A Fine Imitation, by Amber Brock

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Set in the glamorous 1920s, A Fine Imitation is an intoxicating debut that sweeps readers into a privileged Manhattan socialite’s restless life and the affair with a mysterious painter that upends her world, flashing back to her years at Vassar and the friendship that brought her to the brink of ruin.

Vera Bellington has beauty, pedigree, and a penthouse at The Angelus—the most coveted address on Park Avenue. But behind the sparkling social whirl, Vera is living a life of quiet desperation. Her days are an unbroken loop of empty, champagne-soaked socializing, while her nights are silent and cold, spent waiting alone in her cavernous apartment for a husband who seldom comes home.

Then Emil Hallan arrives at The Angelus to paint a mural above its glittering subterranean pool. The handsome French artist moves into the building, shrouds his work in secrecy, and piques Vera’s curiosity, especially when the painter keeps dodging questions about his past. Is he the man he claims to be? Even as she finds herself increasingly drawn to Hallan’s warmth and passion, Vera can’t supress her suspicions. After all, she has plenty of secrets, too—and some of them involve art forgers like her bold, artistically talented former friend, Bea, who years ago, at Vassar, brought Vera to the brink of catastrophe and social exile.

When the dangerous mysteries of Emil’s past are revealed, Vera faces an impossible choice—whether to cling to her familiar world of privilege and propriety or to risk her future with the enigmatic man who has taken her heart. A Fine Imitation explores what happens when we realize that the life we’ve always led is not the life we want to have.

I received an ARC of A Fine Imitation through First to Read.

This is the first time I have enjoyed a book I received from First to Read. Though to be fair, this is only the fourth book I have received from them.

I got caught up in the mystery of the past and present. My predictions about were Emil were mostly correct, though the details were off.
I was complete correct about Vera’s husband, Arthur, and that gave me satisfaction. I felt a range of emotions for the characters.I certainly liked Vera and rooted her to be free. Her mother was cold. Bea was entertaining, but also lost and untamed.

The people in the building were amusing because they were exactly how one would expect high society to behave. It sort of reminded me of Downton Abbey (in New York City) meets Edward Scissorhands. Emil being like Scissorhands, the shiny new toy to amuse the tenants. Once they grew bored they question who he was, and their feelings quickly turned.

Overall I thought it was a good story. The pacing was steady, the jump back and forth in time was smooth, some of the prose was poetic, and the ending was not only plausible but what I was hoping for.

4 out of 5 murals.