Reviewed by Mandi
Although the romance in this one is definitely a stand alone. for those that have read Evening Storm, you are all too familiar with the massive Ponzi scheme that has taken place. In Evening Storm, the hero of the book was the whistle-blower who brought down the MacCarren family. The Muse features Arden MacCarren, who had no idea her father or brother, now arrested by the FBI, were involved in such a horrible scheme. Countless people have lost so much money, and Arden and her family are now under intense scrutiny – not only from the FBI but also from the press. While Arden had no idea this Ponzi scheme was taking place, her beloved MacCarren foundation may now lose all of its assets. Arden doesn’t know what to do, and is completely stressed. Her friends, sensing she has gone into crisis mode, invite her to a drawing class, and Arden who loves to draw, happily accepts.
The male model that shows up is named Seth. A marine recently home from Afghanistan, Seth is also in a dark place. His three best friends died in an explosion, and Seth has only had five months to deal with this tragedy. He feels guilt for surviving, and he feels like he owes the family members of his friends a lot. He has become a bike messenger in New York city, living out of a motor home and just trying to acclimate back to civilian life. He finds out that being a nude male model makes him a lot of cash, for not much work. Which is out he meets Arden – naked in a wealthy town house as she draws him. They make eye contact….and she eyes other things on his body – and a connection is made. When Arden realizes drawing helps her relax, she invites Seth to her house for a private modeling session – which leads to other things.
I liked this book, but there were also a few things that I didn’t love. I really enjoyed both Seth and Arden. I like that only five months have passed since Seth lost his three best friends. His wounds are still so fresh and raw, he has yet to truly cope with it. He has diverted all of his emotions to caring for the grieving family members of his friends and pushing his body to the limit racing through New York city traffic as a messenger. Seth is also an artist, but hasn’t been able to pick up a pencil to draw since he got home. While Arden finds peace drawing Seth, the tables are turned as well as Seth starts to find his way back to life when art is introduced back into his life.
Arden is so overwhelmed by the arrest of her father and brother. So much is put on her shoulders as her mother has a complete breakdown and her other brother is on the other side of the world. The paparazzi are relentless in their coverage of her. To add to all of this, as a teenager Arden got hit by a car and has suffered panic attacks ever since. These come out full force with the added stress of her life. THis embarrasses her and makes her feel out of control. I thought this was portrayed well.
Things I didn’t love about the book – at one point Seth and Arden video record themselves having sex, with the expectation if Arden watches it back, it will help with her panic attacks (as I scratch my head). This then gets stolen/hacked from the iCloud, and the sex tape ends up on the internet with everyone (and I mean everyone) watching it. I didn’t like this – it didn’t feel like this was something Arden would do. I also felt a little confused by just how much press Arden was receiving. To me – she is just a wealthy New York socialite who has a foundation – but otherwise is very quiet and mature. Would the paparazzi really be completely immersed in her life like this? And would someone be able to hack into her iCloud to steal this sex tape the morning after they filmed it? Maybe…but it seemed a little far-fetched.
This is also a more somber romance book. There is a solid HEA which made me smile, but it’s more serious and a little sad. Not that that is a bad thing, but it’s heavier and sometimes a bit slow. I adore Anne Calhoun’s voice – she writes smart and sexy. Each book feels different and she creates such deep and intricate characters. The List and The Evening Storm, two prior books in this series are both really great.