Mantastic's Reviews > Trompe L'oeil

Trompe L'oeil by K.C. Burn
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I was very taken with this story. I had seen similar ideas where the subject of a portrait was a ghost or a gateway to another world or, like Dorian Grey, a living replica fueled by their own painting, but this is the first one I have read where the man IS the portrait. Very cool twist. And the title is a clever play on words.

The pace was perfect for me. The book opens with the MC Tyler having had a good six months to come to grips with the break-up of his previous relationship. There are relevant bits sprinkled throughout the rest of the story, but we don't have to witness his darkest days. Thanks to his friends, there are several romantic options available to him throughout this story, but nothing seemed forced or out of place. Tyler's thoughts and responses were a very natural progression for a man with a healthy desire for sex but wasn't ready to jump into a string of one night stands. His preoccupation with Maxwell Friedland, the man in his nude painting, provides just the right amount of stimulus for his body and his mind.

The mystery surrounding the portrait is the first thing that has caught his attention since his break-up and he is happy to indulge in his historical training, digging around online and in old police files. What I really liked about this was that it wasn't all explained up with a bow. There is a nod to TV and how a convenient witness or a smoking gun would be found at just the right time, but that isn't how it happens in real life. The fact that important pieces of the puzzle were discussed and yet still ended up as dead ends went a long way in the believability factor of Max being trapped in the painting in the first place.

The way the paranormal aspect of this story is handled was as understated as it was genius. This is a love story above everything else so the "why" of Max's entrapment is explained in detail but the "how" is kept very simple. We see Max contemplate some of the most obvious explanations, but again, as with Tyler's searching, the way Maxwell's existence is portrayed over the decades isn't what I was expecting. What he is able to see and hear limits his POV, but he is able to fill the reader in when Tyler's research turns up gaps. And what Max is able to feel and experience in his current state was very well done, again, shooting holes in all the "convenient" outs that K C Burns could have used. The differences between Max as a consciousness and Max as a painting is amazing.

By the time the end came around I was more than ready to believe that each man knew enough about the other to be falling in love and I was wondering if we would get a chance to see how those closest to Tyler would react. No need to worry, it's in there.

A quick read I would definitely recommend.

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