Making the Grade: A
For My Thoughts
I’ve read three books by Meg Maguire (two in a row this week alone) and her alter ego Cara McKenna and if there is one thing I’ve noticed about her style of writing is that she has the ability to simply take two characters and tell a fabulous, emotional, heartfelt story. No real secondary characters of note to cloud the canvas, no crazy antics, just a well told story that grabs you and makes you care about her characters.
M.L. Emery was a child protégé at 12, a renowned sculptor but for the past eight years by choice he has been living a quite existence and doing this thing in the picturesque countryside of Cape Breton (second book in a row with a Canadian setting. I believe Meg Maguire is secretly Canadian and I approve).
I thought Ms. Maguire did a great job of capturing Max’s French essence from the cadence of his speech pattern, his expressions and his penchant for wine and bread and cheese. I could actually hear Max’s French accent in my head and I definitely got iz French vibe while reading this story.
Fallon Frost is a lobbyist and environmentalist, who has agreed to suspend her life including her job for months and pose reluctantly, for a commissioned nude sculpture for a man she detests - Donald Forrester.
Max and Fallon do not start off their journey under the best of terms. These are two people who for their own reasons have entered into an uneasy working relationship to create a masterpiece. The problem at the start is that neither one of them really has their heart in the project.
I will admit when I was about 30% into the story I still had no clear vision as to why Fallon had agreed to go along with this preposterous plan to have her likeness permanently carved in stone, financed by a man infatuated with her, who she disliked immensely.
I had no such qualms as to M.L. Emery’s motivation. This quirky, dark, sexy Frenchman definitely marched to the beat of his own drummer and I found his character totally intriguing. He made Fallon uncomfortable and wary of him while being tantalized and intrigued at the same time. I totally felt the same way.
I liken Max to a mad scientist. He was fascinated with capturing imperfect models in marble and in fact has numerous pieces missing limbs and body parts littering his property. Max didn't want to do the likeness of Fallon, but realized the money - $700,000 being offered by her “fiancé” for his latest work of art was too good to turn down. The money would allow him to do the work he loved and not the commercial nonsense he had no tolerance for. I totally got Max’s motivation.
As these two work together in close quarters, Fallon nude for the most part, Max absorbed in his work, their relationship grows and loves starts to blossom between them and when Max discovers the true reasons behind Fallon’s agreeing to pose - he feels betrayed, hurt and angry that Fallon would allow his craft to be debased and herself used in that manner.
He is totally gutted. Here’s an emotional passage showcasing Max’s feelings:
He sighed and set he cat down, eyes caught once again by the stone shape of the woman he’d driven from this house. He stared at the sky, crisscrossed by a thousand mullions. At this moment his home looked an awful lot like a cage. Without Fallon it looked like ribs with no heart beating inside them. He rubbed that spot on his own chest, trying to ease the ache. Quietly insert my own sobs here.
My absolute favorite part of The Reluctant Nude was the epilogue. It was a wonderful and satisfying ending to a beautifully told love story wrapped up with a nice, neat bow.
Chipping away at her resistance, one touch at a time…
Fallon Frost’s late foster mother had done so much to heal the wounds of her damaged childhood. So when a lecherous developer plans to bulldoze her old home to make room for a strip mall, the practical, ordered life Fallon has built for herself is threatened.
Then he makes a twisted proposal. He’ll leave the land alone if she poses nude for a sculpture that’ll end up in his collection. Seeing no other choice, she heads for Nova Scotia—only to find something totally unexpected. A sexy, hot-blooded, infuriating sculptor.
Guarded, sexually detached Fallon is a challenge Max Emery can’t wait to tackle. Yet with each tap of his chisel, he uncovers a woman who rekindles a dream he thought lost. Home, family…love. And the closer he gets to her core, the harder it becomes to accept that he’s carving her naked body for another man’s eyes.
As progress on the sculpture almost grinds to a halt, their fragile fantasy world collapses under the weight of reality. Threatening Fallon’s one chance to save her foster mother’s land…and any chance she and Max have to find love.