Top positive review
An Artist on the Run Makes an Impression She Didn't Expect
Reviewed in the United States on February 4, 2017
This was my first Tamera Alexander book, and a good one at that. Claire Laurent is a gifted artist dreaming of making a name for herself in 1866 New Orleans. But her father and a shady family "friend" are determined to keep forcing her to forge paintings and sell them as originals in their gallery. After a disaster at the gallery, Claire flees to Nashville and soon finds herself working at Belmont Plantation, personal liaison to Mrs. Adelicia Acklen. She also finds herself falling for Mrs. Acklen's attorney, Sutton Monroe, despite her efforts not to. Claire is determined to create a new life for herself, but the past threatens to smear it with brushstrokes she no longer wants to see.
A Lasting Impression is a complex and deftly written historical novel set during one of my favorite periods. Tamera Alexander clearly researched Belmont, 1860s Nashville, and the Reconstruction period with a well-honed eye, and it shows without making the book dry or dull. Belmont comes to life, almost functioning as a character itself. But the characters within Belmont were what captured my attention. Claire, Sutton, Cordina, and even antagonistic characters like Cara Netta, are all well-developed and endearing. I also loved Tamera's portrayal of Adelicia Acklen, who really existed. She could have come across as demanding and exacting, but while she possesses those traits, she is more importantly intelligent, shrewd, and the possessor of a surprising depth of empathy.
The plot, particularly the romance between Sutton and Claire, is engaging. I appreciated though, that A Lasting Impression does not run entirely on romance. Claire and Sutton have big external stakes, and they deal with those realistically, yet gracefully. Sutton won my sympathy and respect as he waited for a decision on his inheritance. As for Claire, I loved her spiritual arc as she struggled with what she had been forced to do in life vs. her desire to start over. Scenes in which she speaks to God and undergoes a private, personal baptism, stand out.
A Lasting Impression is a little long, and the reveal of Claire's secret was a bit dragged out. I also might have liked to see more of New Orleans. Overall though, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read that left a good impression.