“It’s a bit depressing how facts seem to hide more than they reveal.” – Molly Goode, museum curator
Less than a year on the job, Molly finds herself tasked with at a make-or-break crossroads with Evelyn Fox, the frosty and exacting Director. In order to carry out the final bequest of their longtime benefactor, George Wright, Molly must work closely with his daughter, Georgina. While Georgina expresses no interest in the arts, the unknown provenance of a cherished watercolor portrait of her ancestor Josephine, compels her to enlist Molly’s assistance. As they delve deeper, becoming increasingly invested in the discovering the identity of the artist, Edith Hewitt, and her relationship with Josephine Brancaster-Wright, the two women’s chemistry builds. However, Molly struggles with the line between professionalism and her heart; while Georgina grapples with the ever-present wounds of her relationships with her parents. Author Anna Larner combines a satisfying mix of humor, bittersweet revelations, family and workplace dynamics, drama, opposites attract romance, and history.
“Love’s Portrait” explores personal histories obscured by dominant narratives and available information, particularly as it effects the stories passed down from queer lives. Fragments of Josephine’s and Edith’s relationship in 19th century England surface as Molly and Georgina discover records. The novel does not have dual narratives, however, as most of the story focuses on the contemporary romance and the protagonists goal of honoring queer history in the present-day. Larner’s uses of fragmentary glimpses mirrors the frustrations of the contemporary time sleuths with the limitations of preserved & available records and ephemera.
If you enjoyed “As Long as Love Lasts” by Jea Hawkins, you’ll likely enjoy Anna Larner’s “Love’s Portrait”. Both combine contemporary romance with investigations into family members’ hidden lesbian pasts.
Listen to Clare Lydon’s interview with Anna Larner on The Lesbian Book Club podcast.