“A painting undermined my father.
And, as you will see by the end of my story, a painting nearly destroyed me.
Art is dangerous like that, an unruly thing….”

 

Kris’s newest book is a novel is set in the art world of late Victorian England—a seductive, beauty-obsessed milleau where the sinuous graces of peacock feathers and absinthe dreams hold more importance than a young woman’s life. THE LILY MAID is in the lushly written and tightly plotted tradition of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith and A. S. Byatt’s Possession.

When St. John Dulac, the enfant terrible of the London art world, meets Elizabeth Sirini, the spinster daughter of a recently deceased professor, at a séance one afternoon he is immediately entranced by her beauty and the sense of sadness she carries like a weight. Thinking she would be perfect to pose for the subject of his upcoming work, the Lady of Shalott—the young woman of Arthurian legend whose unrequited love for Lancelot led to her destruction—St. John asks Elizabeth to model for the painting, which he hopes will rescue his tarnished career. 

A former student of psychology, logic-minded Elizabeth is initially dismissive of his offer. However, swayed by the generous pay that would alleviate her family’s debt and charmed by St. John and his beautiful wife Nessa, she reluctantly agrees. Before long, Elizabeth is swept up in the Dulacs’ glittering, bohemian world but is disturbed to find life imitating art as she slowly awakens to her own growing desire for the married artist. As Elizabeth is drawn deeper into the Dulacs’ tangled lives, she uncovers a mysterious tragedy involving St. John’s previous model. Elizabeth’s obsession with discovering the truth about her predecessor bring secret histories and shifting loyalties to light. Love and artistic inspiration become a currency to be used and discarded at will, even if the gothic consequences include heartbreak and death.

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