Review: The Muse by Anne Calhoun00:00
Author: Anne Calhoun
Date of publication: 1 Dec 2015
Genre: Contemporary erotic Romance
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My rating: 5 stars
Arden MacCarren can’t afford to lose control. Her family’s investment house has failed, their professional reputation is all but destroyed, and it’s up to Arden to hold the line. The only distraction she allows herself is a weekly drawing class where she can forget everything. Then she meets Seth Miller. When he poses in her class, strong, mysterious, and unbearably sexy, she can’t resist him. The only thing she can do is keep it purely physical—no emotions, no strings, and definitely no telling.
Seth understands responsibilities, both Arden’s and his own. During his last tour as a Marine he lost his best friends to an IED. He has a duty to look after his buddies’ survivors. All he allows himself is the stolen moments with Arden. But as he’s drawn into Arden’s battle with her demons, he comes face-to-face with his own. Seth will have to choose between a duty he can’t ignore and the longing to inspire Arden’s every desire—mind, soul, and body…
If I had to describe this book with one word, it would be INTENSE.
I loved this romance so much. It's a powerful story of loss and love, of learning to live and love again. Ms Calhoun explored in depth and with great detail and a sympathetic eye the journey of her characters towards living a full life, being themselves and ultimately freely giving and receiving love and affection.
Takes a familiar trope ex-solder and a rich heiress in distress and twists it completely. There is nothing predictable or cliche in this story. I found it refreshingly original and enthralling.
I loved how Ms Calhoun played with the traditional roles of artist and muse, both Arden and Seth were each other's muse and artists at the same time. A story focuses a lot on art and creation as therapy, there is also sexual exploration, forging a deep sincere connection, reaching true intimacy where two people can be themselves with each other completely honest and un-selfconscious. They need to face their fears, before they deal with them in order to eventually being able to enjoy living again.
Arden was so fragile and gentle and even weak at first glance, yet she had this inner strength and determination to save her family, herself. It's was Seth who saw her strength (he depicted her as a warrior dragon) and helped her discover it for herself. It's through her relationship with Seth she gathered the courage to act and go for things she wanted. She did not shy away from the difficult decisions that had to be taken, she stuck to her own moral code and this made me admire her even more.
Seth was dealing or rather not dealing with his issues - stuck in the past, unable to move forward. After losing his friends in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, he now lied only to support the families/relations of his fallen brothers. I appreciate how Ms Calhoun drew a sensitive portrait of the modern-day soldier, he is not a perfect killing machine, but a real human being, who is lost, vulnerable, suffering from anxiety and PTSD.
They met by chance, their relationship started with lust and need for physical contact but all this was intertwined with art, drawing, truly letting go when drawing, being able to see the other, really see them and transfer them on the page of a scratch book. Art was a central metaphor in the story and I loved how Ms Calhoun used it to reveal Arden and Seth to the reader and ultimately as means for them to see the other for who they are and not just the outward person the rest of the world sees.
The writing was exquisite, very sensual, highly erotic. The story had a solid plot and the romance was really strong and engaging. It's a richly textured story which makes you care for the characters, makes you involved in their struggles and happily ever after. It all feels real, there is no sugar coating the experience of war, or Arden's panic attacks, or her father and brother's crimes. Ultimately, it's a story about being able to give and receive love but also about the real world with its jealousy, greed, deceit.
One of the best books of the year for me!