“The Artist’s Touch” by E.J. Russell is a mesmerizing and chilling story that teases the reader with glimpses of information that pique one’s curiosity and keeps one invested in the story. Of course, now I want to know how many workmen wear Utilikilts in Oregon, lol. The touch of the supernatural that keeps popping up made me want to make sure the lights were on and I was not alone, but it was nicely balanced by the journey the main characters traveled from their respective painful histories to the fragile accord they have in the present.
I’m not impressed by the reason Luke chose his profession, as it shows a sour grapes mentality and given his distressing insecurity, one wonders about him, but he did finally display some good qualities as the story progressed. There are some dangling threads but the happy for now ending is satisfying enough even as it makes one interested enough to pursue the next book in the series, which fortunately is already available.
This contemporary m/m paranormal romance is Book One of the ‘Art Medium’ series and introduces art-fraud investigator Luke Morganstern as he encounters his former love Stefan Cobbe (who has added the affectation of an e to his last name) under less than auspicious circumstances. Somehow, Luke’s fraud investigation may be linked to Stefan’s blackout painting but the search for the truth is complicated by the painful history the two share and the eerie events that are plaguing them and may end up being enough to keep them apart forever.
Two men haunted by more than the past.
Painter Stefan Cobbe was homeless and debt-ridden after the death of his wealthy partner, but the worst loss of all was his artistic inspiration. After two years of nothing, he’s offered patronage by an eccentric gallery owner and starts to produce again, canvas after canvas. The only problem? He can’t remember painting any of them—not one single brushstroke.
Luke Morganstern’s reputation as an art-fraud investigator is in tatters. He can’t afford to turn down any job, even a lousy one for an anonymous client who sends him after an unidentified forger in a remote cabin in Oregon. When the alleged forger turns out to be Stefan, the man he never stopped loving, Luke’s professional ethics are stretched beyond the breaking point.
As the two men take tentative steps toward reconciliation, evidence begins to mount that they’re not alone in the woods. Someone—or something—is watching. Something with sinister plans for them both. To escape, Luke must overcome his suspicions and Stefan must trust Luke with his deepest fears. Otherwise they could forfeit their relationship, their sanity—and their lives.
NOTE: This is a heavily revised and significantly expanded reprint of the author's Northern Light.
Word count: 31,400; page count: 132