, a ying must have their yang. In the case of Nicholas, we have Freda. At first she comes across as this ballsy, independent woman, who doesn’t hold back or minces her words. She has her insecurities and tries her best to not let them get the better of her, but like Nicholas this is her own personal armour for how she really feels. Freda came across as the girl next door type. She is insecure about her looks and though she comes across as confident, deep down she is quiet and a bit self-conscious.
When these two come together, you see that they bring the best out of each other. Nicholas and Freda have this banter between them that starts off as some gentle flirting, but Nicholas pushes it further and further. He sees something in Freda that he hasn’t seen in anyone else and you get to see it too. I found myself wanting these two to become an item and this culminates when Nicholas has a gig in Edinburgh. This is the turning point in the book and in their relationship. Though it is down to what happened to Nicholas in the past, I still felt for Freda and understood why she chose to leave.
As this is a romance, the happy ever after is all but assured. However, there is realness to this book that I have rarely scene. Yes, Nicholas is living an alternative lifestyle, but Cosway incorporates this into the character so seemlessly that it does not come across gimmicky. This in itself can be difficult and I have found in the past that authors will try to do this to make it controversial or shocking. Cosway shows that you don’t need to do this and I think she should be commended for that.
Cosway has managed to achieve what very few authors have managed to do with Painted Faces and that is to really challenge my perception of what a leading male is within the romance genre.
By the close of the book, I had fallen hard for Nicholas and I cheered with joy that both he and Fred got together. These are two characters that lived on with me long after I had finished the book and I quickly bought the follow up to this one, Killer Queens. I am a firm fan of Cosway and I think that she is an author that deserves more recognition for her gifted talent in writing a romance novel. For me, she deserves to be up beside my other favourite alternative romance author, Tiffany Reisz. (And to be honest, I could see Nicholas fitting in with Soren, Kingsley and Nora’s world easily.)
PAINTED FACES SERIES IN ORDER
1 Painted Faces
2 Killer Queen