Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway
December 16, 2012
Reviewed by Mandi
“We all paint on a face to show the world,” Nicholas replies philosophically. “For some of us, that’s quite literal.” He takes a brief pause, “When you’re passionate about something, you don’t mind suffering a little discomfort.”
I give him a wry glance. “Have you had to suffer for your passion?”
He nods gently, his eyes roving over the crowds as they push by us. “More than you would think.”
I first heard of this book from a review posted at Fiction Vixen. Another Fiction Vixen reviewer had also read the book and emailed me to encourage me to read it. I would have never picked up this book on my own. Thank the sweet universe for friends recommending books!
This book is so different. For starters, our hero Nicholas is a heterosexual drag queen who goes by the name Vivica at night. Yes, you read that right. At the age of six, his mother died and it has a profound effect on him. His father is a very cold man who is never around, so Nicholas takes to wearing his mother’s clothes and make-up and dancing and singing as she used to do. It’s his secret and his coping mechanism. One day a business associate of his father’s stops by unexpectedly, and sees Nicholas fully dressed as a woman. The author then eludes to the fact that a sexual molestation from this man occurred. But we jump ahead to present day.
Our heroine’s name is Freda, but she prefers Fred.
“Morning Freda. Oh the usual, old clothes, some books, children’s toys,” Theresa responds. She has a problem with call me Fred. She doesn’t understand why I’d want to go by the name of some middle aged van driver when I could go by a pretty name like Freda. I told her I like to be economical with syllables.
She is a part-time cupcake baker and a part-time consignment shop worker and she likes to drink and have fun. She has a very sharp, witty tongue which she uses to cover up her deep insecurities.
“Hey, you’re great Fred. I think you’re great. Now drop the pity party,” he chides.
“I am not having a pity party. Nora has pity parties. I have pathological self-deprecation. It’s an incurable condition, so don’t make fun.”
She is over weight, has crazy curly hair and a roommate Nora who she often makes personal attacks on, yet when it comes down to the dark and gritty, they would be there for each other. Nicholas moves to Dublin to star in a new cabaret show and moves into the apartment next door. Nicholas is instantly attracted to Freda (and very abrupt about it), and Freda finds him absolutely gorgeous. But as I said, Freda has insecurities. She is not one to jump into bed with a guy – she wants promises her heart won’t get stomped on.
In four words – I love this book. It is such a different premise with a hero who is so comfortable with who he is. Yes, he knows a psychologist would have a field day with him. His arms are covered in tattoos of his mother’s face, he wears her clothes and wigs and makeup. He has deep-rooted issues and he has days of deep depression. But the majority of this book made me laugh out loud. He has a true passion for his drag career, and such an intense love affair with Freda. He is 100% masculine during the day. I love that Freda and all of their friends accept him and don’t judge him.
Freda and Nicholas’s dialogue is so well done in this book, and even better, Freda’s monologue kept me riveted the entire time. She is telling us the story, and I could have read her voice for another hundred pages.
There were a few times where I wanted to strangle Freda though. Nicholas would give her a little push towards a physical relationship, and she would allow it yet then go cold and push him away. I got a little bit tired of that. Nicholas is very direct and blunt about the fact he wants in Freda’s pants. This totally throws Freda off kilter. She can talk and joke about sex all day, but the actual act scares her. She doesn’t have the confidence to talk about it and then follow through with actions. But I think overall, they both confront the other about their insecurities and issues, and their road to romance built up well for me.
Freda’s humor in this book made me laugh a lot. Nicholas’s pain and Freda’s insecurities made the angst level quite high, something I always enjoy. Nicholas and Freda’s romance becomes very sexy indeed. But what really stood out for me in this book is the fact that no one necessarily tries to change Nicholas and no one tries to change Freda. At the end of the book, his profession is still a drag queen and hers is still baking cupcakes and drinking too much. But they pull from each other what’s missing in their own life. I was so convinced of their love and affection for each other. This is an author that is definitely on my radar.