Series: Maestra Trilogy
Book Number: 1
Read this book for: female-led mystery, erotic moments, dark thriller
Quick Review: A decent premise but one that relies unfortunately on shock to drive it. A decent light read, but will likely make a better film than a book.
Judith Rashleigh is struggling to get into the art world at one of the most prestigious auction houses, but she knows she’s not from the right background to make it. Stumbling across and exposing a fraud gets her fired from her job, and circumstances send her running from authorities across Europe. Can she fake it well enough to become accepted as one of the rich and famous to remake her life – and can she use her knowledge of the fraud to fund her transformation? Along the way, she will discover that she is more dangerous than she imagined…
MAESTRA is the first in a trilogy of “erotic thriller” novels set in the beautiful, glamorous world of art dealers and the rich and famous. I want to preface my comments in this review by noting that I don’t typically read erotic fiction, so from that angle I do not have many points of comparison. More on this facet of the novel below.
This story is set in many of the beautiful places across Europe, where wealthy individuals go to play. One of my favorite parts of this novel was the rich level of detail that is put into creating this backdrop. It makes a refreshing change from the typical “gritty” thriller, and is one of the things that somehow make the events of this novel seem more socially acceptable.
The events themselves, however, are a bit confusing. There were several places where things happened and then had to be explained because it was not clear what had occurred or why it happened. Characters appear inexplicably from nowhere and for flimsy reasons, and many of the characters themselves have odd motivations. In fact, Judith’s motivations are probably the most confusing. While she is a complex and often interesting female lead, she seems to take a leap in her development in the midpoint of the book that is hard to follow – she goes from being relatively demure (she attends sex parties but refuses to become an actual prostitute) and prepared to do the right thing one moment to unleashing her inner sociopath and having indiscriminate sex the next – and the reasons for that transformation (plus the several steps she likely should have taken to go from one extreme to the other) are never really explained.
Unfortunately, Judith’s newfound love for sex with anyone, for any reason, finds its way into the novel at several completely pointless times. The sheer volume of sex scenes was completely unnecessary in a story that was ostensibly supposed to be a thriller about the art world, and therefore should have been plotted to hold the attention without these superfluous scenes; (not to mention the forced and unbelievable quality of the scenes themselves). I found that this novel frequently relied heavily on cheap shock and extreme violence rather than strong plot to drive it, which was a bit disappointing given the promising concept.
Overall, MAESTRA is a decent read if you don’t want something that is too heavy on plot or character, but with lots of glamour, shine, and a fairly visual style. It would likely make a decent beach read, but I feel like the merits of it will be even better captured in movie form.